Fowl for Foraging " What the best Fowl?" - Page 2
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Wild turkeys are wild and have been since the beginning, so they are equipped to survive various predators, though they are still highly preyed upon when they are young. They can fly for a long distance and fly higher up into the trees than can chickens. When they are adults they are less prone to predation but it does still happen.
A domestic chicken is vastly different and I've known of many individuals that remained almost feral around farms and such for a long time but they eventually get taken. It's not a common thing for a feral chicken to live long out in the country, especially country with a full deck of healthy predators on hand.
Wild animals are very different then any animal you can buy. Natural selection has brutally removed any offspring that cannot live in your environment. And you would be surprised at the losses, still. There is no domestic animal that can stand a chance in the same environment. That said, you can have birds roam your property, but you cannot expect them to live like wild. A coop that you open and close each night and food in the winter is what is required. You will have losses, but they are great at eating insects (saved my garden from the grasshoppers)
Agreed. I free range out in country you describe and my coop is open 24/7/365....but I also have two dogs on guard during those times that live next to the coop and in the flock's range area. My losses are very minimal due to that and that alone. I'd never even try to have chickens here, be they penned or free range, without those domestic predators of mine. If you want to have that ideal of free ranging poultry, you'll have to provide them with some sort of protection day and night.
Just about most breeds of heritage breed chicken will be a good forager, but some outperform the rest of breeds I've had down through the years. My Plymouth White Rocks survive and thrive on mainly foraged feed the best of all breeds I've had, staying extraordinarily fat on good forage...fatter than any other breed I've had on that type of feed. Other breeds that do very well, though not quite as much meat supported for that feed, are Black Australorps, New Hampshire, Barred Rock, Sussex, etc.
Don't believe anyone who tells you that white chickens cannot be free ranged and will be the first to fall to predators. Every single bird I've ever had taken over many years of free ranging has been a barred patterned bird. They most closely resemble the natural prey of aerial predators and those are the ones they snatch as they forage right next to white birds of the same size and age. If I were to recommend birds that are the most safe on free range according to color, the solid color birds~white, black, red~ and white birds with a little pattern seem to be way less vulnerable than those birds that are barred or speckled in grey or brown colors.
Stay away from flightless, slow moving or top dressed birds~silkies, Polish, etc.~as they are not as adept at quick escapes or able to visualize well predators approaching from above.
Be prepared to supplement feed the flock....in the warmer months it will help cut feed costs or supplementation to feed in the evening after they have foraged all day and are more full on naturally derived feed.
Here's an article that may help you: http://www.backyardchickens.com/a/bees-key-points-to-successful-and-safe-free-ranging
I understand they will also mob snakes to move them away from their "territory" or outright kill them. Sounds good to me. Maybe you could have some type of livestock guardian dog to protect them at night.