Hello all, finally decided to make an account! Finally cannot find an answer to a question without a

Discussion in 'New Member Introductions' started by jstephens0224, Jul 7, 2016.

  1. jstephens0224

    jstephens0224 New Egg

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    Jul 7, 2016
    Valier, MT
    First off my name is Justin. Every time I research birds I end up on this forum reading post after post and can usually find an answer to any questions I do have. But now I have finally been defeated by the search function and decided it would probably be most helpful if I asked my question to an audience! I'm sorry if this is the wrong place to post this (still figuring out the site).

    Ok so my wife and I are moving to central Montana on the Rocky Mountain front. We will be living on a farm and the farmstead is surrounded by a thick wind break of brush and 80 foot tall fir trees. It is about 5 acres cut out of a 200 acre wheat field. There are a decent number of predators in the area and the winters can be pretty harsh. 35 below zero is the lowest recorded temp since 1981 but normally it doesn't drop below -20f. I am looking for a good breed of chicken to free range around the farm that can for the most part, be self sufficient. I am not concerned about eggs or big meat birds. I will have a decent sized barn for a coop and will fence off a large run for my pen raised birds but what I would like to do is free range their offspring and hopefully form a flock of chickens that can fend for themselves more or less. So what I need in a chicken is this.

    1. Very cold hardy
    2. Great forager
    3. Very flighty and skittish
    4. Very broody and good mothers
    5. Has a natural tendency to stay close to cover or retreat to cover when a predator comes around.
    6. Camoflage in the dry grass and brush, especially hens.

    I have played with the idea of crossing a skittish, wild breed such as the Red Jungle Fowl to a cold hardy Russian Orloff or something along those lines to create a decent flying, broody, skittish, camo free range chicken. I want my birds to roost in the trees, reproduce naturally and forage for their food as much as possible. There is a good size pond near the house for water and all sorts of food and cover around. Any ideas on breeds that fit my criteria or recommendations of what I should mix to create the right bird for me? Thanks so much in advance!
     
  2. perchie.girl

    perchie.girl Desert Dweller Premium Member

    First of all Welcome to BYC. [​IMG] from the High desert in San Diego county

    That was my chriteria for the desert With one exception... I needed birds that were able to handle 110 degrees in the summer.

    Game crosses work very well for both Good fliers wiley and Broody as heck.

    Mine were EEs crossed with Game birds... I bought a flock from a local fellow who had jsut let them run.... he was overrun with birds and selling off to thin his flock. So I got birds that were well suited for my climate my predator load and good foragers. I do get snow for a short time in the winter but Very Very cold winds blow through my area in winter time.

    You might check at the local feed store and ask what works well for your area.

    Also there will be a Montana thread you might go there and say hello and ask your questions there....

    Pretty place I have some friends that just moved up in the Flathead Lake area... Hes a paramedic that works with rough country rescue...

    One thing to consider too... There are bears in your area consider putting up electric fence in some parts of the country the Department of Fish and game will set you up with hot wire you just have to look it up I am not sure if it were Montana or Wyoming.

    deb
     
    1 person likes this.
  3. jstephens0224

    jstephens0224 New Egg

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    Jul 7, 2016
    Valier, MT
    Well thank you for the response! Yeah I my place is about 20 miles from the mountains out in the farm country so the main predators are hawks, owls, coyotes and foxes. There are also some migrating grizzly bears in that specific area that usually just pass through on the way to the prairie every spring. Which is one reason I would prefer them to roost in the trees as opposed to a coop lol.

    You would think with all the breeds out there and all the different needs people have had for chickens in the last few thousand years, someone would have surely produced a breed for my situation! If not I guess I'll have to myself. I was also considering game fowl to start out with and I know they say standard old english birds are cold hardy and flighty but I'm not sure if they would be quite cold hardy enough with their big combs. The German Kraienköppe was one breed I have also considered given that their founding country is pretty frigid in the winter and they are also said to be flighty and resourceful and have a pea comb. Finding a breeder with birds available at an affordable price for me is another issue. In the end I may just buy several breeds with different traits I desire and selectively breed towards for what need and as I said in my post, release the offspring for free range and I guess the strong/smart will prevail. I will be doing what I can to keep predators at bay and provide some feed and water during winter of course. I just want the closest I can get to a self sufficient flock eventually.
     
  4. drumstick diva

    drumstick diva Still crazy after all these years. Premium Member

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    Aug 26, 2009
    Out to pasture
    Welcome to Backyard Chickens. Glad you joined the flock. You might consider using chanticleer's in your project. They originated in Canada to handle the cold extremes., etc.
     
  5. jstephens0224

    jstephens0224 New Egg

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    Jul 7, 2016
    Valier, MT
    I will look into them! Thank you!
     
  6. perchie.girl

    perchie.girl Desert Dweller Premium Member

    Take a look at birds with Cushion combs or Rose combs.....

    Chantecler are a canadian breed and extremely cold hearty.... Ameracauna have rose combs... So do many Easter Eggers. Icelandics are also a cold climate breed as are Buckeyes.... Buckeys are a dual purpose breed and kind of heavy

    it really is best if you keep your birds inside at night.... a bobcat will go right up a tree for take out... Raccoons too are opportunistic.... Better to have them roost in the barn up high.......

    another thing to consider once your birds start laying eggs if they are not accustomed to coming into a safe area to lay they will make nests out side and out of your control. If a hen goes broody the rooster will keep an eye on her and try to protect her from predators.... and will give his life to do the job. You will simply be missing two birds one day.

    I have been wiped out three times now due to coyotes and bobcat.... I lost thirty chickens in thirty days to bobcat once... I was down to one single hen and a Coyote took her not forty feet from me and all I could do was scream and try to throw rocks at him... [​IMG] That flock was self replicating too. A fire in the hills drove the predators my direction... sigh.

    Youd be surprised at how cold hearty chickens are in general.... as long as the coop has good ventilation and draft protection.... Frost bite usually happens when there is too much moisture built up in the coop. I have one friend who has chickens in Alaska he neither heats or insulates his coops. They have protection from the snow and good ventilation only.

    My flock is gone now long story but I was wiped out about four years ago. I wont rebuild till I can move home again. But... I had Guinea Fowl who are the wileist of wily good foragers and excellent at giving the alarm for over head predators like hawks or ground predators like Coyotes or snakes. Because they fly so well I set their roosts up around six feet.... All my heavy birds roosted that height.... I had Welsummers at the time... Big and beautful My coop partitions were set up so they could fly to get down too. -

    For what its worth I loved my Guineas and will be concentrating on them next... I also will be getting Sumatra for broodies for raising Guineas... Sumatras are considered a game but they are medium sized bird that lays medium sized egg. I know someone here who rescued a whole fllock of them up in New York upper state. They fly almost as well as Guinea fowl.... they too have rose combs.

    deb
     
  7. perchie.girl

    perchie.girl Desert Dweller Premium Member

    Hi Diva [​IMG]
     
  8. drumstick diva

    drumstick diva Still crazy after all these years. Premium Member

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    Out to pasture
    Hi Perchie, I can't seem to get smilies to work for me anymore. :( Today is my birthday - 69 - yikes!! You know Tara has put a lot of work into Chants with very small-low combs just about totally frostbite free. She doesn't baby her birds.
     
  9. jstephens0224

    jstephens0224 New Egg

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    Jul 7, 2016
    Valier, MT
    Thanks you! Yeah I have had guineas in the past as well and they were very fun to raise! Like I said, I am not very interested in meat or eggs right at first so larger breeds or smaller breeds aren't a concern. And I will give all the birds the option to roost inside. If I let them free range I won't be able to prevent them from roosting inside anyway because the old empty barns around the place have no doors and many ways in and out of them. But locking them in the coop could very well be grizzly bear bait. As for bobcats, there are very few in that area. Raccoons, coyotes and foxes are legal to hunt in Montana and I am a very avid hunter so keeping those predators at bay isn't that hard for me. My main concern is hawks and owls really. Since they are protected there is not alot I can do in the way of keeping them away. When I lived in Western Washington we had hawks and owls get in the coop on a couple occasions and kill quite a few chickens which was a real bummer. But those birds were just like a fish in a barrel once the hawk got in there. We had a really flighty group of bantams that were a mix of sumatras, Japanese and several others that would roost way up in the trees next to the coop and we rarely ever lost any of those. If we did, it was usually just 1 at a time. But in western Washington it is a very mild climate and I didn't think sumatras and Japanese bantams could handle the cold winters in montana. The guineas I had were in Eastern Washington where it gets pretty cold, comparable to Montana and they seemed to do pretty well given that they are a bird from Africa! I am just fascinated by the idea of chickens living as close to wild as possible and having a flock around the farm that many have never even been handled by a person has always been a goal of mine. I've just never had the time or space to work on such a project. It seems like all the breeds that are exceptional fliers are either non-setters or can't handle -20f weather and wind for extended periods of time. And all the cold hardy, setters are docile, ground loving birds that prefer a coop over a tree. I really appreciate the input so far you guys! I'll do some more reading on every breed mentioned and definitely do some more thinking on how to predator proof 5 acres around the house! The good thing about where I'm at is that although there are trees and brush all around the 5 acres, it is surrounded by miles of flat wheat fields in every direction which keeps alot of animals such as bobcats, raccoons, cougars and such to a minimum compared to the wooded canyons I lived in over in Washington. Trees out in farm country are like a beacon to birds of prey though. Wish there was a chicken that could hold its own against a hawk or owl but was smart enough to get up off the ground away from a grizzly bear. I would hate to have all my birds locked in one coop and have a bear rip open the door to a gourmet chicken dinner! Maybe I could section off the barn I am going to use so that if 1 section is broken into by a bear, he'll leave the other sections alone. At least for the night lol.
     
  10. perchie.girl

    perchie.girl Desert Dweller Premium Member

    If you are a hunter you probably have access to a game cam. Once food moves into the property the predators follow. I didnt think we had Raccoons here in The desert... But I had twenty Tweenage keets just loosing their bacon heads killed by raccoons.

    Another thing I want when i move back home is a good dog they go a long way to deter predators as long as you dont have one with a strong prey drive.

    Good luck I envy your location... i want to visit my friend but I am a desert rat so couldnt do the snow.... [​IMG]

    deb
     

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