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Chicken diet without commercial feed?

 
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If I'm feeding my chickens super worms and sprouted grains, what else should I include for layers?
Have found many threads on mealworms, but nothing about how much to feed them per day. Up to 10 worms per chicken per day according to one resource...
Then how much do they need of Everything else for a healthy diet per chicken? FYI I'll be raising a smaller breed of chickens which resemble jungle fowl.
 
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Hi Dany.  There is a good read on this topic under "Chicken fodder/forage success stories?".  As for the amount of feed I have found all breads are different.  We have 9 breads and notice some eat more silage and some like more grain.
 
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Layers will need calcium (we use their egg shells for this) and a high protein diet (20%+)  
Meal worms are in the proper protein levels and for three hens and a rooster I give 3 handfuls of mealworms twice a day since ours free range.
Free range chickens can usually be seen eating greens and bugs almost all day long, so it is pretty hard to over feed them if you aren't supplementing except with "treats" twice a day.
In the winter we use a layer feed that has a low calcium formula and this feed is located inside the coop along with a night time water source.
When we remember to fill it, we do provide oyster shell as a calcium supplement, of which one small bag lasts a year, this is provided free choice style.
We don't use any wormer product, we use organically grown herbs for that and they get free choice on these and they are available to them year round.
About once a week we go to our grocery store and pick up discarded produce for both the hogs and the chooks.

Now about our chickens;
We have Black Copper Marans
They have never had any physical problems and lay an egg every other day, they stop producing as many eggs one month out of the year (about a egg a week).
Their laying slacks when they are in the molting period (this takes them almost two months and overlaps their one month of slow egg production.
They have never had worms or any other health issues because they are allowed to take care of themselves with the always available herbs and grit.
When a snake gets into the coop they will voice that fact to me so I can take care of the situation under their watchful eyes.
Only when they see me remove it will they go into the coop and check for themselves.

I have thought about and read up on growing sprouted grains in a mat form for them and the hogs but I am not yet setup to do a living fodder feed, that will be in the future.

Redhawk
 
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Here's the post Christopher is talking about Dany: Chicken fodder/forage success stories?
I plan to use this calculator for grain mixes when I can get off of store bought chicken food: Garden Betty's Chicken Feed Calculator
 
pollinator
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I was going to put a bug farm of some kind on my chicken tractor. The outlet would be in the middle of the tractor. When the bugs mature and come out, the birds get a snack. I was also going to grow a bunch of sunflowers and put in a mature flower head broken up.
 
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Dany Richard wrote:
Have found many threads on mealworms, but nothing about how much to feed them per day. Up to 10 worms per chicken per day according to one resource...



Baby chicks a couple weeks old can easily eat 10 mealworms each at one time.  I raise mealworms, and I can't possibly raise enough to consider it anything more than a treat for them.
 
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I have mostly those small jungle fowl type chickens.  They lay small eggs, but some of the hens are prolific, laying 5-7 a week. But they are prone to go broody, so they don't lay nearly as well as the commercial breeds. But just like the commercial breeds, they do best when fed a decent amount of protein. Mine get cooked meat, mostly slaughter waste. And worms. When they forage they eat bugs, lizards,  and a mouse if they roust one up. I keep a casual eye on their protein intake, aiming for about 10% meat and free choice fresh grass clippings. What they forage makes up the difference. Since they lay well, I'd guess that they are getting 20%-25% protein diet. They get all sorts of garden and kitchen waste, mostly cooked. Calcium is provided via cooked egg shells (cooked because most are from commercial eggs) and free choice coral sand.

I like Bryant's comment. Sounds like handfuls of mealworms is they way to go, rather than just a few per bird.
 
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Some other feed sources to consider are acorns, dried stinging nettle, and fodder. Dried nettle is about 33% protein. Growing fodder from grains doubles the available protein. Acorns are an excellent protein source too. Planting a chicken garden of greens can be a valuable addition to their diet, particularly if their free-ranging is limited for whatever reason. If you are able to have a vermiculture set up, that's another protein source. Just some thoughts...
 
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I've always liked the idea of black soldier flies.  Kind of feed themselves to the chickens.  Some great designs on youtube.
 
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It is tremendously difficult to feed birds to a measure of the nutrition that they'd get with commercial feed by using other means.  If I could, I would, but the time and effort it takes just doesn't make economic sense for me.  

We have a Black Soldier Fly bin, but there isn't anywhere close to a consistent supply of larva to feed the chickens.  It's a treat for them, but I wouldn't get any sort of consistent egg production if I depended on that as a primary source of protein and fat for them.  For most leftovers that you would put into a BSF bin, it makes more sense to feed them directly to the chickens and cut out the creepy bug middleman.

My mother regularly brings home a big bag of leftover food from the nursing home where my father lives.  She just goes out in the hallway after a meal and scraps the plates into a plastic bag, and then we feed that to the girls.  Again, it's not consistent enough to assure that their nutritional needs are meet for consistent egg production.

We let them forage every night for an hour or so, before they go back into the chicken tractor and put themselves to bed.  During many parts of the year, there just isn't enough out there for them to scratch at and eat.

The key word above: consistency.  If you had access to grain at a decent price (I don't) and could sprout grain every day, then you'd have that kind of consistency.  Or if you worked at a school cafeteria or restaurant and could bring home food waste, then you'd have a consistent food source.  

For these reasons, I'm dependent upon putting additional commercial food out for my birds on a daily basis.  If I didn't care that much about how many eggs I got every day, maybe I wouldn't mind if the girls had a few hit-or-miss meals from time to time.  But since we sell our eggs and have regular customers, I don't want to shortchange myself by trying to cut a few corners.
 
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COMFREY COMFREY COMFREY
 
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For those of us with smaller flocks, you can find a farmer who harvests or buys grains in bulk and you can purchase and fill garbage cans with grain. If you have a mix of grains and you add minerals, calcium, etc. and soak or sprout, you're off to the races. For our flock of 25, a garbage can full lasts months, although we pasture ours for 3/4 of the year.
 
Trace Oswald
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Amanda Launchbury-Rainey wrote:COMFREY COMFREY COMFREY



Are my chickens the only ones in the world that don't like comfrey?  I've tried it fresh, wilted, dried, ...  They just don't eat it.
 
pollinator
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Some humans are thinking in a strange way... about getting bug-free gardens.... whether organic or not, we need more bugs! People had hens and pigs for all that was not "perfect". The more we want to eat ALL the plants ourselves, the more job it takes to defend them. The less we want to eat animals products, the worse it will be for animals, because we have to get rid of the concurrence. Insects and even mice or rats or pigeons etc, are either ennemies or allies, according to the kind of guilds we do.

So for example at the moment I feed some oranges.... both hens and cuys eat them. So all the small ones, bugged ones etc. (The only oranges that come out of here are when people promise to bring back the skins, that are for the orange trees themselves.)

And... here is my main source of proteins for hens! RATS!

Cats and poison are useless for different reasons.... Trap and drown rats, and you get "free" protein! As they mostly have eaten in your garden, you know they are healthy and nutritious. Of course you can eat them, but it is less work and more "in the food chain" to just give them to hens. I just cook them whole, so that hens have an easier job before the flies. or else they will eat the bugs anyway.

I also sprout organic barley. Cuys will also eat part of it.

20190121_110536.jpg
[Thumbnail for 20190121_110536.jpg]
 
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Korean Natural Farming provides an excellent way to reduce feed costs while also providing for adequate mineral intake.
 
Bryant RedHawk
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hau Jason, would you mind expanding on the KNF statement? just saying it's a way to reduce feed costs tells us nothing.
 
Jason Riessland
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The Korean Natural Farming Chicken system involves utilizing indigenous microorganisms to convert their solid waste into a biosolid, which provides for 10 percent of their diet.  It also includes calcium and mineral supplementation via their drinking water.  An internet search for Korean Natural Farming Chickens will get you started, or you can go to my website: FrontYardFood.org and click on the Cho Global (Korean) Natural Farming page and download some free PDFs.
 
Xisca Nicolas
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I did not find any free pdf in this page though....
At least, here is the direct link:  http://frontyardfood.org/cho-global-korean-natural-farming
The text is short, so here it is. I suppressed the dead link from the quote, if you want to remove it from your website Jason!

Cho Global (Korean) Natural Farming Chickens

Here are some links that you may find helpful.  Using the Korean Natural Farming method for chickens is a great way to minimize feed costs.

The first link is to an excellent Hawaii-specific book that outlines in detail an excellent chicken set up, but is still wholly applicable for use in Southern Oregon.

Putting in forage crops such as purslane, and borage, is also key in keeping costs down.

http://www.amazon.com/Hubbells-Heaven-Lizs-Happy-Hens/dp/1482569728

And here is an excellent video outling the Korean Natural Farming method for chickens:

http://naturalfarminghawaii.net/2011/01/chicken-feed-workshop-at-kaiao-recipe-photos-video/



From the last link, I do not see any animal protein in this diet?
But they have a page with a link to a video...



Also I found a thread already in permies: https://permies.com/t/38785/Korean-Natural-Farming-Poultry

Then some more :



This video funnily represents what I had planned to do! I have different squares in the chicken coop, that I wanted to cover during the time of growth, until the size was enough.


 
pollinator
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OK we are about to have the annual smelt run, followed a few weeks later by the sucker run. I'm thinking of catching some and freezing them to use as feed for the broilers.

Has anyone fed freshwater fish to broilers? How much does it effect the meat flavor?
 
Jason Riessland
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The free PDFs are on the main KNF page:

 Cho Global (Korean) Natural Farming was founded by Han-Kyu Cho in the 1960's and finds its roots in Japanese Natural Farming.  It began as a counterbalance to the introduction of Western agricultural practices in South Korea, and is now being utilized in over 42 countries.  Agricultural solutions can be produced onsite without the use of herbicides, tillage, pesticides, or chemical fertilizers.  It focuses on building and supporting healthy soil biology and the use of plant nutrient applications, many of which are inexpensive and easy to make.

    Korean Natural Farming has become quite popular on the Big Island of Hawai'i, and is being utilized by some of its largest farms.  It can be used in any climate (anywhere where plants grow.)  It has many advatages over other methods, and provides inexpensive options for creating fertility.

Here is the Cho Global Natural Farming-Hawaii website.  It is a great source for obtaining instructional manuals, as well as order dry ingredients to make Oriental Herbal Nutrient:

choglobalnaturalfarminghawaii.org/

And here is a link to a free Korean Natural Farming PDF from India:

ilcasia.wordpress.com/2012/02/20/publication-chos-global-natural-farming-sarra/

And a free PDF from the Northeast Organic Farming Association in Massechusetts:

https://www.nofamass.org/articles/2014/05/korean-natural-farming-managing-farm-systems-holistically
 
Jason Riessland
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All of the links on both pages are active.
 
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Trace Oswald wrote:

Amanda Launchbury-Rainey wrote:COMFREY COMFREY COMFREY



Are my chickens the only ones in the world that don't like comfrey?  I've tried it fresh, wilted, dried, ...  They just don't eat it.



Mine aren't overly impressed with comfrey either, wish they were. It's interesting to me that different chickens prefer different greens too. My rooster absolutely adores dandelion greens and while he gets several takers, half the flock ignore his excitement. Of course they all love chickweed!
I've been feeding my chicks in the brooder dandelion greens daily and they all get very excited and gobble it up. I just noticed the comfrey is big enough to harvest a little-maybe if they get introduced at a young age, they'll like it? We shall see.
 
Jason Riessland
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In the Korean Natural Farming method, chicks are immediately fed hard rice (counter-intuitive, right?) This actually lengthens their intestine and allows hens to produce eggs of unparalleled quality.  At day two, they are fed hard bamboo leaves.  If a chicks first encounter with greens is tough and course, they will be conditioned not to be afraid to eat any type of green.  
 
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Hi Jason.  Are you currently using KNF?  What animals and crops are you raising with it?  Have you used other farming methods and, if so, how do they compare, in your experience.
 
Trace Oswald
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Jason Riessland wrote: ...hard rice...  This actually lengthens their intestine and allows hens to produce eggs of unparalleled quality.  



Can you point me in the direction of any research about this?  It sounds interesting, and nearly opposite of what I do.  I feed fermented food that is much easier to digest, rather than harder.
 
Jason Riessland
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I am a Korean Natural Farming instructor, and I am currently in Alaska above the Arctic Circle, working and teaching until June.  As far as my practice at home on the Big Island, I rely primarily on KNF/JADAM, but I also incorporate some Biodynamics as well, and some Vermicomposting.  I have used chicken tractors in the past, and believe that this method has its place, especially if one is trying to restore depleted pastureland.  Having said that, I do feel the KNF method for chickens is ultimately superior, especially when raising laying hens.  As I always say, use the methods that work for you and speak to your heart.
 
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Trace Oswald wrote:

Amanda Launchbury-Rainey wrote:COMFREY COMFREY COMFREY



Are my chickens the only ones in the world that don't like comfrey?  I've tried it fresh, wilted, dried, ...  They just don't eat it.



Mine won't touch it either. I can't even get the bunnies to nibble on it. I've read that it is high in protein, but it's no help in the feed dept. so far, at least in my experience. Would love to hear more from someone who is successful feeding comfrey to critters.
 
Timothy Markus
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Cory Collins wrote:

Trace Oswald wrote:

Amanda Launchbury-Rainey wrote:COMFREY COMFREY COMFREY



Are my chickens the only ones in the world that don't like comfrey?  I've tried it fresh, wilted, dried, ...  They just don't eat it.



Mine won't touch it either. I can't even get the bunnies to nibble on it. I've read that it is high in protein, but it's no help in the feed dept. so far, at least in my experience. Would love to hear more from someone who is successful feeding comfrey to critters.



My chickens tore through it, as did my rabbits.  My quail liked it, too, but they take much smaller bites.
 
Xisca Nicolas
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Until now only my sheep eat confrey. Chickens and cuys don't.

As I have seen changes in time for food acceptance, I have 2 conclusions:

- age of the animals when they 1st tried it.
- age of the plant when animals try it!

They much prefer young leaves of something they have eaten when young.
 
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Trace Oswald wrote:

Amanda Launchbury-Rainey wrote:COMFREY COMFREY COMFREY



Are my chickens the only ones in the world that don't like comfrey?  I've tried it fresh, wilted, dried, ...  They just don't eat it.





Nope, Mine don’t bother with comfrey either. They love fresh greens in the cabbage family, esp, collard greens, except for cabbage. They only eat it cooked.
 
Mandy Launchbury-Rainey
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The way to get them eating it is to give comfrey to them before any other feed, like a starter. You know, like when you had to eat your vegetables before you got pudding.
 
Xisca Nicolas
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Mandy Launchbury-Rainey wrote:The way to get them eating it is to give comfrey to them before any other feed, like a starter. You know, like when you had to eat your vegetables before you got pudding.


Knowing animals have instinct and eat what they need, don't you think that obligating them to eat what they do not like is not the best solution?
Animals will even eat poisonous plants when starving. The intermediate is that they will eat what is not good or not nutritious for them.
I give comfrey to sheep as they are ruminants.

Comfrey is not recommended for humans to eat, at least it depends on the quantity, and who knows for hens?

Hens also love nasturtium. The common point with cruciferous is SULFUR. As egg yolks are a good source of sulfur, I guess you all make the link!

And maybe children also have some sort of instinct, as long as we talk about natural foods. Insoluble fibers are creating constipation in some people, who actually benefit from eating less veggies! My niece did not even want to eat fruits, as she found them all acidic. They forced her to eat them, until she got a big stomach problem. She loved salmon with mayonaise since ever and would even eat dark bitter chocolate... She obviously needs more fat than other people and also animal food. Let's give room for insticts!
 
Mandy Launchbury-Rainey
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Xisca Nicolas wrote:

Mandy Launchbury-Rainey wrote:The way to get them eating it is to give comfrey to them before any other feed, like a starter. You know, like when you had to eat your vegetables before you got pudding.


Knowing animals have instinct and eat what they need, don't you think that obligating them to eat what they do not like is not the best solution?
Animals will even eat poisonous plants when starving. The intermediate is that they will eat what is not good or not nutritious for them.
I give comfrey to sheep as they are ruminants.

Comfrey is not recommended for humans to eat, at least it depends on the quantity, and who knows for hens?

Hens also love nasturtium. The common point with cruciferous is SULFUR. As egg yolks are a good source of sulfur, I guess you all make the link!

And maybe children also have some sort of instinct, as long as we talk about natural foods. Insoluble fibers are creating constipation in some people, who actually benefit from eating less veggies! My niece did not even want to eat fruits, as she found them all acidic. They forced her to eat them, until she got a big stomach problem. She loved salmon with mayonaise since ever and would even eat dark bitter chocolate... She obviously needs more fat than other people and also animal food. Let's give room for insticts!



You make a good point. I am only quoting from what I was told. Comfrey is a good source of nitrogen when they are not eating commercial food, but you are ,of course right about forcing them. I only meant put it in first for a few minutes, then their normal food and they might try it and like it. Chickens I have known, and pigs, liked comfrey so it wasnt ever a problem.
 
Xisca Nicolas
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Thanks for your answer, and our conversation allowed this point to be raised, so thanks you!

I have heard many times about leaving even a ruminant tightened to a place until they eat even what they do not like! As you mention this "childhood trauma"... maybe we thought that in the end it was a good thing, and apply the same to animals?

It is partly fine, if we know what they can eat and is ok, and do not let reach the point they choose the least damage! It is also fine when you know they refuse something that they can eat, just because they want the easiest calories, as grains...

But I have also noticed differences between seasons, so is it that they will eat when there is nothing else, or because each seasons brings its own nutrition to the leaves?

Also, as animals "spoil" a lot of food and even shit on it and then ask for more food.... my conclusion is that they would eat all down to a desert, if nature had not provided the solution! We want them to eat all the bought and cultivated food, because it is valuable. And we prefer that they make compost with what has less value... But their behaviour is the right one for nature's want to have manure!

And a good method seems to me to get them used to variety as young as possible. I think animals also look at what others eat, and that it limits the risk of poisonning (not so sure of this for non mammals though...). As for us, part is nature/instinct, and part is nurture/learning.
 
Xisca Nicolas
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Tina Saravia wrote: They love fresh greens in the cabbage family, esp, collard greens, except for cabbage. They only eat it cooked.



Eggs are rich in sulfur, so are cruciferous!  
So if you have self seeded nasturtium as I have all Winter, they Will eat it very happilly, for the same reason: sulfur. And they start with flowers, though they have a less strong taste than leaves, so for me again, it means hens do not value fiber that much! As us, they think chickweed is a very nice and tender salad! They also seem to prefer tender leaves than old ones. It can also be because older leaves have more "natural defense chemicals"!?

Soooo… what are they reluctant about, chemicals or fiber? If somebody knows more...?
 
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I only feed during the winter. Otherwise I let them out and have enough property/stuff growing they find their own or die. No one's died yet.
 
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For brooding I use commercial products because its impossible (really hard) to meet the maximum possible growing needs of baby anything.

For laying birds I use a mix of grains and then supplement for D3, Calcium and vitamin B. You can get the cost of feed after tax to <$1 lb.
 
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Location: Southern Oregon
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Most of the last 8 yrs. I fed my Buff Orpington hens 3-day sprouted organic hard wheat, oat groats, a small amount of lentils (because they don't like it much), barley when I could get it, and black oil sunflower seeds (which they really love when it's sprouted).  I occasionally added unsprouted millet as well. And kelp sprinkled on top. I add cooked oatmeal with chia seeds (my breakfast - I just make extra each day) to the night meal most days. They really love it!. And leave a container of oyster shell out.

I make my own yogurt and several times a week put small dollops on top of the pan of sprouted seed, along with a bit of fermented kimchi I also make. They really relish both of these.  

In the fall I haul masses of oak leaves to a big pen that surrounds a grove of wild hazelnuts and blueberries and a mulberry tree... All winter long the chickens scratch through the oak leaves for worms and creepy-crawlies turning it into lovely compost...  

I grow lots of swiss chard and kale and collards for them to eat through the winter as well - all year round actually. Chard is their favorite... next to comfrey, chickweed and miner's lettuce (which are spring and summer veggies). In the summer they get grass clippings, clover,  weeds and any bits from the garden that is bug/slug chewed.. and I throw all the soft plant prunings in a big pile at one end of the run all summer to make another compost pile for worms and such that they can scratch through.   I also place rotting logs in their pens for the bugs they attract.

In the summer I harvest cabbage worms and veggies with aphids and wormy apples - and anything that's good food that I won't eat - goes to them.  

When my broody hen was raising chicks I bought organic chick starter and they never touched it. My broody hen taught them to eat what she ate - the sprouted grains and seeds - and they grew into beautiful and healthy chickens. My last Buff was 8 when she was killed by some daytime creature - a rogue raccoon I think. And she was still laying eggs regularly - at 8 yrs. old.  They were never sick and laid well all their lives, in spite of me not giving them any medicines or special supplements or commercial food.  They didn't get any extra protein except what they got in the grains and seeds and the bugs and worms they found.

I recently bought 3 2 yr. old hens who were raised by someone else - on commercial feed - and are slowly getting used to the sprouted grains and seem to be doing well. They weren't raised with fresh greens either, so they are just learning about them. It will be interesting to see how they do.

 
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Barb Allen wrote:
When my broody hen was raising chicks I bought organic chick starter and they never touched it. My broody hen taught them to eat what she ate - the sprouted grains and seeds - and they grew into beautiful and healthy chickens. My last Buff was 8 when she was killed by some daytime creature - a rogue raccoon I think. And she was still laying eggs regularly - at 8 yrs. old.  They were never sick and laid well all their lives, in spite of me not giving them any medicines or special supplements or commercial food.  They didn't get any extra protein except what they got in the grains and seeds and the bugs and worms they found.



Can you tell me more about raising the chicks without commercial feed? It's expensive to get a chicken to laying age, and my new chicken venture is going to be centered around using food waste to feed my layers, so I would love to be able to avoid the commercial feed for my chicks as well. I was planning to use broody hens to hatch out my chicks, so I have that going for my already. I'm wondering how you think the chicks would do with their mama running around a compost pile and pasture area. Adult hens thrive this way, so I'm wondering if the chicks could too. Everyone talks so seriously about proper nutrition and all that, but if I'm throwing them daily farmers market and restaurant waste into the compost piles and they have access to a large open area for foraging, plus I'm getting a large soldier fly bin to have those popping up for them regularly.... I sorta think that should be plenty enough to feed pretty much everyone and the hens will help the chicks sort it out? Thoughts?
 
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