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Freedom Ranger

Label Rouge chickensWith Dark Cornish no longer in the running for a permaculture broiler breed, I'm starting to narrow down our choices for next year's experiment.  Freedom Rangers were near the top of my list, until I did a bit more research.

What are Freedom Rangers?
The term "Freedom Ranger" is merely an American popularization of the hybrid breed developed for use by French companies operating under the Label Rouge program.  Label Rouge is a certification process, a bit like "free range" or "organic" in the U.S.  Their website is difficult to read if you don't understand French, but ATTRA put out a PDF file about Label Rouge which is worth a viewing (and from which I stole this image.)

Freedom Ranger parents come from a few proprietary lines owned by European corporations.  So, don't think you can buy a flock of Freedom Rangers and raise your own, or even start your own breeding flock by growing the two parent breeds.  Freedom Rangers, like Cornish Crosses, are industrial hybrids.

Freedom Ranger chickensWhat are their advantages?
Freedom Rangers are relatively fast growing, but they don't grow as quickly as the Cornish Cross.  As a result, they don't tend to have the high mortality rates that break so many backyard broiler-raisers' hearts.  Freedom Rangers are reputed to grow to 5 pounds in 12 weeks, to be tastier than Cornish Crosses, but to have less breast and larger legs.

Based on one backyard experiment, Freedom Rangers seem to have a feed to meat conversion ratio that's almost as good as Cornish Crosses --- 3.4.

What are their disadvantages?
As I mentioned earlier, we couldn't create our own self-perpetuating Freedom Ranger flock, which is a deal breaker for me.  Having to buy chicks every year makes the meat pricey --- the experiment I linked to above ended up with a cost of $1.73 per pound for Freedom Rangers and $1.47 per pound for Cornish Crosses.

I'm also not sold on Freedom Rangers being good foragers.  If they're so good at catching bugs, why did they eat so much grain?  I think I'll let someone else do that experiment for us and move on to a different breed for our next batch of broilers.

Our homemade chicken waterers never spill or fill with poop.

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i too am looking to perpetuate or create a broiler flock without having to buy chicks every year. i thought by looking into how the french started their breeding program, i could duplicate it. but as you said, its not advantageous to repeat the freedom ranger if they are not as big of a forager as led to believe. how is your luck coming along in creating a type of broiler?
Comment by neftali garcia in the wee hours of Tuesday night, February 20th, 2013
Neftali Garcia --- We're still slowly but surely working up a variety. It's tougher in our case because we're really trying to breed a dual-purpose bird, and eggs are slightly more important to us than bulky carcasses. To that end, we're adding in some egg-laying strains to the flock this year. Lots more experimentation to go!
Comment by anna mid-morning Tuesday, February 26th, 2013
I raised 20 freedom rangers this year in Ketchikan Alaska. They reached 11 weeks and were in a free range/tractor with new grass every other day. Very mellow breed. 14 roosters and 6 hens. Roosters averaged butchered, 4-6 lbs, hens 3-5 lbs. Raised on Flock Raiser. I kept one the the hens that looked more like a buff orphington. She laid her first small egg at 17 weeks. She has been laying a small egg every day and the egg is getting larger by the week. Her food is restricted, but does forage well. She is still a heavy bird weighing in at 7 lbs. But her egg production is superb so far. I just thought this would be good info for people to read if they kept a freedom ranger for egg laying. My neighbor took 5 of my cockerels and culled at 20 weeks and got 8 lb birds dressed.
Comment by C Ruby at lunch time on Friday, September 27th, 2013
C Ruby --- Thanks for sharing! It's great to have some hands-on data!
Comment by anna mid-morning Sunday, September 29th, 2013

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