That is the question I'm struggling with lately.
My girls live in a sizable run that is secure from both the top and bottom from predators. And my intention all along was to let them free range in my garden. But after hearing about a number of local hawk attacks on chickens, I'm not sure I'm going to do that anymore.
I just assumed that a Coopers Hawk wouldn't go after a 7 or 10 lb. bird. So I consulted with a number of my Audubon friends, including a raptor biologist, and all confirmed that indeed a Coopers Hawk will go after a chicken, regardless of size. While it may not be able to carry the chicken away, it will still kill and eat what it can before taking off.
So I've decided that I will not free range my girls after all.
After raising these beauties from day old chicks and really getting to know them, they have become pets and are part of the family. I would be totally devastated if I were to loose one to a hawk. I'm already an emotional wreck when I find a dead bird in our yard. My husband can attest to this. He's dug many holes in the yard for these birds who I tenderly wrap up in layers of tissue paper and gently bury after a few kind words.
This changes things in that I was really counting on them to control the bugs in my garden. But it's not worth the risk just to save $30 on a jug of Sluggo.
So my Spice Girls will have to call their run their full time home. I will try to keep them amused by filling their run with leaves and yard clippings for them to dig and play in. It will still make me sad when I see them lined up at the gate, peering out into the garden, and salivating at all the potential things there are to dig up, mow down, gobble up and poop on out there.