I've been feeding my birds forever. Our property isn't great. Still, this spring I think it is time to stop. We have done enough that they should be able to forage just fine. Still, should I slowly decrease feed so they aren't shocked about it, or should I just stop?
(I will feed when it is cold, but that is all (at least that is the plan.))
I would gradually diminish the supplement. If the birds are laying the number of eggs should tell you if they are getting enough nutrition.....any drastic reduction or toxicity in the food will make them diminish or quit laying within a couple of days. If they have enough space, and the predators don't get them, they may do fine, provided there are not so many that they overuse the forage area while still returning to an enclosure at night. A movable enclosure enables them to utilize more area. If you want eggs you may need to keep them penned for a few hours of the morning so they will lay there rather than out in the bush where you can't find the eggs......
Interesting, I was thinking about this myself not too long ago. Along with my discovery this winter that chickens will and do eat snow for moisture if there's no liquid water available, I keep thinking that I should set myself up so my land can support chickens free-range on no feed, at least during the spring and summer. Possibly even winter if I plan things right, although I'd for sure have to supplement with feed when we've got a heavy snow cover. But this winter even with a lot of snow out, my chickens were out and about every day, they rarely stayed in the coop unless it was pouring (but even then they preferred to come out to the house and hang out on the back porch. ALso got me thinking about ways to collect water so they always have some available, set up a catch system from the coop roof or something.
Just me and my kids, off griddin' it - follow along our shenanigans at our YouTube Uncle Dutch Farms.
the reasons I don't let mine totally roam
they eat my garden (I have a larger year around garden)
they poop on my porch and not on the boards i have to catch it so i can use it as fertilizer( I get about a 5 gallon bucket a day to use)
my neighbors think it's OK for them to have 5+ dogs each and let them roam to my house for chicken dinner and take a poop in my yard (regular rotation sss)
wouldn't get any eggs ( I sell most of them to help pay for feed,I use some and give some let some sit to make more chickens.)
they turn my compost(I get leaves from different places and have a bagger mower they turn this into good stuff quickly )
so I get a lot from them for feed and yes they could do some of this without feed but then you loose your control on the out come
the reasons I would like to are probably the same as you .
we don't have a problem with lack of water we have a problem with mismanagement
beavers the original permies farmers
If there is no one around to smell you ,do you really stink!