Location: Burton, WA (USDA zone 8, Sunset zone 5) - old hippie heaven
posted 9 years ago
Depends on your tolerance for losses to predators. Without good fencing, you *will* lose both eggs and birds. (Actually, even with good fencing, you are likely to suffer occasional losses.)
Aside from any emotional distress you feel from losing a chicken (personally, I feel quite a bit), buying chicken feed is an expensive way to feed the local coyotes, raccoons, skunks, bobcats, weasels, neighborhood dogs, ravens, hawks, etc, etc.
I forgot to mention that the chicken's, ducks, cow, goats and dog come into the barn to roost/sleep for the night. And these animals are allow freedom so they help provide for themselves by foraging in different areas, thereby allowing the ground to recover and reducing any feeds that are provided.
I don't have the time just now to cover all the details, suffice it to say that any animal arrangement can work if you have a plan to deal with the issues it presents. There isn't one right way.
If you would like to forgo the time and expense of fencing of your chicken range area, then plan for day time predictors such as neighbor's dogs and cats, and maybe a fox if it applies. If you roost them in a contained house you shouldn't have to worry about raccoons and other night time predators. I have friends who allow their birds to roost in the open, and it works for them, but again they deal with the issues that their setup brings.
In fact of all my friends I can think of just now none of us have the same set up, and none of us have any more than the the rare loss, indicating something needs addressed to tighten the system.
It is not OK to let goats or sheep in the forest bush or whatever you have around, because they destroy a lot. Maybe if your stocking rate is very low than it might be OK. Chicken are not big enough to destroy a huge area and they come back at night. We did this some years ago, but the bush behind the house was only a small left over between suburbia. And we only let them out in the afternoon for two hours or so. If you have a vegetable garden and this is not fenced in I bet that they will go to turn this over fist. If you want to have 40 chicken, that's a lot and I would think of some sort of a rotation between vegetables and chicken. Think of all that poo being lost! Chicken enjoy to roam in the bush but they are not unhappy if they scratch confined.
When it is used for evil, then watch out! When it is used for good, then things are much nicer. Like this tiny ad: