|Cooper’s Hawks, like this one, used to be called
“chicken hawks” in the days of the early settlers.
Are you nervous to let your flock free range for a number of reasons? I too find that I need to supervise the girls whenever they are out. Here on Cape Cod, we have many predators including fisher cats, coyotes, raccoons, fox, hawks and weasels. I find it entirely sad when my chickens come to the run door and ask to go outside. They come and snuggle with me and sometimes the little Silkies pop out between my legs! However, I usually cannot let them out unless I have about an hour to give to them while I babysit, standing by on predator watch. The other issue that I have is that not all of the chickens are as easy to catch. In the past, I have spent over 3 hours trying to catch a rouge chicken. As the days get longer, it is nice that the flock has so much daylight. In fact, it seems to be getting dark around 8 pm lately. At that time, the girls go into the coop and roost for the night.
About 30 minutes to 1 hour before the girls go to roost, think about letting them out to free range. At this time, most wild animals are transitioning from day to night. It seems to be a relatively “safe” time for the flock. I allow free ranging with supervision. Leaving the run and coop door open, the girls will naturally return to the safety of their coop before it gets dark. Once you see they have all returned, lock them in for the night. If you find that one is still missing. With a flashlight, look up in the trees. You should find your girl perched upon a branch. She will be easy to catch as chickens cannot see in the dark. Scoop her up off the branch and return her to her family. This works perfectly for my small flock of seven hens. I can easily keep tabs on each and everyone of them.
Chickens love to free range. They seem happier and the also seem to lay better tasting eggs as a result of their scavenging. Free ranging your flock is possible. It just means you need to take some precautions to ensure their safety.
Photo Credit: P.Crosson