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Predator-resistant breeds for wooded area?

Discussion in 'Predators and Pests' started by UrbanEnthusiast, Dec 16, 2015.

  1. UrbanEnthusiast

    UrbanEnthusiast Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jul 12, 2012
    Port Orford, Oregon
    Hi folks,

    I'm going to be getting about 20 hens sometime in 2016, just for laying, not meat, and I really have my heart set on free-ranging as much as possible. I live in a wooded area on an island in the Puget Sound. We have some clearing around us, but there are plenty of places for cover. We have plenty of coyotes, coons, eagles, and hawks around here, probably bobcats too, but I've never seen one. Never seen a domestic dog on the property, but we do have an indoor/outdoor cat who's a great hunter, and there are stray cats in the neighborhood too. I trust my husband to build a secure coop, so I'm not worried about nighttime, only daytime predators. Should I go with big chickens who can better defend themselves, or should I go with little flighty ones who might be able to avoid predators all together? We live on five acres, but we share it with our landlady, and she won't allow any roosters. I don't mind occasional losses, but I do need this to be sustainable. Advice?

    Last edited: Dec 16, 2015
  2. junebuggena

    junebuggena Overrun With Chickens

    Apr 17, 2015
    Long Beach, WA
    Even if you plan on having them free range most of the time, I suggest building a run, even if you don't plan on using it much. If a coyote or raccoon figures out that there is an all-you-can-eat buffet of chicken, they will stake out the area until they've eaten every last bird. To prevent losses, it may be necessary to pen them up until the danger has moved on.
    Having a rooster or two around will help reduce hens lost to predation. And unless the coop is really close to your bedroom window, early morning crowing inside the coop will not be loud enough to wake you. You will be able to hatch your own eggs to help replenish the flock when needed.
    Most hatchery sourced dual-purpose breeds will be agile enough to evade a predator every now and then. My Barred Rocks and Easter Eggers are large, but very agile and very good foragers. My Australorps are great fliers, but they aren't very good at finding food on their own.
    I had a coyote try to take a hen a few months ago. She managed to get away, but it was the rooster that saved her from a second attack. That coyote had no idea what hit him. It was so focused on the hen, that it didn't even notice the rooster until it was getting spurred in the face.
  3. UrbanEnthusiast

    UrbanEnthusiast Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jul 12, 2012
    Port Orford, Oregon
    Yeah, my landlady won't allow any roosters. That's out of the question, sadly. We do plan to build a run. When I had chickens before, my roommates had unruly dogs who'd chase, so the birds would hop the fence to the safety of their run whenever the dogs came bounding out the door. It worked well.
    Last edited: Dec 16, 2015
  4. Egghead_Jr

    Egghead_Jr Overrun With Chickens

    Oct 16, 2010
    NEK, VT
    Cornish are said to be quite good at wooded free range. Much of that is likely due to plumage- partridge color. There are several partridge variety breeds and Barnevelder are double laced which is very similar. Stick with an active breed and good camouflage coloring. I don't consider Cochin active/alert and Orpington are borderline. Pymouth Rock, Wyandotte, Barnevelder, Welsummer and the like are probably a good choice. What's that breed that was brought back from the brink and improved recently? Buckeye! (had to look that up).
    1 person likes this.
  5. Egghead_Jr

    Egghead_Jr Overrun With Chickens

    Oct 16, 2010
    NEK, VT
    Yeah, Buckeye are a really good choice for what your looking for. Active and a much better layer than Cornish. Hatchery Rhode Island reds are too light red in color but the Buckeye will be mahogany even with hatchery stock due to the recent improvement of breed and interest the hatcheries have that stock to sell and not had the time to muddy it up.

  6. dekel18042

    dekel18042 Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jul 18, 2013
    I live in a heavily wooded area and there are different ways of approaching this. Someone mentioned sticking with camouflage colors. I would stay away from white. Next I have secure coops and covered runs for when I need to keep the birds locked up. Hot wires and chicken netting doesn't hurt either.
    Now for which breeds....Lots of ways of looking at this. Most of my flock and what I started with were large heritage breeds including Jersey giants. Hawks don't make up most of the predators in this area, but with larger birds, they don't seem to want to come down. We've watched them looking at chickens but they remained in the trees. Only twice have I seen them launch an unsuccessful attack on a juvenile chicken. Both times the juveniles got under evergreens to safety, once while the rooster stayed in the open screaming a warning.
    However foxes in this area (And dogs and coyotes and bobcats in other areas) will carry large chickens away.
    I have added some smaller breeds, both egg layers(barred in color to blend in) and bantams, and these birds are very maneuverable and can fly well so hopefully they can out maneuver a predator.
    It does help if you have dogs that can either stay out with the chickens at times or go out frequently.
    Implementing this plan I have very few losses, only two in over a year. One was a rooster who went outside the fenced area by himself (The gate was left open.) and a hen who had sneaked away to a hidden nest and was out overnight.
    1 person likes this.
  7. Bullitt

    Bullitt Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jan 16, 2012
    In that situation you want chicken breeds that fly into trees to avoid predators. Since you do not want meat, you do not need large breeds of chickens, and there are no chickens large enough to fight off a dog, bobcat, or eagle. Also, the lighter breeds are some of the best at laying eggs. Leghorns are the best layers.

    There is a good chance you will lose some of your free-range chickens to predators, though.

    Here are some chicken breeds that are good at flying into trees:









    "Easter Egger"/Ameraucana




    1 person likes this.
  8. blucoondawg

    blucoondawg Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jan 27, 2013
    Northern Wisconsin
    You say you need to be sustainable, how can you do that if roosters aren't allowed, you won't be able to hatch your own replacements which is ok just know you will have to replenish your hens through the hatcheries.
  9. Free Feather

    Free Feather Chillin' With My Peeps

    My Nankin x games are the perfect color for blending into the woods, they fly, forage, and set very well, and they are not afraid to fight back if cornered. The pullets I have lay about five eggs a week.

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