Coop or Free Roam?

Every good chicken keeper knows the importance of protecting their birds from predators. Most of us will, or already have lost birds to a coyote, hawk, fox, bobcat, etc, etc. It’s devastating to see the after mass, I know, it’s happened here, I lost seven birds after a coyote attack in 2016. That changed everything I loved most about keeping chickens.

Since the attack, my birds have been completely safe after building them a 10×10 predator proof enclosure. Unfortunately, that means their happy life of free roaming our acreage came to a screeching halt. To me, it meant never enjoying my birds out and about, it was now just a chore for their well being. Chickens live for the opportunity to scratch in the dirt and look for bugs, sunbathe in the morning sun, or finding that perfect spot for a dust bath. Since confinement, I’ve noticed the overall health of my flock has not quite been what it was.

The heat plays havoc on confined chickens in the desert southwest, heat stroke is real, and it’s deadly.  Free roam flocks have a much higher rate of survival, and are quite resourceful in finding shade and cooler ground to burrow in.  So this brings me to a dilemma, coop for safety from a predator, or free roam for quality of life and comfort from the extreme heat?

Quality of Life
Today I opened the gate and gave my flock the opportunity to live a happy life. After considering the risk, I decided being cooped up in 110+ would have the same outcome as a predator attack… both could mean a death sentence. I will do my part to protect them every way I can. They will be confined from dusk to late morning, but during the hottest part of the day they will be free to find comfort.
Here’s some of the girls who found a comfy place in the feed room… where there’s a giant oscillating fan and mist system. 🙂










About tbnranch

amy elizabeth, writer, author. Lives in the northeastern reaches of the Sonoran Desert on a small hobby farm. Raises laying hens.
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6 Responses to Coop or Free Roam?

  1. Mary says:

    We have two safe coops where our chickens go in at night and then we lock them up. We let them out to roam during the day. Before dusk we round them up (usually they’ve already gone to roost).our dogs are out in the yard on and off during the day and the coyotes don’t come up from the river then. We had 3 geese and 5 chickens killed one night when they were in another cage we thought was safe. We think it was raccoons that got them so Bob made these cages sturdier. For us, this arrangement works great. Best of both worlds.

    • tbnranch says:

      So far all is good here. My coops are safe at night, just hoping for the best during the day. They are sooooo happy, its already 100 degrees here, and having them free to find a cooler spot makes all the difference.

  2. edshunnybunny says:

    I think you made the right choice. After keeping our hens penned up, in a large area, for several months, and watching their health slowly decline, we decided to let them out to free range. We decided we’d rather have happy hens for a short while than unhappy hens for a long while! Our oldest “girls” turned 5 in February…and they’re still laying eggs!

  3. Good for you! I have a good, safe pen but still let my young chicks out…only when I’m around…to roam and scratch! They love it and when they see shadow of even a cardinal, they run back to the pen.

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