• Post Reply
  • Bookmark Topic Watch Topic
  • New Topic

Introducing chickens to new foods

 
Hugh Hawk
Posts: 225
Location: Adelaide, South Australia (Mediterranean climate)
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Hi all,

Having some trouble recently with getting my chooks to eat some fodders known to be good. Particularly alfalfa and tree lucerne. I know that chickens have to learn to eat new foods and this is usually something they learn growing up, but it seems my chooks have never had these foods before and thus don't recognise them as food.

Any tips? I have tried making the leaves more attractive by dunking them in olive oil first, and even adding some spices to that, but they just look at it.
 
Tyler Ludens
pollinator
Pie
Posts: 8975
Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
132
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Personally I would not try spicing it up, I would try chopping it into smallish pieces ( one inch or less) and giving them a little every day. Perhaps mixed with their usual food.
 
Hugh Hawk
Posts: 225
Location: Adelaide, South Australia (Mediterranean climate)
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Thanks for the idea, I had a similar thought actually, after I posted. Maybe mixing it in with something they really like (porridge?), in bigger and bigger amounts.

Do you think they will eventually get a taste for the leaf itself or would I always have to keep mixing it, with your technique? Ideally I would like to be able to chop my tree lucerne and simply drop it into the run.
 
wayne stephen
steward
Posts: 1793
Location: Western Kentucky-Climate Unpredictable Zone 6b
104
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
When my day olds are in the brooder house , I chop clover and grass and throw handfuls to them . They are curious and will try anything. I have taken clumps of sprouted wheatgrass and thrown that to them and they eat it and then scratch the root mass apart. When they are two weeks old they go into moveable pens. They peck at everything at least once. They love the legumes , plantain , and grass - especially with seed heads. When they are older and are free ranged they eat those plants all day. They remain curious and will eat alot of green matter - but they don't bother my garden plants except for tearing up mulch and scratching young plants up by the root - they prefer to eat those pasture plants.I used to mix alfalfa and clover into the babies feed but found that throwing handfuls onto the bedding will teach them better. Also when I have bought ready to lay pullets which came from a run or pen they took right to grazing , being curuious and they steered right to those same plants the experienced hens ate - clover , plantain , and grass. Are you keeping the birds penned in one area , can you free range or create moveable pens or paddocks? If so their instinct will assume control . If you have to keep them in runs - I always wanted to try the " Lady Balfour " method . Creating three or four runs that are rotated from the same coop , season one you use the run 1 as mulch layer and compost pile - throw grass clippings , leaves , straw ,and kitchen scraps onto ground and let chickens scratch around for a season. Season 2 move chicken to run 2 and grow garden crops in run 1 for 2 seasons. At least the birds will eat some vegie scraps and have plenty of insects.
 
Hugh Hawk
Posts: 225
Location: Adelaide, South Australia (Mediterranean climate)
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Thanks for your insight Wayne.

Unfortunately I am in a backyard situation and have very limited space. I like the idea of chicken rotation, but even that would be stretching my space, which is planted out to many things the chickens would soon destroy. Since I have mature chickens, I am looking for ways to teach them rather than have to start again with chicks.

Today I tried adding a good quantity of tree lucerne leaf to porridge (which they love). They went for it eagerly, not making any attempt to only eat the porridge part - so far, so good. I have also put some fresh tree lucerne leaf in there, but I think it will take a bit more training before they go for that by itself. That is the goal though. I'll keep feeding them with this mix every few days and increase the quantity of leaf.
 
wayne stephen
steward
Posts: 1793
Location: Western Kentucky-Climate Unpredictable Zone 6b
104
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Are you trying to teach them to forage for these foods or are they penned and your trying to supplement their diet?
 
Hugh Hawk
Posts: 225
Location: Adelaide, South Australia (Mediterranean climate)
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
They are penned but I throw in lots of greens for them most days which I pick off plants around the garden. They eat lots of different greens but I thought high protein feed like alfalfa & tree lucerne should be really good for them (they loooooove sunflower seeds). They just don't seem to recognise these leaves as a food right now, which is a pity because I have a lot available.
 
Tyler Ludens
pollinator
Pie
Posts: 8975
Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
132
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
It might take them a long time to finally begin eating the plant material, but I believe they will eventually become interested in it. When I first started putting alfalfa/lucerne hay in for the chickens, they didn't care about it, but now they seem to enjoy scratching at it and I think they are eating at least some of it. If not, they're turning it into compost.

It definitely helps to start them off as chicks feeding them different things like greens and bugs.

 
  • Post Reply
  • Bookmark Topic Watch Topic
  • New Topic