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Chicks: Raising good foragers

 
Craig Dobbelyu
pollinator
Posts: 1239
Location: Maine (zone 5)
63
forest garden hugelkultur
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We just received our flock of 10 Easter Eggers yesterday. They spent the day yesterday getting adjusted to the new digs chirping and slugging down food and water in a hurry. Today they've spent a lot of time just laying around and resting from the ordeal in the mail. I'll be using a paddock type system later on and will rely on them to do a lot of foraging. How can I assist them in learning good foraging skills at a young age? At what age can I introduce "wild" foods into their diet? They do a lot of scratching already and seem to be very curious about anything that moves.

Any help would be appreciated.
thanks
 
Tyler Ludens
pollinator
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Posts: 8844
Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
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My chicks were just a few days old when I began bringing them finely chopped weeds and handfuls of dirt with small bugs in it. Just giving them dirt to play in will help encourage foraging. It should be lively garden soil or compost, preferably with bugs and worms.
 
Craig Dobbelyu
pollinator
Posts: 1239
Location: Maine (zone 5)
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forest garden hugelkultur
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I tend to find a lot of lady bugs in the house this time of year. Will they eat them as well? I might try a little dandelion greens later as I have a ton of them coming up.
 
Craig Dobbelyu
pollinator
Posts: 1239
Location: Maine (zone 5)
63
forest garden hugelkultur
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My chicks have had a good time chasing a fly that landed in the brooder today. It got too close to the heat lamp and became a "walk" instead of a "fly" It took them about 10 minutes to eat it up, but once they did they began to search in earnest to find some more.

Question: Like all other chicks, they tend to scratch more food out of the feeder then they actually eat. Can I let the feeder run out for a while in hopes that they'll clean up the huge pile of food on the floor?


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Tyler Ludens
pollinator
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Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
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You don't want to risk them going hungry at this age, so I would just let the food build up in the litter. If you put some compost in there they will want to dig around more, but I think it's a good idea to have food in the feeder as well.
 
Jay Green
Posts: 587
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You can just cover your feeder with chicken wire...their heads can get in but their feet cannot. This helps with flicking and scratching. As they age, you can replace that with 1x2 welded wire and get the same good effect for your adult birds.

Black Oil Sunflower Seeds (BOSS) is a good way to get them interested in "bugs" when they are around 2 wks. old~before then the seeds are too big for them to ingest. Before then, meal worms are a special treat...particularly the live ones. Even if you do none of this, they will naturally forage well because it is in their instinct.

To encourage your flock to forage, free range all day and only offer feed in the evening. That way they are hungry enough all day to search for their food, then they get a meal and don't go to bed hungry. This saves on feed and also encourages those birds that prefer to just hang around the feeder to get out there and hunt for breakfast and lunch.
 
Austin Max
Posts: 98
Location: South Central Kentucky
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Dig up some clods of grass with the soil on for them too. Anything to mimic the natural sources they will be searching for on your land later.

This is also a great point by Jay
"To encourage your flock to forage, free range all day and only offer feed in the evening. That way they are hungry enough all day to search for their food, then they get a meal and don't go to bed hungry. This saves on feed and also encourages those birds that prefer to just hang around the feeder to get out there and hunt for breakfast and lunch."
 
wayne stephen
steward
Posts: 1793
Location: Western Kentucky-Climate Unpredictable Zone 6b
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No matter when , eventually they get the hang of it. I have introduced penned poulets and hens I bought at auction into my ranged flocks and they are at it shortly. But day old chicks in the brooder get coarsly chopped clover and grass right from the start , they love it. Just throw it onto the bedding. This year I
am going to try sprouted wheat kernels - wheat grass for an additional nutrient boost and get them interested into what might be at the bottom of the grasses.
Has anyone tried something like that. Hopefully with the pastured meat birds they may attain that grass fed flavor earlier, as they seem to get into grass eating out in the pens only the last 2-3 weeks.
 
I agree. Here's the link: https://richsoil.com/wood-heat.jsp
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