Free Range Breed Pro's and Con"s

Discussion in 'Predators and Pests' started by RIR2012, Dec 17, 2014.

  1. RIR2012

    RIR2012 New Egg

    Dec 4, 2012
    My Coop
    I am about to buy a new batch of chicken now that we have bought a bigger place to have them. I was running Barred rocks which I loved, and Rhode Island Reds. My questions to my fellow chicken lovers is what breed has shown to you to fare well free range in the day and locked up at night. Also how do your cats do with your grown chickens, Im in need of a mouser, just wondered if its a problem to have cats and free range chickens? Any help appreciated.
  2. cityfarmer12

    cityfarmer12 Chillin' With My Peeps

    Oct 18, 2014
    Most of my layer breeds are great free rangers. My fancy breeds are the ones that don't do as well.

    As for the cat question, they will do fine with the chickens. Most of the time, the cats are scared of the chickens, those birds will peck the cats to keep them away. :) the cat might try to claw them at first, but then will ignore them (if they didn't from the beginning). I've had 7 cats running around with chickens, and have never had a problem. Just do not let the cat meet them before they are fully feathered...chicks are a great snack for them.
  3. MacTech

    MacTech Chillin' With My Peeps

    Any heritage dual purpose breed should do fine, my flock free ranges all day, and puts themselves to bed in their barn just as it gets dark.

    My flock consists of;
    Buff Orpingtons (3)
    Partridge Plymouth Rocks (2)
    Easter Egger (1)

    Bantam Cochin
    Bantam Cochin/Silkie cross
    Both brothers from the same clutch of eggs, no aggression issues

    I have plenty of hiding spots, trees and shrubs, plus their barn itself is a great hidey hole
  4. Kildare49

    Kildare49 Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jun 29, 2012
    Central Wisconsin
    My cat is totally disgusted. The chickens follow her around all the time. Few places she can hide that they cant find her.
  5. chickengeorgeto

    chickengeorgeto Overrun With Chickens

    A heritage breed like leghorns of any color do well free-ranging. Leghorns are active and are nervous or alert enough to keep themselves from easily becoming a chicken dinner for a predator.

    The down side to leghorns of any color is that they don't like being smooched on and they don't go broody or set.

    The up side to leghorns of any color is 25 to 30 dozen eggs per year per hen, while eating less chicken feed than the big lazy (immobile) dual purpose breeds consume.
    Last edited: Dec 19, 2014
  6. WYNot

    WYNot Chillin' With My Peeps

    Mar 19, 2013
    Casstown, OH
    We've got five RIR (pullets) we got from TSC in spring of 2013. I free range them as often as possible and they love it. My feed bill also loves it. Very noticeable difference in how much layer pellet they go through when locked in run/coop vs allowed to free range. So far, no issues with losses (knocks on wood). I've seen a couple of opossums snooping around the run/coop but those were quickly dealt with. We've seen plenty of hawks but no problems so far. The hens have plenty of woods, fence row, and bushes to hide in. We've heard owls and coyotes on numerous occasions but so far no issues.

    Our one cat ignored them; showing no interest in them at all. She was more interested in finding a sunny patch in the driveway to soak up some sun. Our other cat was always interested but to scared to do anything. Below are two encounters. First one wasn't enough to satisfy her curiosity. She continued to eyeball them when she was out in the yard with us. The second one was more recent and apparently her final straw as she no longer attempts to stalk them. More or less just glares at them from a distance. :D

    We were grilling out during late summer of 2013. While eating, the chickens came around to see what was up. Since they were in the area a few of us tossed some corn at them. One inevitably got tossed on the cat's back. Chicken rushes over and grabs it. Cat scrambles a few feet away and lays back down. Chicken follows looking for more goodies. They are staring at each other as the chicken approaches. Finally just a few inches apart they are locked in a stare down. Then BAM! chicken pecks cat right in the nose. Both scramble in opposite directions, unsure what to do next. The rest of us are about to fall out of our chairs laughing.

    Earlier this year...
    Five chickens in the yard scratching for goodies. My wife and I puttering around in the flower beds and garden. Our two cats outside with us. Older one sprawled out in a sunny patch of the driveway. Younger one notices the hens and starts her stalk. She’s in a bed of irises butt just a wiggling as she crouches; debating on whether to charge one of the nearby hens. One of the other hens notices the cat in the irises. The hen starts closing in on the cat. Rest of the hens notice and join her. Now picture the scene in Jurassic Park where the pack of velociraptors have one of the people surrounded and are closing in. The cat belatedly realizes she has gone from stalker to stalked. She is looking first one way then another as she tries to find an opening to make her escape. She no longer stalks the hens and is content to just watch them from a distance.

    As for the cats being mousers? Our two are totally useless for such. Occasionally they'll play with a mouse but they get bored quickly and move on to other endeavors.
    Last edited: Dec 19, 2014
  7. speckledhen

    speckledhen Intentional Solitude Premium Member

    I have free ranged all groups here for the past 9 years. No predator losses. I do have roosters with them, however, so always an alert system in place and each group has always had a pen attached to the coop for when we are not home. We DO NOT free range any flocks when we are not home. That's pretty much asking for trouble up here in the mountains.

    My flocks consist of Plymouth Rocks, Delawares, crosses of those two, plus some miscellaneous Easter Eggers, a couple of true Ameraucanas and some other mixed breeds. I have one 8 yr old Brahma hen, used to have a Lt Brahma who passed away almost 3 yrs ago and those two are good free rangers, seemingly impervious to heat or cold. The Delawares are first to pant in hot, humid weather, probably due to their dense musculature and tight feathering.

    I also have Belgian D'Anvers, a very small bantam that is under covered pen 24/7 except on rare occasion when I let the group out to free range under VERY close supervision-surprisingly, they are avid foragers, but I can't leave them out due to their small size and living on a mountain property with every predator you can imagine here. They love, love, LOVE to dig around this place, though, and being a mille fleur pattern, most of them anyway, they are very camouflaged in the oak leaves.

    My Rocks, both blue/black/splash and barred varieties are avid foragers, as well as my Delawares. My crosses, which include the Easter Eggers are great at free ranging as well. The ones I see least likely to forage, but want to find the humans to hold them and baby them are my true Ameraucana hens-those tend to do a little digging, but stop and look for me or just go back to the coop.

    Used to have RIRs as well as Wyandottes, both good free rangers, especially the big, dark heritage RIR hens. Busy, quiet, minded their business.

    In November, a stray tomcat adopted us and we had him neutered when it appeared he was staying put. He doesn't hurt the birds, usually avoids them, though he likes to play "chicken bowling" just to see them run and squawk. He doesn't actually make contact with any of them. The roosters keep an eye on his antics. Over the years, cats have come and gone (not mine, strays), but none have hurt any chickens, though I'd never trust a cat around chicks.

    ETA: I realize that we have beaten the odds with no predator losses for 9 years, however, eventually, our number will come up. It's inevitable with free ranging and no livestock guardian dog.
    Last edited: Dec 19, 2014
  8. cafarmgirl

    cafarmgirl Overrun With Chickens

    My cats don't bother my adult birds at all and chicks are kept penned until they are adult size. I have one cat that goes into my pens when the doors are open and is great at keeping the little birds out. Mice? Not so much. For that one cat cannot keep up and I use traps to keep the problem from getting out of hand.

    As far as best breed for free ranging? Some are certainly better suited then others but the real question is your own property, what surrounds you and what your predator list is like. I had to stop free ranging years ago as coyotes were wiping me out fast. Now my birds have access to my barn and from there they have almost an acre of securely fenced and hot wired pasture right next to an area with lots of human traffic all day long. At night everybody is locked up. I also have a couple of good farm dogs that are very good at keeping critters away. Under that arrangement I haven't lost any birds to predators.
  9. Howlet

    Howlet Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jul 31, 2014
    My Coop
    My Rooster-Hen ( Since we dont have one, our EE Cheetah likes to play big boy ) Chases my cats off the property when there too close for her liking... lol. She even has the dogs running scared! She leaves the fat butterball of a cat alone, though :)

    And i would like to think Cochins are good FR's. Mine is :) just watch them around your garden or veggie patches... She likes to take a group up and raid my veggies!!

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