What's the best breed to let run semi-feral?

JedJackson

Crossing the Road
5 Years
Jul 6, 2016
7,231
22,085
942
NW Washington state
Hi, someone here has suggested a guard animal. Was wondering whether you might encourage large Canada geese to come down and mix with them, possibly by providing a lake or pond of some sort, and planting mangolds such as turnips and swedes for them to root up, as well as other root crops, which they love, though maybe not potatoes. You might give them some grass pellets in the winter - I think that's what they eat if I remember. As I understand it, Canadas are so vicious even a fox won't have a go. They are therefore ideal 'guard dogs' for gentler geese that would otherwise become prey, so perhaps Canadas would work for your hens. A pity Canadas are now considered a pest, and often culled. Maybe people haven't yet realised their useful side!
The only thing geese are good for as far as protection goes is alerting owners to a problem, because they are so noisy when excited. They can't protect anything, including themselves, from attacks by larger predators like dogs, coyotes, bobcats, raccoons, owls, and many others. It doesn't matter how vicious they are against better equipped predators.
 

ColtHandorf

🙄🤚 Sass Master
Premium Feather Member
Feb 19, 2019
5,724
35,759
927
Klondike, Texas
Hi, someone here has suggested a guard animal. Was wondering whether you might encourage large Canada geese to come down and mix with them, possibly by providing a lake or pond of some sort, and planting mangolds such as turnips and swedes for them to root up, as well as other root crops, which they love, though maybe not potatoes. You might give them some grass pellets in the winter - I think that's what they eat if I remember. As I understand it, Canadas are so vicious even a fox won't have a go. They are therefore ideal 'guard dogs' for gentler geese that would otherwise become prey, so perhaps Canadas would work for your hens. A pity Canadas are now considered a pest, and often culled. Maybe people haven't yet realised their useful side!
Terrible idea to encourage wild birds to mingle with domestic birds as they can pass along diseases. Canada geese are notorious for being carriers of several illnesses I'd not want passed on. Better to enjoy them in the wild if they are wild.

As has been stated multiple times you aren't going to find a bird that meets all of your criteria. Chances are you also aren't going to find very many birds surviving in an environment like that.

That being said, I'd recommend Sicilian Buttercups for free-ranging and hardiness. Mine were excellent foragers. They lay well but are smaller birds so you won't get much meat off a carcass you've processed.
 

CWhite67

Songster
7 Years
Jul 15, 2014
31
22
104
Nova Scotia
From all the breeds I've had, Partridge Chantecler would fit the bill well enough, they'll camouflage in, they lay decent, brood decently, bulk up and are cold hardy. Not as wild as you'd need but there will have to be some compensating for the things you're looking for.
 

NatJ

Free Ranging
Mar 20, 2017
8,653
18,935
726
USA

Old English Pheasant Fowl​


if you could get hold of these little beauties in America i think you would be on for a winner. Hardiest little birds around.

It would depend on the climate they are supposed to be hardy in. Some parts of America (like Tennesse, where OP lives) have temperatures much higher than you would typically find in England. Some places have much lower temperatures too, and the Americas also have some predators that England lacks.

Sometimes a breed that is very hardy in one place will also do well in very different conditions somewhere else, but not always-- in this case, I don't know for sure.
 

chickfused

Songster
Aug 1, 2021
133
174
113
After some time and observation of my existing chickens, I'm leaning toward Ancona chickens being the right breed for me to just let roam for egg production. Excellent foragers, huge eggs, and very predator savvy. Does really well in my climate too. They won't set though, so I'll need something on the meatier side that likes to set to complement them, but this might be a good flock starter.
 
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U_Stormcrow

Free Ranging
Jun 7, 2020
5,098
15,298
606
North FL Panhandle Region / Wiregrass
I've looked at Ancona myself, though none were avvailable locally - its a good choice, and you are right to look at filling your flock with anoher breed to cover the areas for which they are "unsuited".

Ultimately, you either have to get specialists who do a thing very well, or "dual purpose" breeds which do several things tolerably. That is the approach I'm taking, for a host of reasons - but every time I bite into a big, tender, chicken breast or a good size baked chicken (NEITHER can come from my flock), I'm reminded of what I have given up in my approach.
 

Lizzy733

Crowing
Nov 13, 2018
1,038
1,861
251
New Zealand
I've looked at Ancona myself, though none were avvailable locally - its a good choice, and you are right to look at filling your flock with anoher breed to cover the areas for which they are "unsuited".

Ultimately, you either have to get specialists who do a thing very well, or "dual purpose" breeds which do several things tolerably. That is the approach I'm taking, for a host of reasons - but every time I bite into a big, tender, chicken breast or a good size baked chicken (NEITHER can come from my flock), I'm reminded of what I have given up in my approach.
I'm trying my hand at running a few nice purebred heavy breeds and then one really fast developing breed - will then cross and see if I can develop my own fast meat birds. Those campine really have been super 'fast' to grow up, so fingers crossed I can get a bit of both worlds once I throw in orpington and wyandotte.
 

troyer

Crowing
9 Years
Jun 10, 2012
2,072
1,092
306
Look into a Cubalaya line that has been free ranged. I have stock that is very predator savvy. 15 years ago I started a project to get adept free rangers with my Cubalaya. The first year I lost almost unbearably too many (we lived in a hawk migration route) I did allow it to happen though. The survivors got to breed and now I seldom lose any to hawks. I do have a Great Pyrenees now, but I didn't have at first. I purposely gave them cover to scatter into when needed.
Seven years into the project I timed an incubator hatch of my project chicks to a hatchery order to see if my project is doing what wanted it to do. I put both my incubator chicks and the hatchery chicks in the brooder together (same age), waited until they were 1 week old and then simulated the scream of a red tailed hawk to the chicks. All of my project chicks scattered to the corners/outside edges of the brooder and flattened themselves to the floor. The hatchery chicks went about the business of eating and drinking as though nothing out of the ordinary had just happened. None of these chicks had ever been with an adult experienced hen to be trained. This experiment tells me that chickens can be bred to retain hawk savviness genetically. When free ranging I always have given them cover of some sort to slip into or tall perches to fly up onto for the ground predators. Every year I have birds that I get rid of because they don't meet breed standard in some way, shape or form. I am willing to help you with some birds if you're interested.
Blue red cockerel will get pretty big.
IMG_9252.JPG
IMG_9579.JPG
 

Iluveggers

Free Ranging
Jun 27, 2021
2,307
7,621
596
NYS
Look into a Cubalaya line that has been free ranged. I have stock that is very predator savvy. 15 years ago I started a project to get adept free rangers with my Cubalaya. The first year I lost almost unbearably too many (we lived in a hawk migration route) I did allow it to happen though. The survivors got to breed and now I seldom lose any to hawks. I do have a Great Pyrenees now, but I didn't have at first. I purposely gave them cover to scatter into when needed.
Seven years into the project I timed an incubator hatch of my project chicks to a hatchery order to see if my project is doing what wanted it to do. I put both my incubator chicks and the hatchery chicks in the brooder together (same age), waited until they were 1 week old and then simulated the scream of a red tailed hawk to the chicks. All of my project chicks scattered to the corners/outside edges of the brooder and flattened themselves to the floor. The hatchery chicks went about the business of eating and drinking as though nothing out of the ordinary had just happened. None of these chicks had ever been with an adult experienced hen to be trained. This experiment tells me that chickens can be bred to retain hawk savviness genetically. When free ranging I always have given them cover of some sort to slip into or tall perches to fly up onto for the ground predators. Every year I have birds that I get rid of because they don't meet breed standard in some way, shape or form. I am willing to help you with some birds if you're interested.
Blue red cockerel will get pretty big. View attachment 2957339 View attachment 2957340
That is awesome! I would love to hear more about how you did it.

Kind of reminds me of my dogs. My oldest dog, adopted from a local rescue, hates fireworks and shakes. My puppy, who we rescued out of rural Alabama where a lot of dogs are used when hunting, has no fear of the loud booms. He follows my older dogs lead on every cue except this. I wonder if he has that in his genetics. Very interesting stuff indeed.
 

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