Are you looking for the perfect backyard chicken breeds for predators?
Whether you’re raising chickens for eggs, meat, or as pets, it’s important to choose one that can easily survive in its environment.
Free-ranging chickens are particularly at risk of being taken by predators if they aren’t well-equipped with natural defenses or awareness.
To help make your search simpler, we’ll explore several of the best chicken breeds known for their survivability without much human intervention.
We’ll also explain why we chose those breeds and which attributes help them out the most. Let’s get into it!
Chicken Breeds For Predators: Which Types Survive Free-Ranging Better?
The very best chickens to free-range with better odds of surviving predators are those that are intimidating, flighty, or difficult to see.
If you see a chicken breed that is commonly marketed as docile or friendly, they are not as hardy for free-range applications.
Usually, the sweet and loving ones get picked off by predators first.
This is especially true if your small children seem to have formed bonds with that particular chicken (ask me how I know!).
Large or Intimidating
Large or intimidating (or better yet, large AND intimidating) chicken breeds are usually not very fast or able to fly far. But they can still evade predators thanks to their size, appearance, or demeanor.
These birds choose “fight” over “flight.” And that seems to serve them well when they are free-ranging in backyards, pastures, forests, and fields.
Crafty and Flighty
Flighty birds tend to be smaller by nature, mostly because they’ve managed to retain more of their wilder traits before humans began developing chicken breeds.
These birds have thrived for thousands of years without our help, and because of that, they are predator-savvy.
They know how to keep their head on a swivel, effectively communicate about predators with their flockmates, and quickly hide or fly off to safety when danger lurks.
They probably don’t stand a chance when they’ve been cornered. but thanks to their quick wits, it’s tough to get them cornered in the first place.
Hard to See Breeds
This entirely depends on your location and environment.
Where I live in northwestern Montana, I have had the privilege (or punishment?) of directly A/B testing this color theory.
During my first year of keeping chickens in this state, I had a mixed flock of black, red, brown, and white chickens. In the summer, I lost two white Columbian Wyandottes to a bald eagle and a hawk.
Both were standing in the open atop my river-rock driveway. In the winter, I lost two more chickens, one a New Hampshire Red and one a Rhode Island Red– both to hawks.
They were standing on the driveway as usual (an open area, perfect for “swooping”), but this time it was covered in more than two feet of bright white snow.
I did not lose any white chickens over the winter, and I did not lose any dark-colored chickens over the summer.
Also, I now keep my chickens in a run because the threat of bears and wolves is too risky, which has eliminated my bird of prey predation problem.
If you live on the plains or grasslands where your chickens primarily forage in tall grasses or yellow fields of hay or straw, then Buff (yellow) chicken breeds will blend in pretty well.
For wooded areas, speckled or striped chickens tend to camouflage better. Think of Plymouth Barred Rocks, Wyandottes, Speckled Sussex, and some Brahmas.
And for snowy climates, white birds like Colombian Wyandottes, Rhode Island Whites, and White Leghorns will fare better.
Best Chicken Breeds For Predators
Let’s get into the specifics of which breeds will do the best while free-ranging.
Flighty chicken breeds are excellent for free-ranging because they are alert to their surroundings. They move quickly, and they know how to hide well (or even fly away).
They typically make lousy pets because they are so on-edge or unfriendly, but they make up for that with their incredible free-ranging abilities.
1. Jungle Fowl
Jungle Fowl are small and wild chickens that have been fending for themselves for thousands upon thousands of years.
Humans domesticated chickens around 9,000 years ago, and the Jungle Fowl is the breed that ignited it all.
If you want a flighty and self-sufficient bird that gives you a glimpse into history, this is the breed for you.
They are also beautiful and flashy, and the hens will give you around 250 medium-sized eggs a year.
That’s a real feat, especially when you consider their petite size and how much of their protein they get all on their own (when allowed to free-range).
White Leghorn chickens are very aware of their surroundings, plus they are curious, intelligent, and fiercely independent.
They are able to fly and, if given a chance, will choose to roost in a tree over a coop most nights. If they feel threatened on the ground, they will work their way up into the trees for safety.
Leghorns do not handle confinement as well as other spaces because they like their freedom and are easily bored if they can’t scratch and roam in your yard.
They are talkative, too; this communication is probably why they fare so well in free-range settings.
The roosters are fierce; they won’t hesitate to attack strangers (or even you and your family members). Their big size makes them much scarier to approach too.
The Lakenvelder chicken is a breed steeped in ancient lineage. Its story travels back almost 4,000 years when Ah-Brahman wise men from the Indus Valley brought their domesticated chickens to Mesopotamia.
Later settling down in Armageddon (Tel Megiddo) of Palestine, these fowl were prized for both the joyous crow of roosters and the number of the hens’ eggs.
Lakenvelders were first intentionally developed (that we know of) in the early 1700s near Holland’s southern border.
West Hanover saw their official debut at poultry shows over 100 years later, and then by 1860, they had found great popularity across much of Western Europe.
The flock soon reached England and the Americas in 1902, where it has since enjoyed ongoing success. The breed was officially recognized in the United States until 1939!
This rarer find of a bird has a long and incredible past. They have a strong chance of faring well in the future, especially where beauty and self-sufficiency are appreciated.
Since the Lakenvelder has had to fend for itself for so long, it has become an expert in evading predators of all sizes from the ground and the skies.
If you want a cuddly pet, this isn’t the chicken for you. But if you want self-sufficiency and a lovely pop of color in your backyard, you should consider the Lakenvelder.
4. Egyptian Fayoumi
Eqyptian Fayoumis are, objectively speaking, an underrated breed that thrives in pasture-raised settings.
These interesting little birds are a great addition to your self-sufficient flock and will do well in most climates, especially hotter areas.
They originated from the jungles, and because of that, they thrive in hot and humid areas where other chickens don’t do as well.
These petite little birds are beautiful too, which is just an added bonus.
With their stunning plumage and sturdy resistance to disease, these birds have earned an increasing following since arriving in North America 80 years ago. But they may be tricky pets to manage due owing to their independent streak!
Still, for those up for the challenge, Fayoumis promise potential rewards. Namely, beautiful low-cost eggs and an invaluable insight into genetic research for scientists.
Hamburgs are another ancient breed that is small, crafty, flighty, and well-equipped to thrive without human intervention. Even though some mistake this standard 5-pound breed as “bantam,” they are not.
There is a bantam variety of Hamburg chickens available, though, and they are closer to 1.5 pounds.
Hamburgs are excellent for egg-laying but make poor meat producers. Though some people enjoy the flavor, there is little meat on each bird, and that meat is difficult to dress out because of the small body.
The meat and bones are very different from the classic Cornish Cross and other more common backyard breeds. The color is different, as is the flavoring.
Hamburg hens lay eggs sooner than most other breeds, but these are small eggs, and they produce around three a week.
The upside to raising Hamburgs is that they can handle themselves on their own well. So, you will need to supply them with far less feed than other breeds while still getting several protein-packed eggs.
Another great way to prevent predators from attacking your flock is to add larger breeds, especially with aggressive roosters.
Larger breeds are less likely to be attacked by swooping birds because they know they probably can’t carry the carcass off.
Larger chicken breeds also make ground predators think twice before attacking—they don’t want to get hurt while getting their next meal.
6. Black Chicken Breeds (To Mimic Ravens and Crows)
Black chickens are intimidating to birds of prey because they can easily be mistaken for ravens and crows—which most hawks, owls, and eagles do their best to avoid.
If you want to cut down on attacks from flying predators, you should add a few black breeds to your flock.
These first eight breeds are intimidating because of their plumage, and the others after that are because of their size and/or aggressiveness.
- Ayam Camani
- Jersey Giant
7. Rhode Island Red
Rhode Island Red Roosters are a popular breed notorious for their aggressive personalities.
If you’ve ever had a friend tell you about when they were flogged by a nasty rooster as a little kid, they were probably referring to an RIR rooster.
Don’t get me wrong, not all of these roosters are mean, as there are sweet individuals. But as a whole, they are fierce protectors of their flock.
This is one of the best dual-purpose birds on our list today. They can also provide most of their nutritional needs by free-ranging.
Most hens will provide 300 eggs per year, and roosters weigh around 8.5 pounds at full maturity.
The meat has a lot of desirable flavors, and they put on weight relatively quickly.
Leghorns are another strong breed that thrives in pastures and backyards across America.
Like Rhode Island Reds, Leghorns are large, lay a ton of eggs, and are fantastic producers of meat. And despite their large frame, quantity, and good quality of meat, they are capable of flying for very short stints, which allows them to get up into trees for protection and to roost at night.
Despite having a good coop for them, Leghorns will frequently resort to their own devices. They find their own sources of feed and water and roost in the trees and shrubs rather than in your coop.
They enjoy their freedom and can handle themselves well.
Hens lay 300 large to extra large eggs a year and will lay for 3-4 years consistently. Roosters finish growing at 7.5 pounds.
9. Old English Game Chicken
Old English Game chickens have been around for more than a millennium and are descended from ancient fighting cocks.
Cock-fighting was an accessible form of entertainment enjoyed across all social classes throughout Britain. So much so that it found its way into public schools during the early 1800s as part of character-building curriculums!
It wasn’t until 1849, when fighting became illegal, that their population took a nosedive.
Thankfully, enthusiasts stepped in to save this unique breed.
Even though these birds are bred for their appearances, they still have a fighting side. That makes them a force to be reckoned with, especially if you’re a backyard predator (or an innocent passing-by pet).
Males weigh around four pounds; hens lay 100 to 160 eggs per year. They make up for their lower egg production with a strong desire to hatch clutches of eggs.
If you want to keep these birds, make sure you only keep one rooster—because their desire to fight one another is still alive and well!
There isn’t a lot of meat on each bird, but the flavor is great, especially if you appreciate a twang of gamey-ness.
FAQs about Chicken Breeds for Predators
How Can I Protect My Free-Range Chickens?
Many predators come out at night, so keep your chickens locked up in a tightly secured coop from dusk to dawn.
When you let your chickens free-range during the day, supervise them when possible. Consider adding livestock guardian animals, and provide natural coverage like thick brush or planted shrubs.
This gives the flock places to hide in case of danger.
Which Guardian Animal Should I Get For Chickens?
Livestock guardian dogs can be trained to watch chickens, but that takes a lot of time and patience to achieve.
Guineas are a great alarm system. Some donkeys, llamas, and pet dogs are good at patrolling the property to look for predators too.
Geese have also been reported to be great chicken protectors as well; sometimes, an aggressive rooster is sufficient.
Is Free-Ranging Chickens Safe for the Chickens?
Free-ranging can be relatively safe for chickens, but there will always be a greater risk than if the chickens were locked up in a run.
The risk fluctuates based on your location and circumstances too. If you’re home most or all day, your risks drop.
The risk drops even more if you have protective dogs patrolling your land. But if you have a high population of hawks, owls, foxes, coyotes, wolves, bears, bobcats, cougars, or loose neighborhood dogs, your chances of losing chickens increases.
Remember that you’re allowed to change your plan as needed, too.
You can let your chickens free-roam all day every day, only for a few hours in the evenings, or just a day or two on the weekends.
If predators don’t seem to be an issue, give them more freedom. If you start seeing more injuries or lose more birds than you’re comfortable losing, rein in their yard time. Be open to change when it comes to keeping your flock happy and safe.
Best Chicken Breeds for Predators: Final Thoughts
To wrap it up, you can get different chicken breeds for predators that can intimidate or even fight them.
Sure, you can take different measures to protect them—by implementing a perimeter fence or wire mesh.
But it won’t hurt to get a flock that won’t chicken out from predators, too!