Keeping Chickens Free Range

Discussion in 'Managing Your Flock' started by LadyBroody, Jun 15, 2014.

  1. QueenBubbles

    QueenBubbles Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I would recommend Australorporps, EEs and Black Sex Links for blending in and becoming invisible.
    My Australorp always has her crop full even when I don't feed them and is a decent flier. Being black, she hides well. They are supposed to be good layers, too.
    My EE is a good flier and looks like a prairie hawk. ;)
    My sex link hides well, is supposed to be a good layer and doesn't seem to eat much.
    Feeding them doesn't have to cost that much - You can feed all kinds of kitchen scraps - I use a mini blender on peels and scraps so it is easy for them to eat. Just throwing out peels (like cucumber and carrot) didn't work as they are too long and tough to peck into manageable peices.
    Mine all love leftover people food as long as we decide no one will eat before it gets moldy. Cooked grains are a delicacy for them!
    They don't eat much of the commercial food. I am constantly frustrated that they just pick at the scratch and peck food, so that bag lasts a long time. They do like their sunflowers seed - the black ones (BOSS) are best.
    Like others have said, feeding before bed has a couple advantages. It encourages them to come in faster, is a good time to bond and you can make sure they aren't hurt or starving.
    Good luck on your move and starting your flock - there should be plenty delish bugs up in the rainy northwest!
     
  2. K Epp

    K Epp Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I was going to recommend the Australorps. I have EE and Brown Leghorn and they do great. The Australorp will go broody. They are great layers and them and the EE I have lay just as well as the Leghorns. I have Dominique and they are a good choice. You cant go wrong with a mixture of those, but I recommend EE roos.
     
  3. lazy gardener

    lazy gardener Flock Master

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    I've had EE and Leghorns. Both are flighty, therefore should do well in a foraging/predator evasion situation. My current leghorns are Rose comb brown. The biggest complaint I have about them is that they scoff at any fence. They only stay behind it if it is in their best interest to do so. Also, not the brightest crayons in the box when it comes to getting the eggs in the nest box. And when they get flighty, they loose what little capacity they have for thought. Even so, they're pretty and I really like them. My EE are great layers, and do well foraging. Are you going to keep a rooster? Hatch your own eggs for flock renewal? My recommendation is to get birds that are dark colored, or have barred or partridge type of feather color. (better camoflage for hiding from those predators.) I absolutely love my Dominiques. i've spent no time socializing these pullets, yet the Dominiques are very friendly, and are the most likely of my pullets to want to spend time with me. One will jump up on the perch when I'm in the coop, and seems to beg for a face and neck massage. She'll close her eyes, and lean into me. I honestly have not met any chickens who are not good foragers. They all love to be out hustling for greens and grubs! One bird that is a surprise is my one Pioneer (meat bird). She was the smallest of my meat birds, and at the bottom of the pecking order. I decided not to butcher her. She's a lovely gal, lays a nice big egg, and was the first pullet to start laying. My suggestion is to do a mixed flock with 3 or 4 of each of the varieties you choose to try. You will need to provide feed for them, but with free ranging, your feed bill will be decreased. You also might want to consider using fermented feed to further stretch your feed dollars while providing them with superior nutrition. You didn't mention if you plan to have a run. Even if you're planning to exclusively free range, I recommend that you have a run. There are times when you'll want to keep them fenced in: when there's been a predator issue, when you're training them to use the nest boxes. I'm partial to electronet fencing: Allows you to move their run around frequently, gives excellent predator protection, and gives a nice big run for more "free range while fenced" opportunities.
     
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  4. duluthralphie

    duluthralphie Chicken Wrangler extrodinaire Premium Member

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    I suppose a EE roo would be ok, BUT I like Brutus!!!!

    BRUTUS takes no prisoners when it comes to predators, many would be predators have whispered "Et Tu Brute', as they expire.

    He is the worlds greatest rooster!

    https://www.backyardchickens.com/t/923990/worlds-greatest-rooster

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    I show this only to give others a goal in obtaining the perfect free range rooster...
     
    Last edited: Sep 23, 2014
  5. nvdirtfreak

    nvdirtfreak Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Hello! I have another Free Range question...

    One of my neighbors has an ungodly amount of cats - last count was 14. A few days ago, as I was sitting in the run with my chickens just observing and trying to assess their pecking order, I saw one of the cats walk right up to the run (didn't even notice me until I stood up, it was so fixated on the chickens). I believe the cats have also been trying to claw their way into the coop - it is 100% secure (in fact, I think they have given up trying), but it makes me nervous to let them free range. Will chickens (I have 10 hens and 1 rooster) defend themselves ok from cats (normal house cats, not feral cats), or is it best to forget about free ranging?
     
  6. dpenning

    dpenning Chillin' With My Peeps Premium Member

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    I have 2 australorps 2 RIR and 2 brown leghorns. They all blend in beautifully in the yard, go over the fence to free range as they see fit. I have pictures of a neighbors cat going in and out of the coop, the girls are 5 months old now and the cats cause no problems. They are big enough to defend themselves against a cat, at least these.
     
  7. duluthralphie

    duluthralphie Chicken Wrangler extrodinaire Premium Member

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    I think a good roster will protect the chickens.

    But I am not sure it is worth the risk. I know you will not be able to raise chicks.

    What are the chances the neighbor will be a responsible cat owner?
     
    Last edited: Sep 23, 2014
  8. islandgirl82

    islandgirl82 Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I have a mixed flock that includes Easter Eggers, Wyandotte and Hamburg. I have to agree with Lazy Gardener regarding the flightiness of the Easter Eggers. There seems to be no rhyme or reason to their madness but they can also be very friendly. I suppose it's the luck of the draw because there's no way of knowing what breeds are in mix but they're cold hearty, decent layers and having a varied egg basket is fun. Wyandottes are dual-purpose which if you intend on eating them after a couple of years, are worth the consideration. Without any heat or light supplementation during our winters here in Maine, my 4 year old Wyandotte hen is still giving me 4-5 eggs each week. Onto the Hamburg. This is my first experience with them so bear with me on my enthusiasm for this breed. She is by far the best layer in my flock...going 10 days straight before having a day off from laying. The only drawback (and it's extremely minor to me personally) is her eggs are considerably smaller than either of the other breeds I keep so I use twice as many when following a recipe that calls for large eggs.

    Hamburgs are considered flighty but I don't like using the term to describe them. I associate flightiness with fear and she is FAR from fearful. She's the first to investigate and has zero tolerance for intruders which include wild birds, squirrels and more recently, my neighbors Australian shepards. She chases all of them. She is incredibly alert and is the first to sound the alarm when there's perceived danger. When they all run for cover, she stays so perfectly still that I can't find her in the underbrush even when I know I'm looking in the area she's hidden herself. She's a Golden Spangled so she blends in marvelously with the dead leaves she likes to hide in. She also doesn't make a sound. No peep or coo, not even rustling leaves or twigs. Then I look at my Easter Eggers and Wyandotte and they're like a bunch of little girls on a sleepover; whispering to each other and fidgeting until the potential "danger" has passed. They make themselves such easy targets and they don't find very discreet hiding places either...even being surrounded by thick undergrowth. They'll pick a solitary branch or something that just covers their head which tends to make me shake mine. One of my Easter Eggers frequently gets separated from the flock too and she stands on my porch screeching until I go out and get her and lead her back to where the rest are. I wonder sometimes if they ditch her on purpose. [​IMG]

    Hamburgs can also fly incredibly well. I do not clip wings because I want them to have all the options they possibly can to get away from predators should they encounter one. As for foraging...mine prefers it over feed and she's far less selective with what she eats than my other girls but obviously, her choices will be quite limited soon. Confinement does NOT suit her well. I do keep the flock in their 12' x 24' run until late morning for many reasons, one of which is so I can keep track of who is laying and how often. While the rest scratch around, bathe and chatter, she paces. Frantically. She also calls out when she sees me. I know she's calling to me to make sure I know she's ready to be set free. That said, she faithfully returns to the coop every night without prompting.

    They are large fowl birds but very small comparatively and there's no meat on them so maybe not the best choice if that's what you plan to do with your culls.

    Twenty birds for two people is a lot. I have a flock of seven but only five are currently laying and they average over 2 dozen eggs each week. It's just my two children and me so there's no way we could eat that many every week so what we don't use we trade with our neighbors for fresh produce from their gardens.
     
    Last edited: Sep 23, 2014
  9. lazy gardener

    lazy gardener Flock Master

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    Enjoyed your post, Island girl. You have a good way with words. Hamburg was one of the breeds I considered when planning my flock. I may eventually end up adding some in place of the RCBL. Of all of my birds, even though their eggs are smaller, I prefer the Dominique for their personalities. I believe that Hamburgs earned the nick name: "egg a day birds".
     
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  10. k626

    k626 Out Of The Brooder

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    I'm looking for hens that won't jump a fence. Preferably can't jump a fence 3 to 4 feet high. Any suggestions?
     

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