Keeping free range chickens.

Discussion in 'Raising Baby Chicks' started by wbowling88, Mar 7, 2012.

  1. wbowling88

    wbowling88 New Egg

    Mar 5, 2012
    I want to keep a flock of free range chickens near my house. I have a small shed that I would use as a coop for them to go in and out of but I would like them to free range in the yard. The farm is pretty large so they wouldn't be going any where the shouldn't. I really would like to keep bantams. Any suggestions for breeds that do well free range? I love silkies but I know they wouldn't last a day.
  2. Jake1297

    Jake1297 Chillin' With My Peeps

    Feb 18, 2011
    Western Maine
    I have RR, Cochin, Bard Rock, Silkies & Guineas. They all free range with the exception of my silkies. The silkies don't have the vision the others do with their puffy headdress so they are fenced in. The others all pretty much go their own way, staying in groups. Until I bring treats then they all come running. The guineas come flying. I started mine in the coop and when they were old enough I left their door open and they came out when they were ready. But into a fenced in area. They learned where home was and when to go in. Once they did that, I took the fence down and let them go where they want. The guineas are great watch dogs.
  3. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner True BYC Addict

    Feb 2, 2009
    Northwest Arkansas
    :frow Welcome to the forum! :frow Glad you joined us! :frow

    You might be surprised how well some chickens can survive or even thrive free ranging, but, yes silkies that can't fly and Polish that can't see are at a disadvantage. I stay away from them.

    About any "regular" chicken can do OK free ranging, but the best are the game or mediterranian breeds. What you are looking for is a chicken that is not really so big they can't fly real well. And the smaller chickens don't need as much food to maintain their bodies so they often can find most of their food foraging. You generally have to buy less feed for them.

    No chicken can really protect itself from certain predators. A fox, for example, can get any of them. The nimble ones have a better chance but if a fox finds them, you'll have a problem.

    I keep dual purpose Speckled Sussex, Delaware, and Australorp mixes and they do OK free ranging. I've lost a couple to a fox, but my real problem is when people drop dogs off in the country. I've lost a lot at one time when that happens and a lot of my losses were adolescents that could fly much better than the adults.
  4. Fleabuskitty

    Fleabuskitty Chillin' With My Peeps

    Feb 23, 2011
    I've found that any breed I let free-range has done fine. I currently have a free-ranging flock consisting of a Buff Brahma rooster, a Black Sexlink, two Dominiques, a bantam Cochin, an Easter Egger, and four mutts, and they do fine. I think that if my goofy bantam Cochin does okay, a Silkie would do fine, though it might be a good idea to trim its crest from time to time so that it can see and also keep some more alert birds that can spot danger for the others. I've heard that Game breed bantams (and games in general) are some of the best foragers. Bantam Plymouth Rocks, Wyandottes, Orpingtons, etc, are all cute and supposedly good layers.
    As for large-fowl, Plymouth Rocks, Orpingtons, Wyandottes, and Sex-Links are all popular breeds and good layers. I'm sure someone else will have more information about breeds than me.
    Mixed flocks are fun if you just want layers/pets. Most people who are just beginning to keep chickens start with a small mixed flock of layers. I got my first four chickens a little over a year ago and it's addictive; I now have 24 chickens in three different coops and a home-made incubator [​IMG]
    Last edited: Mar 7, 2012
  5. Summer Rose

    Summer Rose Out Of The Brooder

    Jul 29, 2012
    Thanks for all those that share information here, I also need to hear/learn your expertise. Could you also tell me what age to let the birds out to
    free range? I had six SF's I got when they were six weeks, let them out at 12 weeks. At first they did not go further than 5 ft. from the coop, but
    I was there then went inside for 10min. and three ran off. Saw one in the next yard but couldn't get her back trying for an hour then it was too
    dark, she was nowhere I could find next morning, the others I never saw again:>( I just bought 9 more yesterday, they are in the Coop (which I made
    out of a 9X13' shed). I'm afraid now to let any out but I want them to free range without a fence. My yard is fenced (2acres) but not chick fencing.
    Could it be because I don't have a Roo? Too young? Impossible?
  6. debid

    debid Overrun With Chickens

    Jan 20, 2011
    middle TN
    If there is a predator attack or a perceived threat, they will all scatter to wherever they see some cover. They SHOULD return to the coop at dusk but obviously won't if a predator finds them before that point or they are in shock/traumatized. If you don't have good cover for them (like shrubs) and your neighbor does, that would explain what happened. My chickens range but they also stay near sources of cover and I supervise pretty closely. We just have too many predators for any breed to run free here.
  7. Frizzle13

    Frizzle13 Chillin' With My Peeps

    Sep 16, 2012
    I always find the best birds are always mixed breed.
  8. TXchickmum

    TXchickmum Chillin' With My Peeps

    Apr 21, 2012
    North Texas
    OEGB are great and do well free-ranging. They are adept at flight, as well, which helps with avoiding predators. -have a pair of them, and love them. The roo is super protective and alerts to danger. The hen is adorable. I will say that out of my flock, the OEGB hen is the most independent. -would highly recommend OEGB if you wish to have free-range bantams.
  9. heybarb

    heybarb Chillin' With My Peeps

    Mar 9, 2012
    North Carolina
    I have lost three chickens to predators over the last 6 months - a bantam cochin, BO, & white leghorn. I still have ALL 4 of my OEGBs. They are cute, fun to be around, friendly and seem to be very predator-aware (if that's a word?). All 3 of my girls went broody when they were about 5 months now we have more OEGBs - since one was hiding a nest I didn't know about! I do love them!
  10. jamesbwood

    jamesbwood Chillin' With My Peeps

    Train them with food early on and stay out with them. I did yard work and let them out then. I'd call them back (with food, of course) when I went in. After a month of this, I started to let them free range when I am inside.

    This will work just fine until/unless a predator has a go at them.


BackYard Chickens is proudly sponsored by