Sem-wild chickens in the woods?

Discussion in 'Managing Your Flock' started by brummie, Sep 6, 2016.

  1. brummie

    brummie Chillin' With My Peeps

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    In the UK the only real predator we have for fully grown chickens is the fox.

    I will not be able to visit my woods everyday as I live some distance away, so keeping chickens in a coop and run in the woods is not an option. I will have to keep them as semi-wild chickens

    So I was wondering if there are some breeds that would be able to survive in many acres of woods becasue they are:

    *Flighty - so can go up into the trees at night, away from the foxes
    *Foragers - so they can forage for their own food 100% (plenty of wood in many acres of woods)
    *Broody - So they can reproduce and keep their flock going

    Questions related to this scenario:

    1. I would be able to provide them safe nesting boxes, maybe higher up in the trees. Would this keep them returning to the same area which they would call home? Or would they become nomad and travel away somewhere else in the woods, never to be seen again?

    2. Would nest boxes high up in the trees save the eggs from being eaten by most predators like rats? Whats the chances of the eggs surviving for say 5 days of being in the nest boxes before I can pick them up?

    3. We have plenty of rain in the UK, so water should not be any issue, however I would be able to provide a regular water supply for them from rain harvesting. Would this water supply be enough to keep them in roughly the same area? (I would obvioulsy have the water supply close to the nest boxes, to keep them coming back to the same area).

    4. How can I keep them coming back and staying in roughly the same area when they are free to go wherever they want?

    Points to remember:

    * I am not bothered about lots of eggs, so long as I get a few. Not bothered about egg size either I just want to have a few chickens in my woods.
    * I am not bothered about catching them and petting them
    * I am not bothered about massive amounts of meat on them, I will rarely be culling them (If i can ever catch them again lol)
    *I don't want bantams

    Potential Breeds?

    Old english game?
    Modern game?
    Fayoumi?
    Dorking? (I know they are heavy but due to their long body shape and long wings they are quite good at flying, my dorkings have cleared clear 6 foot fences)
    Leghorns/Ancona (Maybe I'll get the occasional broody to keep the flock going)?
    Appenzeller?
    Minorca?
    Welsummer?
    Lakenvelder?
    Vorwerk?
    Sumatra?
    Yokohama?
     
  2. centrarchid

    centrarchid Chicken Obsessed

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    I do not think what you are setting out to do will work as planned. I have kept chickens semi-feral in fence rows where they were not checked daily. They still had protection provided by dogs. Trees themselves did not provide much in the way of protection; shrubs were more important. They will also preferentially put eggs on ground if you do not provide a more protected location for elevated nests. What you will find is hens will be lost when they go broody and few chicks will survive to the minimum three weeks needed to roost up. The young birds in particular are going to be hammered by the fox.


    It will be interesting to read how others here reply. Chickens during the dark ages had more protection than you are planning.
     
  3. Pork Pie Ken

    Pork Pie Ken Monkey Business Premium Member

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    I agree that your plan may not work out as planned. In addition to the issue mentioned by centrachid, chickens thrive on proprietary food - its how they have been bred for decades. A lack of balanced nutrition will significantly subdue egg-laying and overall condition - thats what I see here in Africa, where "local" chickens are left to forage for 100% of their food. Here in Kenya, for example - the local chickens are claimed to only lay on average 40 eggs per year. I have kept a couple of these local chickens and with appropriate feed and care, mine lay over 100 eggs per year (thats including at least 5 cycles of broodiness, when they naturally do not lay).

    I'm not sure, but I'd be inclined to consider guinea fowl as they are less "domesticated" and as flighty as can be.

    Either way, to use an Edgbaston-esque term, I'd say you are on a sticky wicket.
     
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  4. brummie

    brummie Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I am essentially looking for ideas on how this might work.

    There will be plenty of hedges, bushes and overgrowth on ground level in the the woods. Is there any way these could be made more secure? would it be better to focus on these than up in the trees?

    What other ways are there to keep chickens that you would not be bale to attend to everyday?

    What about provide some sort of extra protection at ground level, where they would somehow be at least some what slightly extra protected free to let themselves out also?

    Food is not an issue, foraging chickens will easily find all the food they can eat in the woods. I would be happy with 40 eggs per year, egg numbers is not an issue. Guinea fowl is an idea definetly worth considering but I want to explore my chicken options first.

    I do expect to loose some chickens to predators, especially as chicks. As harsh as it sounds, I'm fine with that. I have to be fine with that if I plan on keeping them semi-wild.
     
  5. Pork Pie Ken

    Pork Pie Ken Monkey Business Premium Member

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    Maybe a coop with an automatic opening / closing door?
     
  6. aart

    aart Chicken Juggler! Premium Member

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    Why you would want to set a group of domesticated food animals out in the woods to basically fend for themselves is beyond me.
    What is your goal in this endeavor?

    I seriously doubt they would last long at all.
    Granted, you may only have fox for mammalian predators......but what about owls and hawks?
    Do you have grey fox? They are adept at climbing.

    They might stick close to water provided....and some feed thrown out more regularly at first.
    If it's just an experiment, go for it....let us know how it works out.
     
  7. centrarchid

    centrarchid Chicken Obsessed

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    OP I think if in the UK.

    Needs to indicate hectarage. Also what is land use around area where this to be attempted. I would even be particular about age and experience of birds used as this is not simply about breed.
     
  8. 1cock2hens

    1cock2hens Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I'm super interested in a semi wild flock also, I'm excited to see if someone with experience In this subject can chime in. I'm not exactly a preper, im a realist, I have multiple pieces of land and would love to have birds out there on them that can take care of themselves just in case
     
    Last edited: Sep 6, 2016
  9. centrarchid

    centrarchid Chicken Obsessed

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    You must have some predator management and production will not be high enough to allow both harvest and sustainability. Talking from experience using the best birds for it.
     
  10. 1cock2hens

    1cock2hens Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Not trying to steal his thread but seeing as we want similar things. .... Personally I just want birds that will survive with minimal care and reproduce enough to maintain a small flock, I won't be collecting eggs from those birds unless shtf and I am forced to result to plan B
     

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