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supplement feed: free range chickens?

 
alex jackson
Posts: 32
Location: Italy
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Do i need to grain feed my free range chickens or will they get all the nutrients they need with free ranging? I guess this could differ from winter to summer.
When we got them a year ago we were advised to go with a typical all in one grain feed for layers. This was obviously a nasty concoction of GM's which we stopped giving after a month.We then went on to something a bit more natural although i am not convinced,plus it is processed and expensive.
Our chooks have always free ranged and wondered if the food they forage is enough for them to give us regular eggs. If i were to supplement them, is there a feed i can make up myself, maybe a mash or something inexpensive, maybe something with leftover pasta or rice,oats,food scraps,that sort of thing? I have thought about growing my own grains but i do see this as being very time consuming at the present time


permaital.
 
Leila Rich
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Posts: 3999
Location: Wellington, New Zealand. Temperate, coastal, sandy, windy,
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It depends
How many chickens on how much, and what kind of land?
Generally speaking, unless you have a great system already, or few chickens and plenty of insects, you're more than likely need additional feed.
Chickens need protein, and plenty of it.

Dry grains aren't very nutritious, but sprouting them unlocks all sorts of goodies, for free!
 
Ernie Schmidt
Posts: 81
Location: Olympia, Washington
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Alex,
I agree with Leila, you would really have to have an incredible amount of forage and just a few chickens. The general method I use to provide supplemental feed for my free range layers- I open the chicken shed in the morning and leave it open all day. I have my feeders hanging on cords, I pull them up high enough to so the chickens can’t reach them, leave the waterers in place on the floor. The girls spend the day coming and going drinking and laying eggs in the shed. Then about an hour or two before it gets dark, I lower the feeders to give them all a chance to top off with feed before roosting. Then I usually collect the eggs when I go out in the dark to close up the shed. A light in the shed is really great, even if you string it in with an extension cord. Believe me Alex it wouldn’t be long before your girls know what it means when they see you walking into the shed in the evening. I do it this way mostly for predator protection at night. The best piece of advice I can give “free rangers” is to chicken proof the vegetable garden, trust me on that one. I do have a high strong tight fence around the vegetable garden. I designed the chicken shed set up to allow the chickens access into the garden in the fall after harvest. I have them run in the garden all winter. That first day of opening the garden in the Fall for them is like chicken Christmas.
 
alex jackson
Posts: 32
Location: Italy
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Thank you both for the replies. We only have 3 chickens at the present time as its all we need for our egg supply for two people.The chooks have pretty much free range of about one hectare including woodland but not the vegetable garden. Our climate is very long hot summers and short cold winters. Protein does not seem to be a problem as its bugs a plenty here unless we have snow or ice. Lots of grass hoppers, lizards, spiders,ticks (once even a 10" snake) over the summer months and an abundance of worms over the winter. There is also always plenty of greens around as they always seem to be stuffing there faces with something.

I like the idea of having the grain feeder on a cord to hoist up in the day time. This would stop them eating the grain just for sake of it when they return to the shed for water.I then could lower it down in the evening for a feed before they turn in, this would certainly cut down there consumption and save me money but then again would they need a supplement at all? which i guess brings me on to my original question.
 
Ken Peavey
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Posts: 2523
Location: FL
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My girls free range.
They have access to several compost heaps of various age and give the heaps a fair amount of attention. The compost provides an environment for worms, grubs, larvae and all manner of insects. It's a high protein feed that costs nothing, takes a little time to put together, and offers feed continuously for months.
The heaps do not freeze where I am. If they did, they might need a bit of tossing now and then to give the hens better access through the hard crust. Therr is a good chance the core would be warm enough to still harbor an insect population, even in a cold winter.
 
Ernie Schmidt
Posts: 81
Location: Olympia, Washington
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Hi Alex,
To answer your question- you probably wouldn't have to "feed" your chickens under those conditions. The only suggestion I would make is feed them a bit of something like grain or laying mash in their shed in the evenings to "ground" them to the shed. Sometimes free range chickens that aren't grounded to their shed, begin to roost in trees and laying eggs in the brush. If you don't want to feed commerical chicken food to ground them, try emptying your kitchen scraps into their shed each evenings. I call kitchen scraps, "chicken candy"
 
Rita Lloyd
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Hi there,although I helped my dad with his chickens, about 8 in quite a small back garden, that was 50 years ago, some things seem the same, but I guess much has changed! My Dad's garden was not big enough to allow total free range but they had a plenty big enough run and they were fed well, with plenty of opportunity to scratch and peck. We intend eventually having 9 Dorking Hens (just 2 at the moment) 1 Cockerel and 2 Dewlap Toulouse geese. (So we have 3 We are surrounded on 3 sides by a river and have sectioned off a part for the geese which they love.Will the best part of 3 wild acres be enough for all 12 (eventually) to graze and feed on or will we still need to supplement them? I have already bought organic laying pellets, as we have kept them in a smaller fenced off section where their coop is and we kept restricted until they got used to their new home, which they have now.I have been giving them some organic whole oats sometimes, and grit and ground egg shells mixed in with their pellets and some food quality DE. Will best part of 3 acres covered in long,long grass which has gone to seed, reeds and ferns,we get some slugs and snails, frogs, toads etc. What if anything extra should we give them?? These have already grounded themselves into their coop, plus their wings are clipped. The idea about letting out to graze and lowering their feed, or feeding them an hour or two before bed time sounds good. Do we need to do that.can chickens,or geese eat too much for their own good, or do they stop when full? Would they get enough grit and calcium just around the fields? They will also have access to very shallow, even in bad weather, streams here and there somay have no need to come back to their coop for water.
 
Julia Weeks-Bentley
Posts: 17
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Hi Alex, No...I do not give them anything during warm weather because they are free ranging on several acres, have a creek in the woods they love...eat bugs and insects all day LOL. They are huge and healthy (I have 34) and when the weather gets colder and they free range less, I do give them feed. Their protein comes from the bugs.






alex jackson wrote:Do i need to grain feed my free range chickens or will they get all the nutrients they need with free ranging? I guess this could differ from winter to summer.
When we got them a year ago we were advised to go with a typical all in one grain feed for layers. This was obviously a nasty concoction of GM's which we stopped giving after a month.We then went on to something a bit more natural although i am not convinced,plus it is processed and expensive.
Our chooks have always free ranged and wondered if the food they forage is enough for them to give us regular eggs. If i were to supplement them, is there a feed i can make up myself, maybe a mash or something inexpensive, maybe something with leftover pasta or rice,oats,food scraps,that sort of thing? I have thought about growing my own grains but i do see this as being very time consuming at the present time


permaital.
 
Denisa Danne
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Do any of you have problems with hawks? We haven't gotten any chickens yet but we will as soon as we move. Our friends in the same area are having trouble with hawks eating their chicks and smaller chickens. How can you get them to be free range? Just building a huge area with chicken wire? Thanks!
 
Julia Weeks-Bentley
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Not yet but it is something I worry about. But you know, I figure free ranging is worth it for what I get (and save) in return even if I lose a few (surprised I haven't yet) They hatch chicks and I figure it will take the place of any that goes missing LOL


Denisa Danne wrote:Do any of you have problems with hawks? We haven't gotten any chickens yet but we will as soon as we move. Our friends in the same area are having trouble with hawks eating their chicks and smaller chickens. How can you get them to be free range? Just building a huge area with chicken wire? Thanks!
 
Guerric Kendall
Posts: 102
Location: zone 6a, NY
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chicken duck forest garden
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This depends on what you have to give them.
A lawn full of grass? They will need food. Chickens can't survive on grass and the rare bug in it.
A forest with plenty of trees? They can go through the whole summer without supplemental feeding, providing you've got the right breeds and they are eased into it.
Chickens in a forest will soon instinctively know what to do. Hide in trees for ground creatures. Hide in bushes for birds of prey. They scratch among fallen leaves for grit, worms, bugs, etc... They know which forest plants to eat and which not to. And they will also eat small things like mice, moles, nontoxic wild berries, snails, and much more. It's amazing how much chickens can find to eat!
 
Julia Weeks-Bentley
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By the way, you can give them pasta or whatever scraps you have. I throw scraps to them almost daily (left overs and all) and chickens also eat small rodents and even snakes. Mine were all over this poor snake that made it into the barn....but he was a lil guy LOL. You know, our Grandparents free ranged and so on and so on. It really depends on how much land you have to do it. If mine were caged, I would have to feed them regularly and the cost would not be worth it to me. I'd have to cut back somewhere. I seldom feed mine (other then food scraps) except during really cold weather and the amount of eggs I get is more then enough for my family and I sell quite a bit. Many people tell me their chickens stop laying in the winter but mine continue to lay and I think it is because they have the free range option year round, even in the winter when I do supplement their feed. A good way to really tell if the free ranging is all the feed necessary is to pay attention to the chickens. Mine are really huge and they are active. I am getting LOTS of eggs. If in doubt, make sure you put feed out for them.



. If i were to supplement them, is there a feed i can make up myself, maybe a mash or something inexpensive, maybe something with leftover pasta or rice,oats,food scraps,that sort of thing? I have thought about growing my own grains but i do see this as being very time consuming at the present time


permaital.
 
Julia Weeks-Bentley
Posts: 17
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This might be worth mentioning but I keep a huge compost pile going in the barn year round and the chickens LOVE that. And it keeps the barn warm....smells quite a bit thought
 
Guerric Kendall
Posts: 102
Location: zone 6a, NY
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chicken duck forest garden
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Julia Weeks-Bentley wrote:This might be worth mentioning but I keep a huge compost pile going in the barn year round and the chickens LOVE that. And it keeps the barn warm....smells quite a bit thought

I've been thinking of trying this for a while, but wouldn't the chickens scratch it all over the place? They did that with all the outdoor piles I've started, unless fenced.
 
Julia Weeks-Bentley
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Yes they do and I go in and rake it all up in a pile the best I can when I am doing morning chores....takes only about ten minutes to rake it into a half way decent pile. I assume little insects and stuff live in during the winter even just because they are eating something LOL....my garden loves it too I mean I have to clean out the goats pen and rake up from the rabbits so everything I rake up just goes into the compost pile. It was pretty chilly this morning and I was just amazed at how warm that Barn was...and it is a big ol pole barn!



Guerric Kendall wrote:
Julia Weeks-Bentley wrote:This might be worth mentioning but I keep a huge compost pile going in the barn year round and the chickens LOVE that. And it keeps the barn warm....smells quite a bit thought

I've been thinking of trying this for a while, but wouldn't the chickens scratch it all over the place? They did that with all the outdoor piles I've started, unless fenced.
 
Angelika Maier
Posts: 690
Location: cool climate, Blue Mountains, Australia
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I feed some grainy mixture scraps and old bread. If you have a lot of space scaps and old bread should be enough. You can pick it up at a bakery.
 
Thomas Marlow
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If you live near a brewery or distillery, they are usually happy to let you fill up a 5 gallon plastic bucket full of the spent mash. I know chickens, pigs, cows love that stuff.
 
Matu Collins
Posts: 1969
Location: Southern New England, seaside, avg yearly rainfall 41.91 in, zone 6b
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bee books chicken forest garden fungi trees
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One of my new weed control strategies is to let them get tall and go to seed and bring them to the run that way. Bedding and food all at once! I started with grass but now am experimenting with different weeds. It's helping me to observe the plants carefully to see when the seeds seem ripe, and then observe which seeds the chickens get excited about

I have to be careful about giving the chickens all the household "compost" because it seems that too much of one thing can give them digestive upset. It's no fun having chicken poop all over, but chicken diarrhea is worse!
 
I agree. Here's the link: https://richsoil.com/wood-heat.jsp
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