Last year, we reserved three of the Freedom Ranger broilers to see how long they would survive, whether or not they would lay eggs, and perhaps whether or not we could breed our own meat chickens. I would never expect a cross to grow as fast as a ranger broiler, but that’s alright… I’m not afraid of an older bird.
With Cornish Cross broilers barely able to survive the few weeks it takes to get them to processing age before their legs break or their hearts burst, I didn’t have too many expectations for these three hens.
But here we are, a whole year later, and they’re all still alive and well. They are just as active as they were 8 months ago, show none of the aggressive characteristics that the ranger roosters demonstrate, and are laying extra large, long, pointed eggs several times a week with a beautiful yolk just as orange as the other gals in the flock.
The next step will be to see how they reproduce. Our rooster is a Black Australorp. When we set out upon this experiment our rooster was a Buff Brahma, a big handsome and friendly fellow whose genetic contribution we hoped would tame down some of the aggressiveness the rangers, yet prevent the size of the offspring from being downsized too drastically. Well he was carried off by an owl one night in the middle of last summer and the largest dual-purpose breed the hatchery had in stock was the Black Australorp, so that’s what we went with. So far he hasn’t harassed the children and he seems to be very attentive to the gals, but not very large at all. If something happens to him, I would probably go back to the Brahma rooster or if these chicks turn out healthy, see what a Jersey Giant might do.
Ultimately, I’m keeping my expectations very low. My curiosity though is very high and that has worked out in the favor of these gals who would otherwise be feeling very naked and very cold (in the freezer) right now. I’m glad to know that the meat chickens we raise could be capable of living to adulthood, something that no one expects could ever be a reality for a Cornish chicken.
I find this interesting too, we can not get freedom rangers here. We have been unable to find anyone in Canada selling them. Also because they are considered a meat bird there are too many hopes to jump through to bring them across the border. (That is from my research a year or so ago.) We have been looking for a dual purpose that works for meat but have been unsatisfied with what we have currently come across. A few weekends ago we discovered an organic farms market that also sells livestock. The chickens they had in the freezer were quite large. The ‘chicken man’ wasn’t there but we hope to go back and by one of the freezer chicken and try it out and find out what breed he is using. The idea of being able to raise your meat birds from your own flock is wonderful. I look forward to hearing how things go with these hens of yours!
That’s a shame you can’t get the rangers up there. I’ve heard the same about Australia… Surely someone is going to have to come up with a comparable alternative at some point, so it wouldn’t hurt to look into again every now and then. Until then, even if you have to go the cornish route, they’re better than nothing. At least you would know what they were being fed and how they were being treated. Plus there’s the satisfaction of having raised them yourself and the skill of learning and teaching your children to butcher their own meat is worth something. If you wanted to go the heritage route, I know the white rocks are supposed to be good for that and I want to think those Jersey Giants were 8-10 pounds according to the chicken chart. If you didn’t mind investing the time in the heritage breeds I doubt the overall cost would be more than with the cornish since the grazing ability would offset the time it takes to grow them out.
HI Quinn! We recently bought 25 Rainbow Rangers (I believe they are exactly the same breed as your freedom rangers, but from a different hatchery) Anyway, we were planning on keeping 3 hens and one rooster for the same reason that you did. However, now I am wondering if the aggressiveness of the rooster might be a problem. I guess I figured since they were such a squat heavy bird they might just hang out and not act too mean, especially towards us and our children. (Although, from my experiences when filling their feeder they are super food aggressive pushing and jostling their way through and over all other chickens to get their first!) Ours are only about 6 weeks old now and while the roosters do seem to fight a bit among themselves so far they haven’t shown any aggression towards us. When did yours start getting mean? I am also keeping one Buff Orpington rooster chosen specifically because he should be nice with little kids. I am wondering now if we should just let him be the only breeder we keep… Any advice or your own experiences? Thanks!
Patty Meyer says
Thought I’d hijack for a moment. 🙂 If I were you I’d save both and then see who turns out to be nice. I got Buff Orpingtons one year because they were supposed to be friendly and safe. That rooster put our daughter in the ER for stitches. He was NOT nice! We’ve had some great ones though, including the two we have now. One’s a Brahma Bantam and one’s part Brahma Bantam and part something else (not sure who his mama is). They’re father and son, and nice as can be. I’m guessing the Buff Orpington would be the nicest, but one never knows. 🙂 Happy chicken raising!
Thanks Patty for sharing your experience! We had a BO roo (our first) and he was became confrontational. I can’t remember if he attacked anyone. I’m so sorry to hear that your daughter had to endure such a traumatic attack! How frightening that must have been!
The brahma rooster (standard) we had last year was a very good boy and I’m glad to hear you say that yours is too. I wouldn’t hesitate now to get another one sometime 🙂
I think our feed store listed ours as red rangers. I use the freedom term as a catch all since it seems to be the most common. Helping out the folks visiting via google 🙂 Personally, I wouldn’t keep a ranger rooster. While they were never, ever once aggressive towards us or the children, they tormented the hens mercilessly. They’d go after them and just hang on forever. I worried about whether they would even lay from the stress of being with the roo. Not to mention that they were just as hard on my laying flock. Since yours are only 6 (well probably now 7 weeks old) I imagine it won’t be too long before you start noticing that yourself.
Here’s a post I did on our 1st batch of rangers at 7 weeks and then one at 12 weeks where you can see a bit of the aggressiveness.
As to the Buff Orpington, our first laying flock were that breed and we also had a BO rooster. I can’t remember now that he actually attacked anyone like some of our other roosters have, but he was exhibiting confrontational behavior that I didn’t care for as a first time chicken owner. It’s like they get to a certain age and don’t want people around anymore. I’ve seen none of that with the Australorp or the Brahma and have been highly pleased with them both. The BO’s as a breed didn’t impress me a bit actually. I thought they were lousy layers, never went broody, scrawny, and with such a variety of good hens to choose from, I probably won’t bother with them anymore. I hate to feel like I might be bursting your bubble there. It could just be that one roo of ours was a dud or that his harem wasn’t large enough and he had to exert his energy elsewhere. I would keep an eye on any rooster and if they start chasing you down when your back is turned, it’s time for the soup pot. It will only escalate from there. They jump surprisingly high when they attack (I’ve been attacked on my upper back before- definitely face level for most of my children.)
Anyway, I hope your breeding program is a success. Our ranger cross babies just hatched this morning with a 75% hatch rate so far! The layer’s eggs that were in there came in at only 25%! So that was an encouragement already 🙂
n. vater says
I have 2 chickens that look like yours. They are about 2 years old and give me an egg a day. They are Rhode Island Reds.
Kat Reiner says
Oh my goodness, I feel so sad – I am now up to date with your blog (it feels like I just finished my favorite book!) But what an encouraging way to “end” (also thankful it’s not really an end, just an exercise in patience and excitement for when the next post comes out) to see that the Rangers are doing well. We really want to start with rangers, which are not available in Australia, so we need to wait until we head back to the states.
Just wondering (and I can’t even imagine how busy you are to consider this, but wondering if the thought has crossed your mind) if you’d ever write a book? Your writing is so articulate, funny, and approachable, your story is so unique, and your photography is gorgeous. I’d be first in line to buy it!
How I must be testing your patience these days Kat 🙂 I’m afraid I’ve been blogging a little less than consistently. It’s been a trying year and I haven’t been very transparent about it here yet, but Lord willing, things will start looking up and I’ll be able to be a little more chatty about things.
Thank you so very much for being so kind and encouraging! 🙂 It’s good to know that someone can read through the whole thing and not be put off by the “end”. I know I enjoy looking at older posts every now and then, but that’s more to see how much the children have grown so it’s to be expected. It’s strange to think that I’ve been writing for most of the lives of my 3 youngest… Ben was only 4 months old when I made my first post and now he’s 4 1/2 years old! As to writing a book… well who knows? 🙂 I’ve never even thought about it until now.
Thanks again Kat for reading and commenting and I pray the Lord will bless the new adventure He has in store for you. Maybe it should be YOU who starts blogging if you haven’t already!
Alycia U says
Looking forward to seeing this progress. We had Freedom Rangers for the first time last year – we exchanged emails a few times and you were so helpful! The processing went smoothly and I’m getting ready to get more birds. Nothing like raising your own. More and more of our family meals are things we produced and I’m loving it!
I’m so glad things went well Alycia and that you’re doing them again this year! We’re on the fence as to whether or not we’ll raise meat birds this year. I need to mosey downstairs and count how many are still in the freezer 🙂 But I’m sad to think that we might not be. It just won’t feel like summer without a “flock walk” to feed them every night. Hope your year is blessed and productive!
This is wonderful Quinn & I love how you kept some to see how long they would keep. All the best with your breeding prospects from them. We lost our ugly silky rooster & now have a big, handsome barred rock. He is very young, but is lovely so far ( my friend in town raised him, but had to get rid of her roosters as she was in town).
I haven’t been able to find a good source of meat chickens around here & as Kat said below Rangers aren’t available over here ( well unless they come by another name which is just as likely).
Hope you are going well. Praying for a blessed year for you!
Steamy Farms says
This is so interesting- I noticed it was a year ago you posted this- without having read through all of your comments, did you have any success in hatching & raising your own Freedom Rangers? We were told by the (wonderful) hatchery we purchased ours from, that they don't breed true but, like you said, they told us they'd be fine to keep as layers if we wanted (& wouldn't have the heart/leg issues CX's had). I enjoyed raising FR so much more than the CX for so many reasons.
Would love to hear your experience with attempting to breed the FR.
PS. LOVE your FB page- today's my first time at your blog & that's great, too 🙂 thanks for the info & I have sometimes shared some of your posts. God Bless
The crazy chicken Lady says
Hello, I am hoping someone can PLEASE help me. I just started with backyard chickens this spring. I had all hens, a brahma, 3 Barred Rocks, a Silver Wyandotte, and a red sex link. My plans were to enjoy them and have some eggs. They came in the mail and all went well. Well, a fox helped himself to 4 of my beauties, right before my eyes in broad daylight, just before they were at laying age. So, months later, I finally found someone with chickens at laying age, so I didn’t have to start over. All I wanted were 2 more chickens. I found him on craigslist and the picures looked like red sex link, so I took a drive. A friend and I got there and were APPAULED at the “coop” they were in. The rectangular structure was not tall enough for them to stand in and when he lifted the tin roof, they all popped up their heads to stretched their necks and legs. As we tried to pick out hens, most of them had raw bellies with no feathers, I was so sad for them. I found out the next day that they were freedom rangers. I am disappointed for so many reasons, one, being that I guess it was a harsh reality how they were treated on this farm , 2 that I may not get eggs. Now I am reading about overeating, short life spans, and they do lay some eggs. So, questions. Should I be worried about the red bellies? Do they lay on their bellies all the time or something? I am now trying to teach these 20 weekers how to roost, should I be doing that? The farmer said they don’t lay eggs until about 25 weeks, and that they have never roosted. I think my heart is too big to be a chicken farmer, I will stick to having my few ladies out in my cozy little coop, treated like princesses HAHA! Can someone lend me some advice?
Hi! We need more chicken farmers whose hearts are too big to be chicken farmers! It’s pretty sick what some people will put their animals through.
I wouldn’t worry at all about the raw bellies. That happens with (all) meat chickens when they are in confinement- and it sounds like these gals had conditions worse than many. It’s from laying in their manure. It’s so “hot” it burns the feathers right off. Worse case scenario, they won’t grow back until after their first molt which might not be until next year.
As I mentioned in the post, overeating is an issue for meat birds, but not if you don’t give it to them. Ours don’t get fed 6 months out of the year ANY layer ration. They’ll get some other barnyard grains they find, but otherwise it’s bugs and greens. They’re healthier for it and so are we if we can get their eggs.
In some of my other Freedom Ranger posts, you can see that even at 16 weeks or so of age, which would put their weight in the 4-6lb. range, they were still able to fly up and roost on gates at 3ft. height. I have so many farm helpers, I’ll be honest, I haven’t been down to the coop at night in I can’t remember how long. Long enough that I’m not sure where this Freedom Ranger is roosting at night. (How high) Our roosts are kind of ladder-like with higher and lower rungs but tilted so they aren’t roosting over top of one another. It could be that she’s preferring one of the lower ones, but even with that type of system, they could hop from roost to roost.
Sorry to hear about your fox troubles. It’s rough, I know. Hope these gals recover quickly and you have a fridge full of fresh eggs soon!