Monday, September 07, 2015

Why we don't free range

Weather to free range or not is a greatly debated issue in the chicken world. Its something that everyone who owns chickens has to work out for themselves. What works best for their property and their needs.

Before we purchased our first chickens we did a lot of research and we discussed the logistics of raising chickens. We had a large building that had sat neglected for several years, we knew this would be a perfect chicken coop. But it wasn’t “close” to our house. If we are standing on our porch we can see the coop, but a decent size yard and a huge garden plot would be between us and the chickens. This meant if a predator attacked we may not be able to make it in time to save our flock. Would a predator attack? Yes. Our neighbors “free range” their dogs, and apparently our property is part of their “range”. We also have coyotes and cougars in this area, that would welcome the handy meal that a slow moving chicken would make.

While we live on several acres the house and the coop are in close proximity to a busy road. Cars do
not stop for slow moving chickens fulfilling their dream of crossing the road. Ultimately their safety is our responsibility and the best way to keep them safe is to keep them contained.

If we free range we would never have any guarantee that they would stay on our property. Our neighbors may fail at their duty to keep their animals on their property, but we refuse to be like those neighbors. I recently had a friend on Facebook complaining because his neighbors had asked him to keep his chickens on his property. He couldn’t seem to understand that some do not want chickens tearing up their property and pooping on their porch. Our animals are our responsibility and it's our duty to keep them on our property.

To allow greater access to vegetation we have built 3 mobile runs out of PVC and chicken wire. These contraptions are easy enough for 1 person to pull them around the yard by hand. These are not used for winter quarters, for winter all chickens must report back to the main coop, but it makes a great summer home.

I just cannot in good conscious let my little feathered breakfast makers roam free, it would be to heart breaking to lose one to traffic or a predator. Not that accidents don't sometimes happen. Not long after we bought our first chickens a relative and his grandson came up for a visit for the summer. The teenage boy would sneak into the coop at night. At one point he let two chickens out. We found feathers scattered across the yard in the morning. The coop door now has a lock on it. Earlier this summer, just after the Wanderers aunt moved into the place close to the coop we had a rooster escape. Her St. Barnard tried to "help us" catch the runaway rooster. Thankfully we caught the rooster before Big Mo. I have never felt more like Rocky Balboa than that moment chasing a chicken around the yard, I am ready to fight Apollo Creed.

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