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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  1. Linda LaMarch says

    My son is raising about 20 emu’s and was wondering about trying to tame them .One got out
    and he lives in a wooded area but had no way of getting it back .I felt so bad for the bird .
    They just seem so flighty and untameable .Now they are adults they are even more scary .
    This coming from a farm girl who raised horses & cows LOL

    • says

      Emus are pretty easy to train if raised from chicks. They will stay right at your side and follow you everywhere. IF they are alder when you get them, it might be more difficult. All of ours were hatched here or picked up as day olds. But 20 would be difficult even in the best of circumstances. AS far as the one that got away you might try getting several people together to try to herd it back in. Go slowly and try to get it to move in the direction you want it to go. Never get one forced into a corner. They panic and kick and can cause injury.

      AS emus reach sexual maturity they get a bit more difficult to handle and sometimes require separate housing due to fighting. My only suggestion as how to tame them and if it can even be done at this point would be to post your question here: http://www.backyardchickens.com/f/49/ostriches-emu-rheas. These people know a lot about emus and some of them have large amounts of adult birds. I have found emus to be quite sweet and not not aggressive except for the pecking, and that is done instinctively, not with the intent of hurting.

      Good luck. I hope you get the situation under control.

  2. says

    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.

    • says

      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.

  3. says

    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

  4. says

    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?

    • says

      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!

  5. 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…

    • says

      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!

    • says

      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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