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I live on a little over 1.5 acres and a good chunk is heavily wooded still. I plan on clearing paths in this area during winter when everything dies and there is no risk of snakes. I have started raising meat rabbits a few months ago (I wanted them before corona became well known but couldn't get anything till march). Raising cross breeds so the end products would be best described as adorable meat mutts.
I wanted to start poultry this year but I don't have enough funds to go crazy and buy a bunch of supplies at once. I really prefer ducks over chickens but I know there is a benefit to having both. I have experience taking care of both because I worked at a kennel/farm for a while and took care of their flocks needs morning and night. Also, have a natural water source running through my property if I get ducks. Turkeys are also on my mind but less so than chickens/ducks. These would be for meat/egg production for my family and my brothers.
I would prefer to free-range for many reasons, I don't have to invest in new fencing, can eat bugs like fleas/ ticks etc, reduces mess in a confined area, and scatch through and eat the bugs in the rabbit manure. However, we do have some feral cats, opossums, and raccoons as predators. I don't mind some losses it's part of free-ranging, but I don't want to lose an entire flock. I have a partially fenced yard and my neighbor is also cool with chickens/ducks free-ranging on her property as she used to have some and wants the benefits of the pest control as well. Plus I view chicken tractors as rather cumbersome to build and move. Rather just build chicken/duck coops.

On the other hand, I know that poultry and rabbit meat are extremely lean. Would it be worth trying to do a small pig breed or getting a piglet later in the season and butchering early? Rather butcher myself as I view this as a good skill. The downside is that I couldn't let it get massive.

Sorry for formatting this is my first post. I am open to any suggestions! What are your experiences with complete free-ranging without fencing? Should I diversify my meat sources and try raising a more substantial meat?
 

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Where are you located? What kind of predators are in the area?
 

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I can't answer a lot of your questions but just wanted to say yay for someone excited as I am with somewhat similar goals.

I personally do poultry and have 10 acres. We are raising 2 lambs annually and considering 3 or 4 piglets next year by family request and our own convenience. We expanded the poultry this year for many of the same reasons you're considering them and I can speak only from somewhat new adult experience and a childhood of experience with it. Cooped birds are messy and require more maintenance and feed, free range taste better and although more prone to predation are less prone to disease in my experience. Putting all the birds to bed at night helps huuuuge in predation also.

Turkeys are a riot I recommended trying them at least. They do well with chickens but get a pair or trio as they do better with a couple pals their size. They can be a bit aggressive with other animals sometimes but in my circumstances they keep the dogs in place, the barn cats scared and the thieving pigeons, doves, crows and other pesky annoying birds more at bay. They don't bother my sheep, goat, horses or poultry a bit. And their antics are just fantastic.

Ducks are love for me, my absolute favorite by far. My boss duck is a hen and she is ornery brave and not afraid to tell it as she sees it... I'm in trouble daily with her lol but she always eats from my hand, keeps drakes at the back of the line and appreciates a good lap session now and again. Plus they eat the big nasty bugs (and most my plants/garden if I'm not careful lol).

Chickens oh my I love them. Great bug killers can make any ant nest pack up and leave, roosters are a good alarm system and alarm clock.
 

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Discussion Starter #5
I can't answer a lot of your questions but just wanted to say yay for someone excited as I am with somewhat similar goals.

I personally do poultry and have 10 acres. We are raising 2 lambs annually and considering 3 or 4 piglets next year by family request and our own convenience. We expanded the poultry this year for many of the same reasons you're considering them and I can speak only from somewhat new adult experience and a childhood of experience with it. Cooped birds are messy and require more maintenance and feed, free range taste better and although more prone to predation are less prone to disease in my experience. Putting all the birds to bed at night helps huuuuge in predation also.

Turkeys are a riot I recommended trying them at least. They do well with chickens but get a pair or trio as they do better with a couple pals their size. They can be a bit aggressive with other animals sometimes but in my circumstances they keep the dogs in place, the barn cats scared and the thieving pigeons, doves, crows and other pesky annoying birds more at bay. They don't bother my sheep, goat, horses or poultry a bit. And their antics are just fantastic.

Ducks are love for me, my absolute favorite by far. My boss duck is a hen and she is ornery brave and not afraid to tell it as she sees it... I'm in trouble daily with her lol but she always eats from my hand, keeps drakes at the back of the line and appreciates a good lap session now and again. Plus they eat the big nasty bugs (and most my plants/garden if I'm not careful lol).

Chickens oh my I love them. Great bug killers can make any ant nest pack up and leave, roosters are a good alarm system and alarm clock.
I love ducks too, they were always my favorite to watch at work! I have always wanted sheep but I know I don't have enough land for them. The ducks are for my border collie to practice herding a bit too.

I have a hatred for chickens since my old boss had Rhode island reds. Rooster used to attack the girl on the opposite shift as me, as soon as she put in her notice the roo immediately started to attack me after leaving me alone for months. Like flying at my face with his spurs. NOT FUN. Also have heard people say that once chickens are fully grown or close to it feral cats don't usually go after them so I guess I will find out if that is true or not. Probably will do a batch of cornish cross and then some layers. Heard CX don't free range much even if given the option so I will have to make some sort of small tractor for them.

Turkeys look like fun and it would be nice to have a Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner that I raised myself. Very lucky to live in an agriculturally zoned area so technically I can get whatever I want.
 

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Had a rooster like that at a kid, tiny little leghorn runt was meaner than a scalded cat as soon as we turned our back he'd come after us. Relentlessly. Was bottom of the rooster order and took it out on us kids. Parents thought it was a great fun to watch. Eventually though something got him he just didn't coop up one night and never saw him again. Roosters like that go in the pot with me now a days. I don't have time for that kind of attitude lol
 

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NC. opossums, raccoons, feral cats. I know there are supposed to be coyotes in the area but I have never seen them down here, same with foxes.
All those are here, but many times dogs will be your worst predators.

There are also snakes that will eat eggs and birds up to small pigeon size.

Other predators include assorted species of hawks, Bald Eagles and Bobcats.
Bears won't give you too many problems most of the time.

I'd build some secure coops and runs for all the birds and start with part time free ranging to see how that goes.
 

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I see that you're not pushing for poultry or other fowl right now. I would like to add that chickens are great! The eggs are a plus! They are pretty easy to care for where I am, in my opinion. Usually $30/month (one bag of feed about 30-40lbs) is enough to feed our 4 chickens (although we're working on getting those pesky sparrows away from the food...it's costing us quite a bit). We have predators here like coyotes and hawks. We haven't had an issue with the coyotes. Our neighbor has said he has seen them prowl around our yard at night, but they can't seem to ever get in. He has had a pack of coyotes come right up to his yard and has had to use means to scare 'em away because the 5 dogs he had weren't enough. They are definitely persistent, but haven't had an issue with them in people's yards. The hawks are what I'm more worried about. There have been a few brave ones that have sat on our fence or in our tree, waiting to attack our chickens. I didn't see the one in our tree one day and when I approached the tree it flew right by my head in its' escape. Feral cats will go for a chicken unless the chickens fight them off, but domestic cats are a lot more unlikely to go after a chicken from what I've heard...not from my experience. Although, I have seen cats run out of my yard and no chickens were harmed. I have seen a snake in the yard, but it was just a gopher snake...it noticed the chickens gathering around and it quickly slithered away. No eggs were missing.

I usually know when there are hawks around because the chickens start laying poorly if at all. If we keep them in their run a few days, the hawk usually moves on. We have a wash not too far away with this giant tree that has had generation after generation of hawks nesting there. I saw a lot of young ones this past spring. Still, we have never had a chicken lost within the year and four months we have had them, and I hope it doesn't happen but free range isn't always so free.

It's pretty simply to go out and take care of a few chickens, too. Make sure their coop is clean, change their water out, check their food (get a bulk feeder of some kind so you don't have to be filling it every single day and that will save you a lot of time), and observe them a few minutes to make sure there is nothing wrong with their health. You can build a coop with pallets if you can find some free ones and it hardly costs you anything but labor. Some people use all types of materials or an old shed with proper ventilation added. We don't bother with a chicken tractor...they just free range around the yard, but the only downside is they poop on absolutely everything.

We have production reds...think they are a rhode island red mixed with leghorn. They aren't mean chickens and we don't have roosters. Ours are docile and you can collect eggs from underneath them if you need to...but they get crazy with treats. Husband was grilling some 4th of July steak and he got a pair of tongs to take the meat off the grill and one ran up and tore a huge chunk off. I guess it's safe to say that chicken likes teriyaki...

I don't have experience with raising other farm animals besides chickens. I don't see why you couldn't have a pig or something. Not sure about free ranging pigs, though...I would think they need some type of enclosure. Then again, like I said, not an expert on that.
 

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I live on a little over 1.5 acres and a good chunk is heavily wooded still. I plan on clearing paths in this area during winter when everything dies and there is no risk of snakes. I have started raising meat rabbits a few months ago (I wanted them before corona became well known but couldn't get anything till march). Raising cross breeds so the end products would be best described as adorable meat mutts.
I wanted to start poultry this year but I don't have enough funds to go crazy and buy a bunch of supplies at once. I really prefer ducks over chickens but I know there is a benefit to having both. I have experience taking care of both because I worked at a kennel/farm for a while and took care of their flocks needs morning and night. Also, have a natural water source running through my property if I get ducks. Turkeys are also on my mind but less so than chickens/ducks. These would be for meat/egg production for my family and my brothers.
I would prefer to free-range for many reasons, I don't have to invest in new fencing, can eat bugs like fleas/ ticks etc, reduces mess in a confined area, and scatch through and eat the bugs in the rabbit manure. However, we do have some feral cats, opossums, and raccoons as predators. I don't mind some losses it's part of free-ranging, but I don't want to lose an entire flock. I have a partially fenced yard and my neighbor is also cool with chickens/ducks free-ranging on her property as she used to have some and wants the benefits of the pest control as well. Plus I view chicken tractors as rather cumbersome to build and move. Rather just build chicken/duck coops.

On the other hand, I know that poultry and rabbit meat are extremely lean. Would it be worth trying to do a small pig breed or getting a piglet later in the season and butchering early? Rather butcher myself as I view this as a good skill. The downside is that I couldn't let it get massive.

Sorry for formatting this is my first post. I am open to any suggestions! What are your experiences with complete free-ranging without fencing? Should I diversify my meat sources and try raising a more substantial meat?
I don,t know how you could free range without fencing.
 

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Just my two cents....

The romantic idea of free range will soon be tempered by the experience of losing livestock to predators.
 

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Raccoons will end your heard in a matter of one, or two nights if not properly secured, I have shot at coons, trapped/dispatched coons in a live trap, and just last month, I chased an escaping coon that had a still alive chicken in it's mouth...I got to within 5' of it and had to scream, and lunge at it to retrieve the poor bleeding chicken.

We free range our chickens, and ducks during the daylight hours for many of the reasons you listed, but have bombproof enclosures for roosting at night.
 

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When free ranging birds, make sure they are secure for the night, it seems all of the predators come out at dusk, we have seen evidence of mink/weasels, and have witnessed coyotes in our yard near the house at 10 pm....and of course the raccoons.
 

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One dog comes in at night with us; the other two roam the yard and roost on the deck. They will bark as the wind blows, the twigs snap and the owl hoots. If I wasn't secure in knowing the livestock was locked up and safe, I would never get any sleep.
Ckelley78z...X2. Let them roam when the sun is out. After that, just like Foghorn Leghorn, let them hit the time clock and punch out indoors.
 

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Fencing is going to be a requirement to free range.

I'd love to think I could open up the farm for my chickens, sheep and dogs. I tried. I failed. Dogs roam. Sheep put their heads down and following the candy trail. Chickens get chased while dogs are absent.

Fencing is a must. Ever how little, or how much, fencing is a must
 

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Just my two cents....

The romantic idea of free range will soon be tempered by the experience of losing livestock to predators.
You got that right. One morning i went out by the baby pig field and in the trees surrounding the 400 ft. sq. field were 3 big birds. Engle, Hawk, Owl. Got my rife and started shooting at them. Didn't shool to kill. They all took off and haven't been back as far as i know. They surrounded the field on 3 sides. My stock dogs were barking at the birds. The birds didn't pay any attention to the Dogs.
 

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Discussion Starter #16
Surprised everyone is recommending fencing? Coops are a must obviously never denied that. Like I said before I worked on a farm and the ducks and chickens were free ranged all day every day and they had no fencing and minimal losses. Like one every few months. That is with coyotes, hawks, owls, raccoons, and foxes. As much as I hate roosters I know they are important for keeping a flock safe. I've built all my rabbits hutches myself so building a secure coop shouldn't be an issue. Plus have plenty of time to build a nice coop since these are my plans for next year. Neighbors dogs don't come into my yard anymore since we fenced it in from road and side, everyone walks their dogs on a leash now anyway so I am not overly concerned about stray dogs.

Pigs wouldn't be free ranged should have clarified that. They'd be kept in a fenced area I plan on clearing out this winter.
 

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You misunderstood. We aren't recommending perimeter fencing just to keep out raccoons and coyotes. Fencing won't really do that. We are recommending perimeter fencing to protect you from liability, too. Your critters eat someone's prize roses or garden or cause a wreck, then life can get financially complicated really quickly.

A friend of mine lost all but ONE of her free range chickens in the daytime to some critter that scattered them and then picked them off in the woods.

I watched a neighbor's HUGE cat kill one of my mother in law's laying hens. I shot it, thinking it was a bobcat. OOPS.

Packs of dogs from the nearby town used to come out to kill chickens and get under my rabbit cages to try to get at them. I killed nine dogs in one summer. That slowed things down.

Good neighbors maintain good fences and keep their critters at home. Not everyone is a good neighbor. You should strive to be one.
 

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My mom has lost chickens to feral cats. She also lost caged rabbits to roaming dogs. Stupid people get pretty upset when you shoot their livestock killing "precious fur babies" defending your worthless $5 chicken.

I like ducks more than chickens. So I will give you some good advice about free range poultry. Keep your ducks away from the woods and a wild creek. Creeks are predator highways. Ducks will be as happy with a kiddie pool as a wild creek. They can be taught to put themselves in their coop at night. You just have to be patient and make sure they go inside the coop and close them up every night. Some duck breeds lay as well as production chickens.
 

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Chicken tractor

 
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