by Tammy Taylor
Last year we raised chickens for the very first time. Although someone did come onto our property and steal our two roosters, we only lost one chicken to natural predators – she was taken in the coop overnight and after RancherMan & I shored up the area that was breached we never had any other predator troubles. Now because we live in the country there are all manor of predator dangers present such as coyotes, bobcats, feral cats, foxes, skunks & more but with a secured coop and by locking them safely inside each night we were spared any other deaths. It was loads of fun raising those hens so this year we decided to give chicken-raising another go. We purchased four young hens early this spring and soon they were into the free-range routine and providing plenty of eggs for us. Then one night when we went to lock them up we noticed the black hen was nowhere to be found. Although we hated it, we understood that there are predators out here and that it was just one of those things. We never found her. Then a week later we noticed the white one was missing, but this time we knew exactly what happened to her.
These free-ranging hens usually stay pretty close to the coop, although they’ve been known to range into adjoining pastures and certainly loved hanging out in the goat pen, close to where the white one was taken. Not knowing what our predator was, RancherMan installed his game-cam close to the area to try to see what critters were roaming through. We only captured images of the goats from time to time when we let them out to graze and one night caught an image of coyotes, but the time stamp was well past the time we would have the girls locked up.
So we kept a close eye on the two remaining hens – they were afraid to range too far from the barn so keeping an eye on them was easy. We suffered no further losses so after I was reasonably assured that the chicken-dinner-buffet-HERE pattern was broken we decided to purchase four more young chickens from a local breeder. We’re told these girls should start laying in about 6-8 weeks so we’re looking forward to having loads of fresh free-range eggs again.
I know many of our readers raise their own chickens. If you free-range your girls – please weigh in:
- What are your biggest predator dangers?
- Can a hawk carry off a full-grown chicken?
- What predators do you find hunting during the daytime hours
- How do you protect your free-range hens from natural predators during the day?