Why we don’t free range our chickens

Our property is situated on the side of a hill with a long row of pines and redwoods along the property line. Cooper’s hawks inhabit these trees where they sit and watch, just waiting for their next meal. I don’t want their next meal to be one of my precious chickens so I don’t let them out to free range unless we are with them. Before you start feeling sorry for them, our breeds live in separate coops with huge covered runs that extend 75 feet up the hill. Flight netting keeps them in and the hawks out.

Right now we have Cooper’s hawks with babies and they are fiercely guarding the nests. Yesterday when I went outside, one flew down and did a little-too-close-for-comfort-fly-over, just above my head. The mate waited in a pine tree and watched me while they squawked back and forth. I retaliated by going inside for my camera and shooting. That’ll teach them a lesson!



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Author at The Egg Farm
Let me entice you with mouth watering recipes, gorgeous food photography, and years of experience raising and breeding chickens, emus, goats, and donkeys on a small hobby ranch in northern California
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Let me entice you with mouth watering recipes, gorgeous food photography, and years of experience raising and breeding chickens, emus, goats, and donkeys on a small hobby ranch in northern California


  1. Oh – so that’s what that is! We have some property in the Sierra Nevadas (3,000 foot level) about 50 miles north of you as the crow flies. We had a hawk on our property (no chickens yet) and weren’t sure what it was. Now I know once I saw your video and could hear them. Hmmm… since we plan to have chickens, I guess we will have to make safe runs for them also! Thanks for the head’s up.

    • Yes, definitely plan to secure the run. We had a juvenile bird squeeze through a small gap in the gate and he was gone within ten minutes. He was consumed right on the ground ten yards from our back door.

  2. Hi We do not free range for the exact reason you have shown here. Our threats are red tail hawks, cooper hawks, foxes, racoons, and other things probably! I picked your post as my feature this week on From the Farm Blog Hop. Feel free to grab our featured button and place it on your blog. I hope you will be back this week to share another post or two.
    – Janet from @TimberCreekFarm

  3. We have some other, smaller hawks in our area (city) but they’re too small to pick off our hens. For the big ones I would use lots of netting, hardware cloth, whatever works. Have you tried hanging CDs on fishing line, moves with the breeze and might scare them away?

    • I just prefer to keep them safe in huge runs covered with flight netting. We tried the CDs at another house and it was not effective for a large area. They have more room here in the covered runs than most chickens have in the yard. Thanks for stopping by!

  4. Rita Skaggs says:

    I have had a run-in with a Cooper’s Hawk last year. I was walking my dog and noticed this bird circling and making the circle tighter and tighter and then right over my yard. I hurried home and got the binoculars to see what type of bird it was…The next day when I went out to the chickens pen/run area I was frightened by the hawk which had been sitting in one of the mulberry trees and was only 5 feet from the chickens. It landed on the top rail of the pen and tried to get in…luckily I had chicken wire strung across the top. This little hawk is still coming by and trying to get into the girls, but I upgraded my fencing to something stronger than chicken wire. I just wish that the hawk would get all of the feral cats which love to use my garden as a litter pan…

    • If you find a way to get them to move along please come back and share! They are persistent. I recommend covering your runs with flight netting. Thanks for visiting and commenting!

  5. Wow, amazing photos and video, Mary. They are gorgeous birds, too bad they’re a chicken threat. :(

    Thank you for sharing with the Clever Chicks Blog Hop- have a great week!

    Kathy Shea Mormino
    The Chicken Chick

    • Yes, they are beautiful but we have so many Coopers on our property that we have to stay out with the chickens if we let them out of the runs. I lost a juvenile cockerel who pushed out through a space next to the gate. A hawk got him within five minutes. It was awful. We secure the runs and try to live in peace and harmony with the hawks.

      Thanks for visiting the egg farm!

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