Originally Posted by UrbanEnthusiast
I'm going to be getting about 20 hens sometime in 2016, just for laying, not meat, and I really have my heart set on free-ranging as much as possible. I live in a wooded area on an island in the Puget Sound. We have some clearing around us, but there are plenty of places for cover. We have plenty of coyotes, coons, eagles, and hawks around here, probably bobcats too, but I've never seen one. Never seen a domestic dog on the property, but we do have an indoor/outdoor cat who's a great hunter, and there are stray cats in the neighborhood too. I trust my husband to build a secure coop, so I'm not worried about nighttime, only daytime predators. Should I go with big chickens who can better defend themselves, or should I go with little flighty ones who might be able to avoid predators all together? We live on five acres, but we share it with our landlady, and she won't allow any roosters. I don't mind occasional losses, but I do need this to be sustainable. Advice?
I live in a heavily wooded area and there are different ways of approaching this. Someone mentioned sticking with camouflage colors. I would stay away from white. Next I have secure coops and covered runs for when I need to keep the birds locked up. Hot wires and chicken netting doesn't hurt either.
Now for which breeds....Lots of ways of looking at this. Most of my flock and what I started with were large heritage breeds including Jersey giants. Hawks don't make up most of the predators in this area, but with larger birds, they don't seem to want to come down. We've watched them looking at chickens but they remained in the trees. Only twice have I seen them launch an unsuccessful attack on a juvenile chicken. Both times the juveniles got under evergreens to safety, once while the rooster stayed in the open screaming a warning.
However foxes in this area (And dogs and coyotes and bobcats in other areas) will carry large chickens away.
I have added some smaller breeds, both egg layers(barred in color to blend in) and bantams, and these birds are very maneuverable and can fly well so hopefully they can out maneuver a predator.
It does help if you have dogs that can either stay out with the chickens at times or go out frequently.
Implementing this plan I have very few losses, only two in over a year. One was a rooster who went outside the fenced area by himself (The gate was left open.) and a hen who had sneaked away to a hidden nest and was out overnight.