• Post Reply Bookmark Topic Watch Topic
  • New Topic
permaculture forums growies critters building homesteading energy monies kitchen purity ungarbage community wilderness fiber arts art permaculture artisans regional education skip experiences global resources cider press projects digital market permies.com pie forums private forums all forums
this forum made possible by our volunteer staff, including ...
master stewards:
  • r ranson
  • Anne Miller
  • paul wheaton
  • Pearl Sutton
stewards:
  • Beau Davidson
  • Nicole Alderman
  • Leigh Tate
master gardeners:
  • Carla Burke
  • John F Dean
  • Nancy Reading
  • Jay Angler
gardeners:
  • Jules Silverlock
  • Jordan Holland
  • Paul Fookes

Encouraging free ranging for baby chicks raised indoor

 
May Lotito
gardener
Posts: 816
Location: Zone 6b
579
forest garden fungi books chicken fiber arts ungarbage
  • Likes 11
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
    Number of slices to send:
    Optional 'thank-you' note:
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Since I free range my chickens, I'd like to see if baby chicks raised indoor without a hen could develope better when introduced to a free ranging style early in life. To do this, I started with day old chicks picked up from the hatchery. They were placed in a tub under a heat lamp with soil, compost and leaves as bedding. In addition to starter feed (18% protein), they were offered all kinds of foods: greens, bugs, grains ad fruits since day one. I measured their weights daily for four weeks and took note of their physical and behavioral developments.

The chicks are all Easter Eggers. Since they are mutts and there is no available breed specific growth chart for comparison, I listed the numbers here.

Age(d)-Min(g)-Max(g)-Avg(g)-Avg(oz)
1.                                     31.     1.1
2.           29.       44.         35.     1.2
7.           48.        75.         64.    2.3
14.        120.      158.      138.   4.9
21.        198.      243.      220.   7.8
28.        252.      330.      289.   10.2

Feather development and behavioral observations:

D1: eating foods besides starter feed
D2: scratching beddings, fighting for bugs
2nd week: craving for cruciferous veggies, wouldn't eat feed or bugs before fed greens first
D12: growing back feathers, jumping 1ft high to perch
D23: growing head feathers. going out door for the first time with temperature at 50s
D28: fully feathered, staying outdoor most of the day.
D30: Get rid of heat lamp. Perch to sleep on the edge of tub for long hours at night

From what I have read, typically baby chicks reach the same stage in 6 weeks so they are almost two weeks ahead. They look healthy and active, I am expecting them to acclimate to outdoor life smoothly for the coming winter.


       
 
May Lotito
gardener
Posts: 816
Location: Zone 6b
579
forest garden fungi books chicken fiber arts ungarbage
  • Likes 8
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
    Number of slices to send:
    Optional 'thank-you' note:
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Pictures are here.
D3.JPG
[Thumbnail for D3.JPG]
D8.JPG
[Thumbnail for D8.JPG]
D11.JPG
[Thumbnail for D11.JPG]
D17.JPG
[Thumbnail for D17.JPG]
D25.JPG
[Thumbnail for D25.JPG]
D28.JPG
[Thumbnail for D28.JPG]
D30.JPG
Rooster Pinky watching closely
Rooster Pinky watching closely
 
May Lotito
gardener
Posts: 816
Location: Zone 6b
579
forest garden fungi books chicken fiber arts ungarbage
  • Likes 9
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
    Number of slices to send:
    Optional 'thank-you' note:
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
A baby chick typically consumes 0.75 to 1 pound of feed per week in the first few weeks. My five chicks ate less than 5 lbs in four weeks total, so the feed reduction was about 80%. This number should be higher since there were actually quite a bit of feeds spilled and mixed with the bedding.  I dumped the bedding with waste feeds and chicken poops into an outdoor black soldier fly pile to recycle the nutrients.

The foods I gave to the chicks were from my garden, including:

Various cruciferous vegetables:
Napa cabbage has soft leaves that can be offered whole. The chicks ripped the leaves up in a few minutes
Rapini: abundant small florets for days old baby chicks
Broccoli: larger flower buds for weeks old chicks
Kale: large and tough leaves. Need to chop them into small pieces first

Nasturtium leaves and flowers

Bird feathers are made of beta keratin proteins that contain large proportion of cysteine to form the disulfide bonds. It's not surprising that baby chicks would seek food with the sulfur containing glucosinolates and they are mostly found in brassicas, as well as water cress and the related nasturtium.

Other greens/ fruits/ grains
Lettuce
Clover leaves
Tomatoes
Broomcorn
Goji berries
Crushed black walnut

Bugs:
mostly black soldier fly larvae with occasional black walnut worms and crickets
P1180489.JPG
[Thumbnail for P1180489.JPG]
P1180477.JPG
[Thumbnail for P1180477.JPG]
 
Matt McSpadden
pollinator
Posts: 579
Location: Central Maine (Zone 5a/4b)
163
homeschooling kids trees chicken woodworking
  • Likes 6
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
    Number of slices to send:
    Optional 'thank-you' note:
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Hi May,
This is an interesting experiment. I think it makes sense to give the chicks an experience closer to what a mother hen would give them. Of course if means you have to be the mother hen to bring all the stuff to them initially, but it makes sense.

It would be interesting to follow a brood of chicks with the mother hen and do the same observations. I wouldn't worry about weight so much as being in a brooder they are likely to get fatter than running around with mom all day. But I think the feathers growing in is interesting. It would also be interesting to try this at different times of year. Does the temperatures of the weather outside effect how fast the feathers grow in?
 
May Lotito
gardener
Posts: 816
Location: Zone 6b
579
forest garden fungi books chicken fiber arts ungarbage
  • Likes 5
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
    Number of slices to send:
    Optional 'thank-you' note:
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Hi Matt, I am rather new to chicken raising ( third time raising baby chicks) and no expert in poultry nutrition. But I try to read some research articles for a better understanding and find support for my speculation. It is very complicated, chicks need different nutrients at different stages and the excess or deprivation of certain nutrition could have an adverse effect.

In the premixed feed, the proportion of each ingredient is fixed and taking in too much food causes a burden to the liver and kidney. Chickens are smart. They seem to have a strong inclination to seek certain food, maybe it contains the most limiting ingredient the chicks need. It could be essential AA, vitamin, mineral or non essential AA that chicks can't keep up synthesizing. I just need to offer them lots of options and let their natural instinct tell them what to eat. Maybe that's how supplementing fresh greens and bugs besides starter feed made them grow faster. The chicken poops aslo had little ammonia smell due to a more balanced diet and less nutrition being wasted.
 
Jay Angler
master gardener
Posts: 8163
Location: Pacific Wet Coast
4001
duck books chicken cooking food preservation ungarbage
  • Likes 2
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
    Number of slices to send:
    Optional 'thank-you' note:
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I think it's also great that they could see the rooster while outside - that way they also see "chicken behaviors" that will help them as they grow.
 
May Lotito
gardener
Posts: 816
Location: Zone 6b
579
forest garden fungi books chicken fiber arts ungarbage
  • Likes 4
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
    Number of slices to send:
    Optional 'thank-you' note:
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator

Jay Angler wrote:I think it's also great that they could see the rooster while outside - that way they also see "chicken behaviors" that will help them as they grow.



I lost my hens and Carla was very nice to give me her roo Pinky. He is very sweet and he has been staying outside the fence for long hours watching the chicks in the past few days. He also made the soft calling when he found food. My baby chicks wouldn't eat food scraps like ground beef cooked or raw. I don't know if this an age issue or they need to learn from the older chicken. Tomorrow I am going to move the fence since they have stripped down the clovers and daikons. I will make the area bigger and let the roo inside with them.
 
Carla Burke
master gardener
Posts: 5660
2862
4
personal care gear foraging hunting rabbit chicken cooking food preservation fiber arts medical herbs homestead
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
    Number of slices to send:
    Optional 'thank-you' note:
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
May, I'm so happy Pinky is doing so well with the chicks, and he's obviously so much happier with you! All my roos are so sweet (since we got rid of the one jerk, back in May of this year!), but three was just one too many for my flock. I'm enjoying your experiment and observations, and hope you'll keep going with them - I'm learning a lot from you!
 
May Lotito
gardener
Posts: 816
Location: Zone 6b
579
forest garden fungi books chicken fiber arts ungarbage
  • Likes 3
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
    Number of slices to send:
    Optional 'thank-you' note:
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator

Matt McSpadden wrote:

It would be interesting to follow a brood of chicks with the mother hen and do the same observations. I wouldn't worry about weight so much as being in a brooder they are likely to get fatter than running around with mom all day. But I think the feathers growing in is interesting. It would also be interesting to try this at different times of year. Does the temperatures of the weather outside effect how fast the feathers grow in?



I understand that chicks raised indoor get less exercise than those roaming outdoor with mama hen. I tried to help them a bit by creating the mini deep litter system in the tub. When I gave them live black soldier fly larvae, the bugs quickly found cover before the chicks got them all. Then baby chicks learn to scratch around for more, that sure kept their mind and body busy.

The temperature outside is quite mild at 50-70f. It helped since they chick put less energy into maintaining body temperature. They ate a lot more greens and we're active all the time. They still gained weight at similar speed, maybe they were building more muscles than fat.

I did similar experiment two years ago in summer time. I didn't keep detailed record at that time about feather development.
 
May Lotito
gardener
Posts: 816
Location: Zone 6b
579
forest garden fungi books chicken fiber arts ungarbage
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
    Number of slices to send:
    Optional 'thank-you' note:
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I found the recordS for baby chicks I raised in June 2020 in a similar fashion. They were of multiple  breeds of RIR(sex-linked), unknown bantam, naked-neck and leghorn. Average day-old weight was 43g. I followed their weight measurements weekly till 4 months old. Although the absolute weight gain was meaningless, the relative weight gain showed that they were all growing in a similar pattern:
doubling in the first week, doubling again in the second week then gradually slowing down after that. By three months old, they reached half of the adult weights. My hens started laying shy of six months old and all of them were healthy as shown in my older photos.

I am wondering if the first couple weeks are really critical for chicks growing. If their nutrition needs are met they will get off a good start. Here I included the data for anyone interested.

Chicks      sex 1w 2w   3w   4w   5w   6w   8w.  12w. 16w  
Bantam.   F.    69. 125 198 292 360 394. 625   939 1066
RIR.           F.    79. 136.218 318 427 504 803.  1274 1500
Turban.     F.   80.  140.222 332 436 512 816. 1300. 1581
RIR.          M.   82. 150. 228 357 481 570 979. 1665. 2308
Leghorn.  F.    83. 150. 246. 379 506.598 946. 1498. 1880
RIR.          M.   85. 167. 280 422. 562 681 1145 1889 2520g


 
May Lotito
gardener
Posts: 816
Location: Zone 6b
579
forest garden fungi books chicken fiber arts ungarbage
  • Likes 4
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
    Number of slices to send:
    Optional 'thank-you' note:
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator

Carla Burke wrote:May, I'm so happy Pinky is doing so well with the chicks, and he's obviously so much happier with you! All my roos are so sweet (since we got rid of the one jerk, back in May of this year!), but three was just one too many for my flock. I'm enjoying your experiment and observations, and hope you'll keep going with them - I'm learning a lot from you!



I let the mingle today and the chicks were a bit scared by Pinky, he is a big roo near 8 lbs now. Two years ago I had fluffy baby chicks outdoor fenced in and a feral cat killed and injured some. I still have cats but I saw Pinky chasing them around. This time they didn't even get close to the chicks. I guess they got the idea the chicks were protected by Pinky and not to be messed with.
 
May Lotito
gardener
Posts: 816
Location: Zone 6b
579
forest garden fungi books chicken fiber arts ungarbage
  • Likes 4
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
    Number of slices to send:
    Optional 'thank-you' note:
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
My baby chicks turned six weeks two days ago. They weighted 1.1 pound or 500g on average and just started the second molting. At least two of them seem to be pullets and the others are still too young to tell.

In September I scattered various seeds for fall/winter ground cover and they took off when the summer crops were done. I let the chicks forage in a fenced area of about 40 sq ft and rotated once a week.
P1180705.JPG
Bok choy and rapini chicken pasture
Bok choy and rapini chicken pasture
P1180730.JPG
6 weeks old chicks
6 weeks old chicks
P1180737.JPG
Feeding on ground cover under peach tree
Feeding on ground cover under peach tree
 
May Lotito
gardener
Posts: 816
Location: Zone 6b
579
forest garden fungi books chicken fiber arts ungarbage
  • Likes 7
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
    Number of slices to send:
    Optional 'thank-you' note:
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Chickens turned two months old and now they free range all day. I am almost positive they are all pullets judging from the small combs and plumage patterns.
P1180872.JPG
9 weeks old 1.5 to 2lbs in weight
9 weeks old 1.5 to 2lbs in weight
P1180828.JPG
Two splashes, one blue, one black one orange
Two splashes, one blue, one black one orange
P1180841.JPG
[Thumbnail for P1180841.JPG]
 
Faye Streiff
pollinator
Posts: 239
Location: Appalachian Mountains
105
  • Likes 2
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
    Number of slices to send:
    Optional 'thank-you' note:
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
May,  
  All I can say is GOOD JOB!  You are an inspiration for the rest of us.  Detailed records like you keep proves the method works.  It is what the rest of us are striving for.  
 
Carla Burke
master gardener
Posts: 5660
2862
4
personal care gear foraging hunting rabbit chicken cooking food preservation fiber arts medical herbs homestead
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
    Number of slices to send:
    Optional 'thank-you' note:
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Oh, the girls are SO PRETTY!!! Pinky must be strutting around, proud as a peacock, with that beautiful little flock!
 
May Lotito
gardener
Posts: 816
Location: Zone 6b
579
forest garden fungi books chicken fiber arts ungarbage
  • Likes 2
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
    Number of slices to send:
    Optional 'thank-you' note:
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator

Carla Burke wrote:Oh, the girls are SO PRETTY!!! Pinky must be strutting around, proud as a peacock, with that beautiful little flock!


Pinky no longer chased them down, maybe he realized they were not ready yet. They just stay together roaming in the yard.
P1180875.JPG
Roo and chicks getting along well
Roo and chicks getting along well
 
Thekla McDaniels
gardener
Posts: 2560
Location: Somewhere about 100 miles north east of Redding California
386
4
  • Likes 2
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
    Number of slices to send:
    Optional 'thank-you' note:
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Nice work, May.

I think this is the prettiest stage of a chicken’s life.  Brand new bright colored adult plumage😊.  

All grown up, they’re “big girls” now. sweet, sweet, sweet.

Thanks for sharing the process, records and photos.

Have you named them?
 
cynda williams
Posts: 46
19
  • Likes 3
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
    Number of slices to send:
    Optional 'thank-you' note:
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
You have given the chicks exactly what they need to learn to forage without the guidance of a broody hen. I have raised chicks with and without a broody hen. I always pulled clumps of grass and included the roots when I tossed extra treats into their area. After raising about 100 day-olds (shipped in), I had many of the Buff Orpington pullets go broody at about 8 months of age. I have found this is common with hatchery chicks...especially Buff Orpingtons. So, I used this opportunity to give the broody hens their own clutches. It's so much easier but you do have to watch what is going on with the newly hatched chicks. The addition of soldier fly larvae or meal worms is why your chick's feathers grew faster. Protein is the number one factor necessary for rapid feather growth. Just chick feed or grower feed doesn't have the protein sources that soldier fly larvae or meal worms have.

If you have a hen that decides that late December is her time to molt and she drops all her feathers when the temps are below freezing, do you put a sweater on her  or feed her high protein? The protein choice is the right one! If you know someone or you hunt, you can offer venison, any hamburg meat, small pieces of meat (please, no poultry!) to add to the protein intake. Soldier fly larvae and meal worms are a good addition, too!!!

Feathers and eggs are produced with protein. This is a fact. A hen can't grow good feathers while she lays eggs. There's not enough protein in their "normal" diet to help provide enough of what it takes to grow good feathers. This is one reason why sex-link chickens will continue to lay shell-less eggs while they grow new feathers. I had this issue with some Red Sex Links I bought in as day-olds. They started to molt but didn't stop laying eggs. The eggs had no shells and the eggs broke in the egg nest boxes. This began egg eating, the other hens discovered the broken eggs and I had to cull the egg eaters. I would never own any Red Sex Links again.

Black sex links are different. From my experience, they molt and stop laying eggs. They drop and grow good feathers before they start laying again. They are good egg producers.

After a molt, the hens will often lay larger eggs and not every day. Hens have a determined number of eggs when they hatch. These eggs rotate down in clutches. Once these clutches have been exhausted, there are no more eggs for the hen to lay.

Choosing the right breed of hens depends on what you want from the birds. If you just want egg production and don't care about the molt, will cull and buy in new chicks every year, then buy Red Sex Links. If you want a flock that will continue to produce eggs on a regular basis and keep them through the molt, then look for Heritage Breeds or large birds. Red Sex Links don't have much to their bodies and don't make good stewing hens. They weigh about 3-4# where a good heavy breed hen will weigh up to 6#. A better choice for a great chicken soup!
 
Cristobal Cristo
Posts: 100
Location: Sierra Nevada foothills, 350 m, USDA 8b, sunset zone 7
13
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
    Number of slices to send:
    Optional 'thank-you' note:
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Cynda,

Do you know how long the molting lasts? My 3 chickens stopped at the beginning of October and still no eggs. I'm feeding them and start to consider that chickens are not sustainable for me - the low amount of eggs I get does not balance the money I spend on feed.
 
Carla Burke
master gardener
Posts: 5660
2862
4
personal care gear foraging hunting rabbit chicken cooking food preservation fiber arts medical herbs homestead
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
    Number of slices to send:
    Optional 'thank-you' note:
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator

Cristobal Cristo wrote:Cynda,

Do you know how long the molting lasts? My 3 chickens stopped at the beginning of October and still no eggs. I'm feeding them and start to consider that chickens are not sustainable for me - the low amount of eggs I get does not balance the money I spend on feed.



These threads might help:
https://permies.com/t/166541/keeping-chickens-save-money
https://permies.com/t/109708/Chicken-diet-commercial-feed
https://permies.com/wiki/113664/Reducing-bagged-food-poultry
 
May Lotito
gardener
Posts: 816
Location: Zone 6b
579
forest garden fungi books chicken fiber arts ungarbage
  • Likes 2
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
    Number of slices to send:
    Optional 'thank-you' note:
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator

Thekla McDaniels wrote:Nice work, May.

I think this is the prettiest stage of a chicken’s life.  Brand new bright colored adult plumage😊.  

All grown up, they’re “big girls” now. sweet, sweet, sweet.

Thanks for sharing the process, records and photos.

Have you named them?



They are Rocky(black), Red Head( orange), Road Runner(blue), Goosie(white with big speckles) and Silkie (smaller white one).
 
May Lotito
gardener
Posts: 816
Location: Zone 6b
579
forest garden fungi books chicken fiber arts ungarbage
  • Likes 2
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
    Number of slices to send:
    Optional 'thank-you' note:
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Hi Cynda, when you ordered 100 chicks, were they straight run? How did the roo: pullet ratio come out? I got these five straight run so it's lucky to have all pullets. I read about some one got all roos in a batch of over forty chicks.
 
Carla Burke
master gardener
Posts: 5660
2862
4
personal care gear foraging hunting rabbit chicken cooking food preservation fiber arts medical herbs homestead
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
    Number of slices to send:
    Optional 'thank-you' note:
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Cynda, May is spot on, plus even if they're all females, their age and breed can make a big difference, too. Some breeds start laying sooner, some later, some naturally lay more, some less. Young pullets who molt before they start laying often take substantially longer to begin laying. Older birds laying can slow down anyway, and molting can slow them even more.
 
Cécile Stelzer Johnson
pollinator
Posts: 964
Location: zone 4b, sandy, Continental D
290
  • Likes 2
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
    Number of slices to send:
    Optional 'thank-you' note:
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Kudos, May, on the growth of your eggers!.  They look wonderful and are developing perfectly.
In zone 4 Wisconsin, I feel that I may have the 'opposite' problem: I have some wonderful foragers. They are Sapphire gem pullets and are known for being good foragers.
However, I have never seen chickens eat so little feed. I was getting this feed from Tractor supply and supplementing with treats. That feed was recommended for their age and function, so I'm confused. For the last 2 weeks now, they have had that feed in the trough and are not touching it. so I tossed it and placed a little more of it in the trough, thinking maybe it is old [not moldy, but just old].
Same thing. They won't touch it. Before too long, we will have snow on the ground, and they won't have anything to eat outside! they do eat corn, whole or cracked, look down at my rye, so I tossed that too in their yard, figuring it may sprout in the spring, and then they might eat it.. They are pecking at a turkey block and seem fond of wild bird seed, especially the kind called "fruit and nuts". Heavy on peanuts and little red dehydrated fruit? I get it at Fleet Farm, but it is a bit pricey.
They look good otherwise: nice plumage. Shiny. Alert! They can fly 30 ft  and about 5 ft+ in the air. They seem to eat an inordinate amount of grit and oyster shell though. [You would think that would weigh them down, but no! Technically, if they find the lower part of the fence, they could fly out]
They are 19 weeks old and should be just about ready to start laying. 2 crouched in front of me today to get petted, so I know they are getting close.
I have never had this kind before and I'm not sure what to do. Obviously, change the feed, but,  to what? and beyond that?
They have a coop plus a "winter run", and beyond that, a yard where they love to scratch... Not that there is a lot for them there, now that everything is frozen and dead... I found one of them munching on a white pine that is sticking inside of their yard run. Maybe they want something green.
Kroger has some less than perfect lettuce and squash etc. Maybe I will get them some and see how they react to it. They did eat the Halloween pumpkins. We killed a deer and they are eating the scraps.
Any advice for me, dear Permies? Do any of you have Sapphire gems? what's their behavior with you? I should add that they poop pencil thin and I don't see how they will lay about 300 big brown eggs/ year...
I had meat chickens before, and the difference could not be more pronounced. Help.
Oh, another thing: although they are not really "molting", meaning they are not running around half naked, their coop is littered with feathers. They have me completely bamboozled.
I've had a variety of chickens before: Orpingtons, Australorps, Rhode Island Reds, White leghorn cross, Isa Browns.
This one seems a bit smaller and refuse regular feed.
 
May Lotito
gardener
Posts: 816
Location: Zone 6b
579
forest garden fungi books chicken fiber arts ungarbage
  • Likes 4
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
    Number of slices to send:
    Optional 'thank-you' note:
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Hi Cecile, my old flocks wouldn't eat chicken feed, even the most expensive one in the store. They foraged, eating kitchen scraps, sunflower seeds and cat food instead. They laid eggs normally so I let them be. They were of different kinds: bantam, RIR, naked-neck, black-tailed etc. So it wasn't a breed specific issue in my case.
Maybe you can get more help starting a new thread on the topic.
 
J. Adams
Posts: 73
9
  • Likes 3
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
    Number of slices to send:
    Optional 'thank-you' note:
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I think giving any farm animal from chicks to rabbits to cows a large diversity to choose from is really important from the start. They have amazing instincts, and will go for more greens if that's currently necessary, then later may seek out more seeds or grains, or even certain herbs they usually avoid but may be temporarily medicinal.

As a kid I lived in town with a large backyard. I raised ducklings without special feed, and instead on boiled eggs, cottage cheese, dandelion greens, and we would go on hunts together with me lifting large rocks and they grabbing at bugs and getting sand for grit. (I'm not recommending that diet today but they did grow up very healthy, most likely the bugs and grit were important components to help the other stuff digest). As adults they adored dandelion greens above any other greens in our lawn and attacked and ate them like piranha. At the time it was great because my parents didn't want dandelions in the lawn and they really kept them in check.

In later years on a farm raising ducklings, I gave them handfuls of mixed pasture greens to peck at but didn't keep it to only dandelion greens. As adults they liked all greens equally... grasses, clover, a bit of dandelion. I've heard others say they have taught young farm animals to eat specific weeds by getting them to favor them while they're young.

But getting them to eat specific weeds isn't as important as their health and an otherwise diversified diet while young and not able to free range.
 
cynda williams
Posts: 46
19
  • Likes 4
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
    Number of slices to send:
    Optional 'thank-you' note:
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Hey Cristobel,

The molt takes up to 100 days. As I stated in my post, more protein in the diet will assist in new feather growth. If you do your research, you will find out how long the molt lasts. It depends on the breed and health of the bird. Yes, if you are in the chicken business for production, you will look for Red Sex Links (sometimes called Red Comets). They begin laying at about 4 months and will be exhausted after about 8-10 months of laying. You will have to buy in new chicks four months before the molt is due in the mature flock. There really isn't money in raising chickens for eggs unless you want the entertainment of free-range chickens and excellent eggs.
 
cynda williams
Posts: 46
19
  • Likes 4
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
    Number of slices to send:
    Optional 'thank-you' note:
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Hey Mary,

I got straight run chicks. I was lucky in that the order of 250 was split three ways. I originally kept two roos, both Americaunas. One was a multi-colored one, the other was red & white. I ordered large breed birds and am glad of that choice. I learned that I don't like Rhode Island Reds, love Buff Orpingtons & Black Sex Links. I didn't like the Wyandottes, they proved to be poor layers and prone to disease. I also love Black Austrolorps. Then I became educated about rare & endangered breeds. I found some Dominiques. They look a lot like Barred Rocks but have pea or rose combs. They are pretty good layers as well as excellent for cooking. They have white flesh and are agreeable birds. Then I discovered Dorkings. These birds are almost wild in nature. They have five toes and are lovely birds. But my fav of all are Buckeyes! Their color resemble Rhode Island Reds but also have a rose comb. They grow large and are very calm, friendly and easy birds. Those of you out in the mid west might find good breeders of these lovely birds. Buckeyes are the only breed of bird that was created by a woman in Ohio who wanted a bird who would tolerate the weather conditions in Ohio.

Beginner chicken raisers (I call it chicken ranching) should try a mixed breed flock at first. Then observe their behavior from day 1...figuring out which are the more aggressive towards other birds. Americaunas are a nice bird but don't grow very large in comparison to a Black Austrolorp but lay colored eggs. A nice addition to a dozen of eggs. Also nice at Easter time. No dying needed!

I sold my Rhode Island Reds at 90 days. They were too aggressive and I didn't like that. I wanted a flock that wasn't divided into cliques! But I am totally in love with Buckeyes. There is a website for them online. You may find some breeders online of rare and endangered birds. If you are going to raise birds for your farm, a dual purpose bird is always nice.
 
Carla Burke
master gardener
Posts: 5660
2862
4
personal care gear foraging hunting rabbit chicken cooking food preservation fiber arts medical herbs homestead
  • Likes 2
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
    Number of slices to send:
    Optional 'thank-you' note:
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I started with Buff Orpingtons (raised as my babies, in my living room, lol), and have added Black Austrolorps (snuck into a broody Buff's nest), Barred Rock(also snuck into a broody Buff's nest), more Buffs (raised by hand, but in a much more hands-off way), and most recently, was given a few Golden Comet pullets, this past spring. All four breeds of hens have proven to be very gentle, even though only our first batch of BOs were the only ones we raised by hand. The first batch we got as a straight run were the Barred Rock, then the second round of Buffs. We ended up with 2 roos from each of those, and only one was not nice - the bully was a Buff, and was downright mean to everyone, including us, the dogs, the ducks, turkeys, even the goats, ensuring himself a premature demise.

On egg production, they're all fairly high producers, imho, but we had a much hotter and dryer summer, this year, plus a lot of predator pressure, in addition to the bully roo. The stress on my birds was apparent, in greatly reduced, then nonexistent production, from about early August, into mid-autumn. My birds began laying a good month earlier than my neighbor's more thoroughly mixed flock, though, and are now up to pretty much their normal production rates. Given that my 4 oldest girls are still laying, at 3.5yrs old, and the youngest only first began laying about a month ago, I'm thinking a 12/day average, out of a total of 17 hens isn't a bad rate. The Comet's eggs are quite a bit smaller than the others - maybe 50-70% as big as the others, but they're laying pretty consistently.
 
May Lotito
gardener
Posts: 816
Location: Zone 6b
579
forest garden fungi books chicken fiber arts ungarbage
  • Likes 3
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
    Number of slices to send:
    Optional 'thank-you' note:
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I got my chicks from Cackle Hatchery in Missouri two days before the season ended. They sold out of most chicks at the time so I had no choice with either black Australorp or Easter egger. I didn't want to name them Thing 1, Thing 2 and Thing 3 for all black birds so I picked EE. Glad to find out on their website that EEs are good foragers. The hatchery carries buckeyes too, recommending them for free ranging.  I initially plan on getting some buckeyes next spring, they do look very amazing.
 
May Lotito
gardener
Posts: 816
Location: Zone 6b
579
forest garden fungi books chicken fiber arts ungarbage
  • Likes 4
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
    Number of slices to send:
    Optional 'thank-you' note:
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator

J. Adams wrote:I think giving any farm animal from chicks to rabbits to cows a large diversity to choose from is really important from the start. They have amazing instincts, and will go for more greens if that's currently necessary, then later may seek out more seeds or grains, or even certain herbs they usually avoid but may be temporarily medicinal.



Hi, J you are right about animals get the instincts for foods. I was quite amazed the day old chicks started eating BSF larvae minutes later they got home. The big roo, he probably never seen one before, took a couple days to find out the larvae were yummy when I first offered him. That prompted me to introduce a large variety of food sources to young chicks, maybe they have better acceptance at this age and will be better at finding foods when they grow up.
 
Deedee Dezso
pioneer
Posts: 369
Location: So Cal - Inland Empire
83
2
foraging rabbit books fiber arts medical herbs homestead
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
    Number of slices to send:
    Optional 'thank-you' note:
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator

Cristobal Cristo wrote:Cynda,

Do you know how long the molting lasts? My 3 chickens stopped at the beginning of October and still no eggs. I'm feeding them and start to consider that chickens are not sustainable for me - the low amount of eggs I get does not balance the money I spend on feed.



What breed? How old were they when you got them? How old are they now? What are you feeding this flock?

All these things play a part in the production of laying hens. Some breeds lay more eggs overall. Some breeds stop laying in winter (it's mostly a daylight thing), while others will lay through winter. If you got adult birds of unknown age, they might be past their prime and are only suitable to go to freezer camp. If they were chicks when you got them, refer to the breed and the breeds habits. (A whole lot can be learned by reading through the offerings of the hatcheries one might get chicks from, even if you never order from them!) And as others here have already mentioned, a higher rate of protein will help with both feathers and eggs.

I read somewhere that if you do any hunting, tossing the flock a small rodent periodically during winter will help them because they need the protein. When I've had mouse or rat traps (snap type so no poison), I've tossed the dead critter to the hens. They then chase each other around trying to capture the resource from each other, and whack the body on the ground to break the bones so it will go down easier! It's simultaneously hilarious and gruesome!

Another tactic you could employ is to allow them to free range for at least a few hours each day. What they can forage for themselves will cut back on your feed bill.

I've always added a good amount of BOSS (black oil sunflower seeds) to my chickens daily rations. It increases the protein, but also helps prevent prolapsed vent (the vent being where the egg exits the body, prolapse being the insides sticking out, in simplest terms).

You can also add various cooked meats to their diet during the cold of winter to help them, and on the coldest winter nights, for their afternoon feed I have made up oatmeal, and fed them that to help them stay warmer overnight. It doesn't add protein, but it does keep them warm.

Before you decide to abandon chickens, I hope you will try a few of these tactics. For me, chickens have been good company and entertainment over and above the work they have done in the garden (during non-crop times), and the eggs they have provided my household.

ON TOPIC: When I've raised my day-olds in the kitchen, I've added some natural soil, and some veggies to assist them in learning what to do for foraging! I knew I wanted them to be garden workers, helping me turn the soil, eat the buggies, work in the leaves and compost!
As adults they did a wonderful job and keeping them out during crop growing was more the problem because they went for the things I wanted for myself and not so much the buggies, though I'm sure I had less bugs for their efforts!
 
Thekla McDaniels
gardener
Posts: 2560
Location: Somewhere about 100 miles north east of Redding California
386
4
  • Likes 3
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
    Number of slices to send:
    Optional 'thank-you' note:
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
To encourage the chicks (or fickle hens) to peck at food, I use poppy seeds, any small speck will do, I think chickens have a reflex for pecking at small specks, they can’t not!  

If you have pale monotonous mash or pellets, then even some color contrasting sand will do.

My hens used to turn up their noses (beaks?) when only powder remained.  I kept a tub under the hanging feeder, and all the unexciting food collected there.  They wasted a lot!  So I would mix a little water in to the powdery remains, and mix in some speckles (poppy seed , flax seed, chopped radish or lettuce). They ate a lot more of the feed.

And these silly things had plenty of forage time truly free range, I used to let them out in the late morning, they went to bed at dusk.

Only a short ramble off topic.
 
Thekla McDaniels
gardener
Posts: 2560
Location: Somewhere about 100 miles north east of Redding California
386
4
  • Likes 3
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
    Number of slices to send:
    Optional 'thank-you' note:
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator

Cristobal Cristo wrote:Cynda,

Do you know how long the molting lasts? My 3 chickens stopped at the beginning of October and still no eggs. I'm feeding them and start to consider that chickens are not sustainable for me - the low amount of eggs I get does not balance the money I spend on feed.



Cristobal, they may not begin laying again until after the days lengthen  (if you are in the northern hemisphere)

The thread recommended above about whether or not it’s economical to keep chickens will lend perspective to the chickens taking a break, moulting or winter related.  Maybe you have already read it 😊 but your question here on this thread is “eternal “.
 
Cristobal Cristo
Posts: 100
Location: Sierra Nevada foothills, 350 m, USDA 8b, sunset zone 7
13
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
    Number of slices to send:
    Optional 'thank-you' note:
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator

Cindy Haskin wrote:What breed? How old were they when you got them? How old are they now? What are you feeding this flock?
!



Cindy,

Two are buff Orpingtons and one is blue Andalusian. Andalusians I bought in 2021 and raised from chicks - from 15 only 3 survived: one hen and two very aggressive roosters. Orpingtons I bought when they were 4 months old, out of 7 3 survived and then one recently was killed by some predator. All my birds free roam entire property, but in summer there is not much they can find in rock hard, insect devoid soil. Also 3 months of over 95 F temperatures finished with over 105 heat probably did not help either. I feed them organic scratch and layers feeds from Tractor Supply plus kitchen leftovers (not much). For the second time I planted 0.2 Ha (half an acre) of winter wheat and winter rye, hoping if the grains develop I will have something to make flour and enough seeds for supplemental feed. 2021 planting did not produce mature seeds, because I got only 11" of rain and winter wheat needs at least 16. At least my sheep really enjoyed the tasty stalks for 5 months.

I have 14 more hens that I purchased in April and they should start laying soon.

Chickens need to be supplemented to be successful layers and I have problems growing anything, even in very small amounts. That's why I consider them unsustainable, but will still keep them, because they are beautiful birds, and more intelligent than people think.
 
Cob is sand, clay and sometimes straw. This tiny ad is made of cob:
Explore the possibilities: Permies.com where you can work from home, on the road and on the farm
https://permies.com/wiki/209054/Explore-possibilities-Permies-work-home
reply
    Bookmark Topic Watch Topic
  • New Topic