What is the best breed for free ranging egg layers?

Lady Marion

In the Brooder
12 Years
Oct 24, 2007
I have ten mongrel hens my neighbor gave me now occupying our chicken tractor. They are not very consistent, and I don't know if that is just seasonal, or if they are too crossbred or inbred......

I want to try getting some peeps at the feed store and raising them, or get some pullets raised by a 4-H group, and I was wondering what breed would be best? Do white leghorns do well on grass and insects, or do Rhode Island Reds do better on foraging? I'll always supplement some feed, but the plan in the summer is to use as little grain as possible. We have serious health issues and need to keep the Omega 3 ratio high, so are avoiding confinement methods wherever possible, raising grass fed beef, pasture based goat milk, and now most recently, free ranged hens (with the tractor for protection.)

I might also let some birds loose in the pasture and provide a nesting box. Not sure yet.

My black sexies and RIR's do a great job free-ranging. During summer and fall feed consumption was down to half of what it was in spring and this past winter. Now that it is warming up again they are having a blast unearthing the bugs coming to the surface.

My egg production did however come to a complete stop for half of December, all of January and the 1st half of February. I'm wondering if that is because of the lack of sunlight during those time. I do not provide artifical lighting. They are again putting out anywhere from 3-5 eggs a day for the 5 of them.
I have almost an acre of land fenced for the chickens. I have had RIR, SL Wyandotts, Barred Rocks, Cimmamon Queens, Cherry Eggers, and mixbreeds. All of the breeds were kept in a flock of 20 or more. Every few years I would get a different breed flock. The only flock to really forage for themselves were the RIR's and the Barred Rocks. The others would just stand around the barn. Right know I have the mixbreeds and they are looking promising. Every batch of birds are different. This is just what I have experenced.
My birds are in the tractor and free range my best foragers have been my wyndotte and my delawares.

Good Luck
My Buckeyes and Campines seem to be best foragers, I have roos of each, and they are always digging and annoucing that they found something. everyone else seems more than happy to eat thier finds though. The comsumption of pellets has more than doubled since November, I hope it goes down soon! The only ones that dont seem to like to be out is my Blue Orphington, and Langshan.
I think the only breed that I've had that were bad free rangers were crested types. All others who could see do great. My feed consumption also drops about half in the summers. The chickens get to range as far as they want to walk from the coop.
It is probably just seasonal give them a little while with spring/summer light and production should go up.
Both do well leghorns will give you more eggs for the amount of feed they need.
Unless you have no preditors you should at least have a safe place to lock them up at night. Otherwise you will soon just have a nesting box in the pasture and no chickens.
The best foragers and egg producers I have seen are my Barred Rocks. They kept laying all through winter and even when molting. However, even when free ranging I provide layer pellets free feed. They prefer to range and eat much less feed in the warm months, but by providing the pellets I can be sure they are getting complete nutrition. I also found that by providing pellets they come in the coop to nibble and lay their eggs. Without the feed (an experiment I tried) they tended to lay in the woods. And they are always securely locked up at night.

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