I'd planned on getting some poultry this year but I think I've been a bit taken by surprise by how early this stuff starts. I knew to plan to get my hives and bees and have dug in the garden but when I went to Tractor Supply and saw chicks for sale I never new poultry started this early too.
I really did plan on having the poultry started this year as well but I have a few issues/unanswered questions (though I've read up a lot):
1) TS states Rhode Island Reds as Good multi-purpose free range birds that winter well. But in my (admittedly novice - can we just assume that's the position I'm coming from from here on out?) research they seem to have rather large combs and seem to have traits more susceptible to cold. I was initially looking at Orpingtons for the small combs and dense bodies for good overwinter.
2) What I would really like to do (but have no idea if this is really even viable) is to have a little barracks for the chickens at night or for eggs but otherwise just let them run around my 7 acres (and my neighbors, I can't even see the people next to me). I realize there will potentially be some loss to depredation, but will the survivors eventually learn? Or do I really need to have an enclosed run rather than a coop I let them out of during the day and corral them in at night?
3) Related to 1, what are going to be my best breeds for this, assuming it's possible?
4) Somewhat related - I was also thinking of getting some Muscovy ducks for meat/yard cleanup. Do they and chickens get along? Does anyone know if you can even raise Muscovy for meat in Michigan? It seems they have some weird restrictions.
Thanks and be gentle, I'm kind of an idiot about these things.