Free-ranging your chickens is great. They’ll get to exercise and experience life the most natural way possible. However not every breed is great for free-range. Most breeds are developed exclusively for their confinement tolerance in order to have the most amount of chickens possible in the least amount of space.
Then there are predators. Although all chickens are vulnerable to chicken predators, free-range chickens are at an obvious larger risk. If you’re planning to have a free-range flock, besides getting a rooster (which always helps) you’ll need birds that are active, flighty and feisty with good vision so they can spot predators and agile enough to escape. You also want breeds that enjoy their freedom and are their happiest and most productive while free-ranging.
Here are some of the best breeds to free-range. Click on their names to get more info on how to get them!
Leghorns are some of the easiest breeds to take care of. They’re incredibly hardy and intelligent. We love Leghorns for free-range because of how resourceful they are. When allowed to range, they can find most of their food, which decreases your costs.
They aren’t the friendliest breed around but that’s what makes them perfect for the outdoors. Their nature and temperament come handy when avoiding unnecessary dangers. They’re very chatty birds so they can quickly warn the rest of the flock if anything wrong happens.
Getting the brown variety will also make them harder to spot from a predator’s point of view.
Australorps are another option if you’re looking for hardy breeds. They’re one of the best egg producers out there and they’re a more suitable option if you prefer a friendlier breed.
Their size makes them a harder catch for predators, who like smaller birds they can easily kill or snatch out of the flock. Free-ranging is actually better for this breed since they tend to develop obesity when kept in confinement.
Appenzellers are great for free-range since they’re very active and self-sufficient breeds. Most chicken breeds that are more on the ornamental side tend to be an easy pray for predators since a lot of them have feathers that can cover their eyes. However their unique hairdo makes them stand out to the eye without making them vulnerable.
They’ll need good fencing since they’re agile and pretty good flyers. Appenzellers are known for roosting in trees. However is this activeness that makes them perfect for free-range, since they wouldn’t have it any other way.
If you want a striking, self-sufficient breed that can defend itself, the Sumatra is definitely a great option. While you’ll probably never get to put them on your lap and pet them, this feisty breed will fight any predator you throw their way. Originally bred as a fighting breed, they’re one of the best ornamental breeds to free-range.
The Sumatra loves to forage eating insects and will take care of itself pretty well. They are virtually no health issues associated with this breed. However due to their temperament they aren’t recommended for beginners.
One of the most popular breeds, and with good reason! Rhode Island Reds are incredibly harder and will happily roam around even in the most extreme weathers. They’re very friendly and sweet towards humans, even kids.
Reds are very active foragers when allowed to free range. They’re large and active birds that enjoy their freedom and will reward you for it with lots and lots of eggs!
What kind of chickens do you like to free range? Let us know below!