Friendly Free Ranging Breeds?

Discussion in 'General breed discussions & FAQ' started by emalin, Jan 15, 2014.

  1. emalin

    emalin Out Of The Brooder

    We are getting ready to start a small flock. I would like to do some limited free ranging in our backyard for the birds' health and enjoyment and to help keep insects under control. We live in a rural area with just about every predator you can think of. I would only let the birds out while supervised, but I still want to pick breeds with traits that would give them the best chance against daytime predators like hawks. It seems like more alert breeds with "wild" traits would do the best, but since they will primarily be pets (who hopefully lay lots of eggs), I would like to find friendly breeds as well. We have a toddler who won't necessarily be handling the birds, but who I would like to include in caring for the chickens. I'm even wondering if tamer breeds might be better in the sense that they could be more easily trained to stay in the yard and come back to the coop when needed. ?? My grandmother had a huge flock of semi-wild chickens that roosted in trees. They fended for themselves rather well, but that would never work for us. The birds will need to be in Fort Knox lock down at night to survive out here in the forest.

    My other related question is about roosters. It would obviously be a good idea to have a rooster to protect the flock, but I'm worried about the possibility of aggression with a little one around. Are there any rooster breeds that are friendlier than others? What about a bantam rooster with a flock of standard-sized hens? Might be less intimidating. I remember steering clear of roosters when I was a kid, but I would like my child to be able to go into the run/coop with me without fear.

    Any guidance would be most appreciated!
  2. Alaskan

    Alaskan The Frosted Flake

    I would vote for Dominiques for your breed.
    1. they are good foragers
    2. they have an excellent camouflage feather color and pattern (a not quite black with not quite white, unlike a barred rock more distinct barring and true black and white colors)
    3. they can be very sweet

    Also, if you want a friendly rooster, buy from a breeder, not a hatchery.

    When you pick out a breeder, ask them about the temperament of their roosters. Some breeders like "feisty" roosters, and select for that. Other breeders specifically select for easy going roosters.

    Even if you buy a bunch of chicks from a breeder that breeds for sweet roosters, you still might get a dud.

    I have a bunch of boys, and I am greatly aware that a rooster can jump up and permanently disfigure a toddler with ease.

    So, for my family, we watch our roosters. Any sign of aggression, and little kids are banned from the chicken yard and we watch the rooster. If it is clear that the rooster is aggressive, then we eat him.

    Do watch it though, I had one rooster that was fine with me, and would attack little kids. It was NOT a matter of the little kids were mean to the rooster, it was simply a height thing. The rooster wanted to dominate the shorter people.

    Also, with the little toddlers, you need to go over safe chicken handling, over and over and over and over.

    Even the sweetest of hens, if a little kid is snuggling them, the hen will often be tempted to peck at the eyes.

    I explain that eyes are shiny, and with the eye lids blinking, chickens think that eyes must be tasty bugs. No eyes are ever allowed to be close to chicken beaks. For the super small kids, that is just too much instruction, and it is best to make it clear "you can only hold the chickens with mama and papa", pair that with "your job is to toss out the scratch, and you have to do that while standing". Remember that tiny kids gathering eggs means many many broken eggs.
  3. emalin

    emalin Out Of The Brooder

    Thank you. Dominiques look just about perfect for us. And so beautiful too. I never thought about working with a breeder for specific traits. We'll probably try to go it without a rooster the first year and hope for the best.
  4. Fentress

    Fentress Chillin' With My Peeps

    Mar 22, 2012
    Chesapeake, Va.
    A flock of chickens with a rooster as the leader and chief look out, can adapt to free range and be fairly astute at avoiding hawks. But everything that Alaskan said about aggressive roosters is true, especially those that come from hatcheries. Please be careful.

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