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Natural range of a free range chicken

Discussion in 'Feeding & Watering Your Flock' started by shortstaque, Oct 26, 2010.

  1. shortstaque

    shortstaque Chillin' With My Peeps

    Sep 29, 2010
    Bucks County, PA
    If a chicken were in the wild or you were to exclusively free range birds with no supplemental food in a climate with four distinct seasons and the area included a mix of forest, field, and brush approximately how much land would support how many birds?

    I know this is a really general question but I am just curious what the norm is in nature. I was interested by another thread that talked of challenge feeding and I wonder about fowl in the gallus family that is not domesticated, and how much space it takes to meet their nutritional needs.
  2. Bear Foot Farm

    Bear Foot Farm Overrun With Chickens

    Mar 31, 2008
    Grifton NC
    If a chicken were in the wild

    I'm pretty sure they would live in a jungle/rainforest environment rather than a temperate zone.

    Few birds live year round in one location for 4 seasons, and those that do have the ability to fly over large areas.

    I think if it were POSSIBLE for chickens to survive in the wild in most of the world, there would BE wild populations over most of the world now
  3. ParadiseFoundFarm

    ParadiseFoundFarm Goddess of Good Things

    Jul 6, 2010
    Joliet, IL
    I think the term you're looking for is what we here would call "TURKEY" [​IMG]
    Last edited: Oct 26, 2010
  4. Organics North

    Organics North Chillin' With My Peeps

    Dec 30, 2009
    Wisconsin Northwoods
    Turkey and Grouse are the closest thing to wild chicken we have. By us a flock of 20 Turkey cover square miles of ground!
    My chickens are free range no fences no limits on where they can go. As I posted on another thread they generally range about 500 square yards from the coop in a day. Maybe a bit more.

  5. shortstaque

    shortstaque Chillin' With My Peeps

    Sep 29, 2010
    Bucks County, PA
    I know the way I posed the problem is totally unlikely, and not something that would happen in the natural world. But let me reframe the question. What if the peak oil predictions are correct and within our lifetime the cost/availability of fuel makes the kind of life we now live impossible. We backyard poultry people have egg and protein makers at our disposal that can help us provide more for ourselves. But no more driving to Agway/TSC/feed mill to purchase scientifically proven rations that have been grown using traditional petrochemically fueled agriculture and shipped cross country. That system of infrastructure is gone and/or its just too expensive for the average consumer. Now how do we maintain our flocks to help maintain ourselves in the process. How much land would one need to provide for a flock of 12 laying hens (with one roo to keep it going) and 12 broilers assuming the broilers and hens are raised solely on forage and gleanings during the three warmest seasons and rely on vermiculture and stored grains grown on site (or bartered with neighbors for eggs/meat) to get the hens through the winter.

    Of course this is all hypothetical, but thinking about things and potential outcomes can help us plan for a more sustainable future regardless of what happens in the energy arena.

    I don't like the assumption that feeding commercial rations is the only way to successfully raise a flock. Look what happened to people as we turned to more and more scientifically formulated and processesed foods. Its not always for the best. So what would be needed to get our chickens back to a more balanced and natural way of eating.

    BTW, switching over to turkeys, quail or other fowl that are mentioned in the previous posts would be a viable alternative, but lets assume we prefer to stick with chickens.
  6. BayouPoules

    BayouPoules Chillin' With My Peeps

    Interesting,. how much free range would it take to satisfy a chicken's nutritional needs,.. would depend on the type/quality of environment and the type of chicken,..

    ,.. still,... it would never work,. it would just be called,.. feeding the wild animals,..
  7. linben

    linben Chillin' With My Peeps

    Apr 5, 2010
    Austin, TX
    Well....Ma Ingalls gave them some ground corn, fed the egg shells back and gave some scraps. Otherwise they free ranged for food. She still had to protect them or they would not have survived.

    If you read anything about prarie chickens (grouse) they need a large range in the grasslands. They are barely surviving in many areas.
  8. Olive Hill

    Olive Hill Overrun With Chickens

    Apr 19, 2009
    There are already people feeding their flocks in the "theoretical" way you're asking about. Visiting a homesteading site and asking there will get you more accurate responses than you are likely to get here. Assuming you're planning to feed on-site grown grains and supplemental feedstuffs (root veggies, nuts gleaned and dried in the fall, hard squashes, gourds and pumpkins, cold weather greens grown under hot caps, etc are all great for that) through the winter you could sustain a small flock year round on free range in a four-season area. You would likely want to keep more than 12 since, as a simple function of their environment, losses would be greater than what most people deal with today.

    The number of chickens you could sustain on any given amount of ground will widely vary depending on the land itself however, I wouldn't feel comfortable even taking a stab at that figure.

    In that situation you would want to understock however, and take care not to allow them to over utilize any given area of the land, rotational pasturing would probably be far more useful, truth be told, than free ranging if you were truly facing a "the-end-of-the-world-as-we-know-it" situation. You could, in that way, best utilize and protect the ground, prevent loss to predation, and comfortably keep lesser numbers of chickens if you wanted.

    We feed supplemental grain from a local feed mill, live in a four season location and free range without fences. FWIW, our chickens tend to keep a 600-700 foot radius from their coop and all go in at night on their own.
  9. shortstaque

    shortstaque Chillin' With My Peeps

    Sep 29, 2010
    Bucks County, PA
    Good insights. I agree that management of the resources would be epecially important. So the points about rotational grazing and winter storage of grains and root crops would be key. As far as predators go, at night the chickens could still be provided with secure cover, as yours are I'm sure. BTW, do your hens lay mostly in the coop, or do you find that they drop many eggs about as they are free ranging. That would be another consideration. [​IMG]

  10. Olive Hill

    Olive Hill Overrun With Chickens

    Apr 19, 2009
    They all lay in the coop.

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