Free Range Fate

Today we lost a chicken.   We are not sure what was her unfortunate demise, but she is no longer with us.   We found no signs of what happened to, no feathers, no carcass.

This is a reminder to us  the dangers to free range chickens.   Free ranging your birds one of those things that you have to figure out if you ware willing to risk, and how you balance the the rewards and the dangers.

Many people choose to not free range their flock under any circumstances for just this reason.   Many of them also put covering over the top of their chicken runs to prevent aerial predators.   The down side of this is that chickens can and will eat everything on the ground down to the nub.   The poo will pile up in the run and need to be dealt with.  It is hard to keep a run from becoming a dirt or mud pen.    On the flip side when confined people are unlikely to experience a loss  like I did today.

I am one of those who feel the possibility of loss is worth letting my chickens have free range time.   I like the fact that free range eggs are lower in cholesterol, higher in omega 3 oils, and other nutrition improvements that come from allowing them to have diet that includes a more natural mix.  I love the fact that my chickens get to behave in a more native/natural way.   They get to run after grasshoppers, dig holes  taking dust baths in the best new spot, and develop great muscle tone.  I do try to minimize their danger by waiting until late in the the morning, with the sun well up before opening the gate and letting them run free.   I herd my flock in the run before the sun goes down.

Today I made a mistake and let my hens out before 9, and then took off for work.   When I came home a couple hours later, one of the ladies was missing.    Now due to my pushing the envelope one of my hens paid the price.    Now the remaining birds will spend the week confine to quarters (their run) for the next few days so that the predator doesn’t get conditioned that birds are easy picking at our place.  As their keeper, I am responsible to protect them from unreasonable danger.   I am going to modify my habits to minimize their danger.  There are never an guarantees in life , and I still feel that the risk of free range is worth it.

9 comments on “Free Range Fate

  1. I’m so sorry about the loss of your hen! I feel exactly as you do however, and have come to terms with the fact that they have such a happy life when they are able to run free. Even so, it’s hard to loose one. Take care.

  2. I hate losing hens, no matter how they go but its something that has to dealt with! We are building a safe house and ;large run for our newest four hens who are much friendlier than the usual Egyptian hens, mainly because we treat them better! But they will be let out for part of the day to give them some time to themselves outside. Here the worse predators are cats and dogs as there are lots of them running free and they can be vicious!!! So we have to be in the garden where food is grown, while they are out. We can’t leave them unsupervised here!

  3. I also struggle with trying to find the same balance between free-range and safety. We lost one of our favorite hens to a hawk when I had to go inside for a half hour. My wishful thinking hopes to one day to have a livestock dog to help protect the flock in those moments. At least she had a happy life, and probably longer than most factory raised poultry.

    • You last sentence is why I free range my chickens. I want them to have a good quality of life. I want them to behave as chickens should. No more early mornings because I am going to be gone when I normally free them.

  4. I like to see people let their chickens free range. We let ours and they are so happy when they are running about after bugs. We have a nice run for them that is predator proof but they aren’t as happy in there so like you I take that risk. I have been criticized by many saying that the chicken is the one who suffers the results my risk taking, but those people must have never seen a free range flock, lol. Sad to lose one for sure but in the long run I think everyone is happier free ranging. Kudos to you for letting yours run free:)

    • You are so right about them loving free range. I have a 20 x 120 chicken run which is huge for 6 hens. Yesterday after being confine to quarters, there were times when they would pace in front of the gate wondering why it wasn’t open. There really is something magical about seeing them race after bugs, and making a new crater to dust bathe in. I hate when something like happens and it has been over 4 years since the last untimely death, so think I am doing something right. It is part of the cycle of life, with its sad moments.

I'd love it if you let me know what you thought of this post.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s