One of the biggest challenges in keeping chickens is figuring out how to build a chicken coop and pen that will allow your birds to forage while also keeping them safe from predators. Letting the birds roam and consume a diverse diet results in eggs and meat with terrific flavor and nutrition. The downside of allowing chickens to free-range is that predators will almost always discover your flock and kill some birds. Sometimes you may lose just one bird; other times you’ll experience heavy losses in just one attack. Even in urban areas, foxes, raccoons and hawks can kill your chickens, and roaming dogs can be a problem in urban and rural areas.
Portable chicken coops (also called “pasture pens”) are a good solution, especially if you keep only a few hens. You can keep your birds inside a movable chicken coop that has an open bottom so the birds can feed on grass and insects. Each day, move the pen onto a fresh section of your lawn, garden or pasture. When you’re working outdoors and your presence will deter predators, you can let your birds out of the coop to range. They will naturally return to the coop at dusk to roost, or, if you need to get them inside before dusk, you can easily train them to run into the coop by giving them treats.
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