What is the # 1 free ranging economical chicken breed?

Discussion in 'Feeding & Watering Your Flock' started by Red Barn Farms, Sep 10, 2012.

  1. Red Barn Farms

    Red Barn Farms ~Friendly Fowl~

    Apr 12, 2012
    Kentucky Heartland
    As more and more people these days have the desire to become more self reliant and free range their 'egg laying' chicken flock to cut down on their commercial feed bills I have a question. In your personal experience and observations in raising various breeds of chickens what would you consider to be the best free ranging breed? I'd like to find out which breed is the most economical eater.
    Last edited: Sep 10, 2012
  2. bloonskiller911

    bloonskiller911 Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jan 29, 2012
    Brookville, Indiana
    my best free rangers are Speckled Sussex. they are great foragers and a great dual purpose bird.
  3. Jungleexplorer

    Jungleexplorer Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jan 19, 2012
    Abilene, Texas
    My Coop
    I lived in Central and South America, for over twenty years, where every poor rural family raises free range chickens for meat and eggs . Although they had just about every breed and mix you could imagine, it seemed like the most popular and all around good breed was the Orientals. I now live in Texas and am raising free range chickens on my farm. The conditions where I am at are extremely harsh, especially with this drought. I have had a mixed flock of different breed for the past five years that I acquired locally at a flee market. Of the birds I have, it seems the birds that have some OEG (also known as Game) in them seem to be the strongest as far as survival, heat and cold tolerance, foragers and predator evasion goes. The problem is that they are not the best egg layers and they are no good as far as meat birds go. And when they go broody, watch out! They are mean as all get out and their determination to set is almost unbreakable.

    Now it is important to note that no breed is going to be that great of an egg producer in a totally free range setting. Egg production is directly proportional to protein and nutritional intake. Even in the tropics where natural food is abundant for free range chickens, you have to give them a daily ration of at least corn to get them to produce more eggs. Even so they will never lay as much as a chicken on a full diet of specially formulated laying feed. But, the way you over come reduced egg production is to have more birds.

    This year I was introduced to a new breed of chickens that are said to be great free rangers, decent egg layers and have gourmet quality meat. They are quite rare and I was only able to get a seven chicks this year. They are called, Cubalayas. They are an Oriental breed that comes from Cuba. My chicks are three months old now and I ended up with four roosters and three hens. I am hoping to find some more from a different breeder next year and try to raise up a good flock of them. It is going to take a lot of time, so I hope they are good as I have been told.

    So bottom line, in my experience it seems like Orientals may be the best breed for free ranging when it comes to eggs and meat.
  4. donrae

    donrae Hopelessly Addicted Premium Member

    Jun 18, 2010
    Southern Oregon
    I think if you're looking for the most eggs for the least amount of feed you'd have to go with a leghorn. Mine have always been great foragers, and their "flightiness" gives them an advantage over predators. They've been bred hard to crank out eggs on little feed and they're really good at it.

    Now, if you want meat.........not so much.
  5. Chris09

    Chris09 Circle (M) Ranch

    Jun 1, 2009
    Hands down most any Gamefowl breed will out perform other breed in free ranging and egg laying, My American Game will free range all day (in any weather) and touch very little of the feed I put out and still lay every day. (now they do slack off a little in the winter).

  6. Ole and Lena

    Ole and Lena Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jul 22, 2011
    Wright Co Minnesota
    Our SL Wyandottes and Barred rocks are exceptional foragers. I trained them at an early age when they were still penned by feeding them various seeds and greens picked randomly from the pasture. They are dual purpose so they are a compromise. From 16 prime hens we avg. 13 eggs per day. They have access to free choice lay ration but use little in the snow free months. A 50 lb bag lasts a month. They do have access to garden scraps and very weedy horse pasture with lots of bugs so that helps. In winter I supplement their diet with muskrat carcasses, deer tallow, corn on the cob picked off the ground from nearby fields, anything else free they'll eat.

    They are quite hardy birds. We did a heavy cull at 6 months old butchering any that didn't look as vigorous or were coop babies. They had access to free range from 4 months old. Most we butchered had good quality meat albeit a little lean. They were delicious though. More like wild pheasant or grouse than chicken. They are quite docile in the coop, a couple successfully brooded chicks this spring, are quite predator savvy and are somewhat camouflaged when out foraging due to their color patterns. They all dilligently put themselves to bed in the coop at night and don't fight you for the eggs. Our lone wyandotte rooster keeps the girls in line and wathces dilligently for hawks, sounding the alarm when something looks out of place(I thought he was going to have a seizure the first time he saw a sandhill crane fly over).

    Not sure if they're the best foragers per se, but given the training they had at a young age, they do quite well even in our extreme MN weather. I will be getting a mix of these 2 breeds again when it comes time to replace some of our free range flock.
    Last edited: Sep 10, 2012

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