Best Breed If We Cannot Let Them Free-Range

Chookman

Chirping
8 Years
Oct 22, 2012
6
37
85
We live on a 15 acre property in the Victorian High Country, Australia.

I built a Purina Coop about 5 years ago - like the one shown on this page: https://www.backyardchickens.com/threads/purina-coop-plans-or-something-easy.1160855/

I set it up in a run of about 15 square metres, which is very secure - corrugated roof sheeting dug into the ground 300mm all the way round. I then built a treadle feeder and installed an automatic waterer. People describe the setup as the Taj Mahal!

We then got 6 Isa Browns. In no time at all they were tearing each other apart. So, we had to let them free range outside the run. A few weeks later the hawkes found them and killed 2. So, I built an extension to the run (about another 12 square metres or so) and we let them free range there. They started pecking each other to bits - all tail feathers gone and raw rumps.

So, we had to let them free range again. One morning, mid-morning, the fox got 3 of them and the fourth fled back to the coop, cowered in a corner and died 2 days later.

After all the effort I put into building the coop and runs, I want to try again. However, the predators are very brazen and free ranging isn't an option.

What is the best breed to keep in my sort of setup? A breed that has similar people-friendly characteristics to Isa Browns, but is happy to live in a protected run.

Thanks in advance for your advice.
 

ChickNanny13

Crossing the Road
8 Years
Jun 23, 2013
9,125
12,935
977
The Big Island/Hawaii
I live in a residential area, yard is fenced but neighbor has alot of dogs and they love to sit at the fence line, therefore I've kept my girls confined and never had any issues. My Chicken House is 8 x 12 x 7 ... At one time have had 5 Blue Wyandottes, twice had 4 Buff Opringtons, once 3 Blue Laced Red Wyandottes & 1 Easter Egger ... They did well.

I did have some Rhode Island Reds, never again, they got into too many squabbles. New flock of 4 are Whiting Blue (2) and Whiting Green (2) ... They're still in the brooder, hope it all works out.

You could check with your feed store, breeder or hatchery what they recommend. Glad you're not giving up, they are great "Pets with Benefits" ...
 

Ebony Rose

Crowing
12 Years
May 26, 2009
2,453
5,569
471
David, Chiriquí, Panama
Bantams are nice. Smaller birds need less space. Eggs are medium size. Can be quite friendly if you handle them regularly and start handling them soon after hatching, otherwise they tend to be a bit standoffish. I "treat" with hard boiled eggs when I'm taming chicks as it doesn't blow their diet and they absolutely love them. Make a habit of making the same sound or words when you want them to come to you, for treats or for any other reason, so that down the road as you ween them off of treats every visit, they'll still come running.
 

gtaus

Free Ranging
Mar 29, 2019
2,755
9,995
577
Northern Minnesota
My Coop
My Coop
What is the best breed to keep in my sort of setup? A breed that has similar people-friendly characteristics to Isa Browns, but is happy to live in a protected run.

Sounds like you have a beautiful place and nice setup for your chickens. I have a small backyard flock of 10 chickens, of 10 different breeds, and they all get along fine. Maybe I am just lucky. But like you, my birds are not free range. They have a 13 foot X 13 foot covered run which they spend most of the day. My coop, for the 10 birds, is 6 foot X 12 foot, so almost twice the minimum recommended space of 4 square feet per bird. I think the larger coop helps with aggression issues.

I have read that birds will get aggressive and pull out feathers from others and eat those feathers if their food lacks protein. I have a large 5 gallon feeder with 18% protein commercial food available to my birds 24/7. I also give them grass clippings this time of year and any kitchen scraps my wife and I have that the chickens may eat. None of them go hungry.

There are any number of websites that list breed characteristics and how well they do confined to a run. I had no experience in this area, so when I was deciding on what chickens to get for my coop/run setup, I immediately crossed off any breed that was not known to be good in a confined run or coop, because where I live in northern Minnesota, our birds spend about 6 months in the coop when the snow covers the ground.

Here is a good source for ISA Brown chicken and their interaction with other chickens. That same website has other breeds and how well they get along with other chickens. But like I said, there are many sources of info out there you can find with a simple Google search.

I am glad you are not giving up. I don't have much experience with laying hens, but the people I talk to that have raised chickens for years always tell me that it sometimes takes them a few years to figure out what breed(s) work best for them and their setup. So I would think your experience and perserverance will pay off if you keep going.
 

Chookman

Chirping
8 Years
Oct 22, 2012
6
37
85
Thank you so much, everyone, for sharing your advice and experience.
My daughter, who is a vet, did suggest Bantams, because she thought they would be better in an enclosure.
I understood that Isa Browns were a cross between Rhode Island Reds and Rhode Island Whites with a few other bits and pieces thrown in. So, Chicknanny, your experience with Rhode Island Reds probably correlates with my Isa Brown experience.
Tycine1 - great advice about the socialisation and boiled eggs - thanks.
gtaus, what breeds have you had success with? Particularly over winter in the coop.
My daughter suggested Araucanas, which have a Bantam version. She probably made the suggestion because they are interesting with their blue eggs. I have read that they are a bit broody, though. Does anyone have any experience of them and their suitability for enclosure living?
 

gtaus

Free Ranging
Mar 29, 2019
2,755
9,995
577
Northern Minnesota
My Coop
My Coop
gtaus, what breeds have you had success with? Particularly over winter in the coop.

This is my first year with laying hens, so this will be my first winter. Part of the reason I got 10 chickens of different breeds is to see which chickens survive over winter best. I won't presume to know what breeds were successful for me until next spring.
 

ChocolateMouse

Free Ranging
7 Years
Jul 29, 2013
5,603
17,925
707
Cleveland OH
Many breeds of chickens could live in your environment as long as they're friendly but I'd guess from what I'm seeing that your coop is only set up for maybe 4-5 max (you don't list coop measurements but I'm assuming it's 4'x4'ish?) and the pen is, after your recent expansion, perhaps big enough for 7.

It strikes me that if you want 6 chickens that bantams ARE probably the way to go assuming your coop is as small as I think it is, but you could probably keep 4 LF chickens comfortably. I'd go with any bird known for a good temperament. Orpington, EE, australorp, etc. and just keep fewer of them.

It also matters what's IN your pen. Is it just a big bare box, or are there places chickens can get away from eachother? Do you just have the one food/water source? It's best if you have obstacles around the chickens can hide behind (a pallet layed against a wall at a strong angle so the chickens can move under it, or branches that create a sheltered area that is hard to get into, or a small low wall in the middle of the pen to make it so no chicken can observe the whole pen at once, etc.) and multiple food/water sources so chickens who don't like eachother don't have to fight to eat and drink. It can also be good to have other boredom busters in there like a chicken swing or a flock block or a mirror or a sand pit or a hanging cabbage or something. These things might be important for bantams too. It really enriches their lives, I find, and a rich chicken life tends to be a more peaceful one.
 

Chookman

Chirping
8 Years
Oct 22, 2012
6
37
85
Many breeds of chickens could live in your environment as long as they're friendly but I'd guess from what I'm seeing that your coop is only set up for maybe 4-5 max (you don't list coop measurements but I'm assuming it's 4'x4'ish?) and the pen is, after your recent expansion, perhaps big enough for 7.
According to the Purina plans, the coop is big enough for 8 (although I only had 6). It is located inside a run that measures approx. 15' X 10'. Then, I added an extra run that they use during the day. It measures 12' X 10'. So, I think they have plenty of space.
 

gtaus

Free Ranging
Mar 29, 2019
2,755
9,995
577
Northern Minnesota
My Coop
My Coop
It also matters what's IN your pen. ...

Good suggestions. My chickens had no interest in a mirror, or the toys I put in their brooder. But they do enjoy things to hide under, get out of the shade, places to eat and drink, and roost bars. I am looking for more ways to enrich their pen, but, so far, my chickens are doing well with what they have.
 

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