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prairie fed chickens

 
Posts: 31
Location: Columbia MO
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I've been increasing my native prairie and grass areas and notice the huge increase in bugs.   It has me wondering, does anyone keep totally free range chickens that just eat bugs and seed from native prairie?   I'm sure we would have to have feed for the winter, but it seems that I could add some chickens to the mix and at least get eggs with nearly zero additional overhead on feed from spring to fall.  
 
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My chickens are free roaming on my ranch they have all they can eat feed in the coop but all summer they eat bugs and the sort. This fall they ate meat of the flesh side of my deer hide. The eggs are deep orange yokes when they are eating bugs.
 
john holmes
Posts: 31
Location: Columbia MO
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about how much space do they roam per chicken?  Im thinking a dense prairie / permie plot could hold about 40 an acre and keep them fat.  
 
pollinator
Posts: 391
Location: NW Montana, USA
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If they have enough room to roam in a healthy ecosystem, yes, they will happily feed themselves.  Make sure you've got a good breed, the production meat and egg breeds can 'sometimes' be bad foragers.  But most chickens would probably adapt and figure it out.  Don't get more than your ecosystem can support though.  Depending on your zone and winters, you may have to at least supplement in the winter.  I've had chickens roam about a 4 acre territory.  Turkeys a bit more.  I've had birds sustain themselves on fallow pasture land without any additional feed, even raise their chicks just fine.  How many birds your land can support depends on a lot of things.  How lush is it, what is growing there,  is it flat or does it have elevation, what systems are you implementing to help feed them?  
 
gardener
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Location: Pacific Wet Coast
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In a perfect world, you would encourage the chickens to focus on one physical area at a time by either having a mobile coop which moves every few days to a week - they tend to forage more near home than far away - or some sort of fencing that gives them paddocks that they are led to, again they can go to a paddock for a time period based on how quickly they're consuming what they want to consume and that can change based on the weather and the time of year. Chickens *don't* like eating poopy grass - can you blame them? "Mob grazing" improves pastures according to all sorts of studies, far better than letting animals stay in one place regardless of how large the place is. Those studies are usually looking at cows or similar, but it works with chickens too.
 
I'm thinking about a new battle cry. Maybe "Not in the face! Not in the face!" Any thoughts tiny ad?
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