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New Chickens only want to eat layer pellets

 
Stuart Hartley
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Hi All,

We've just got 5 new Australorps. I am not sure of their exact age, but I can tell they're pretty close to laying. I am trying to get them to eat scraps and to scratch around the yard a bit more, but they only want to eat their layer pellets.

So far I tried to tempt them some tomatoes from the garden, some green vegie scraps, some sprouted cowpea and sunflower seeds and even some black soldier fly larvae. They may peck at it for a second and even try and taste the stuff, but then its straight back to the pellets.

They free range during the day inside electrified fencing so they have plenty of room to move and scratch, but they haven't been taught to catch bugs or scratch for food so they don't seem to know what to do.

Any idea's ?
 
Chris Sargent
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Chickens do seem to be creatures of habit and it seems to take them a bit to change their habits.

I've had luck introducing new foods by mixing it in with the old. Or giving them new food in the same dish that they already associate with food. It can take several times of offering a new food before one gets brave and tries it. Once one starts eating the others will usually follow.

If you want to try and get them to scratch and forage more you might try throwing their feeder pellets on the ground. Get them use to the idea that food has to be scratched up off the ground. Feed them the same time each day and they'll figure out that you'll be out to throw them food. So they'll be more likely to think anything you throw to them at that time is food. Then starting mixing in other grains or scraps in with the pellets. Then withhold the pellets and just give them the scraps you want them to eat.

You don't want to starve them but if they always have the pellets they'll just take the easy and familiar way out and only eat the pellets. You can just give then scraps, scratch, etc. in the morning so that they have to eat that or nothing. Also being a bit hungry will encourage them to scratch about and forage for food and bugs. Then at night offer them the pellets. You can just give then what you think they need based on how much else they are getting from scraps and forage. I've seen 1/4lb of feed per day per chicken as the standard. That way they are still getting the nutrients they need at the evening feeding but are a bit hungry during the day to make them more willing to try new things or go looking for food to forage.
 
Kyrt Ryder
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Take them off of free-choice food [if you presently have them on it.]

The food is removed [perhaps put back into the metal storage container that keeps rodents out of it] in the morning and given back at night.
 
Burra Maluca
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It takes them a while to adjust. We bought some bantams from an old lady on a market once. It took them a month to learn to eat anything other than fruit.
 
Shawn Harper
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Kyrt Ryder wrote:Take them off of free-choice food [if you presently have them on it.]

The food is removed [perhaps put back into the metal storage container that keeps rodents out of it] in the morning and given back at night.


This seems to be the best answer so far. They probably won't switch if they have a choice.

Think of it this way, why fix a homemade meal if someone already ordered pizza and it's sitting on the counter.

I would only feed them the pellets at night as long as they have forage to get during the day. Hungry animals find food.
 
Ann Torrence
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I'd give them as much as they will eat of their pellets for about 15 minutes twice a day, then take it away. And wait it out. They don't need to be taught, they just need to be motivated to figure it out. Have they got any loose straw or hay to scratch around in? That can trigger a lot of instinctive behaviors.
 
Zach Muller
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I would start throwing the pellets on the ground along with scratch grain so they get in the habit of pecking around, just do less and less pellets mixed in.

I had the opposite problem recently. I bought a mislabeled bag of scratch grains and it turned out to be pellets. Most of my chickens had not ever seen them. It was funny watching the chickens pick them up thinking they were seeds and then spitting them back out. But then my dogs figured out the pellets were pretty good...
 
Dan Boone
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Back in the 1970s my mom started our chicken flock with some clapped-out Leghorn battery hens that she could buy for next to nothing. They had the burned-off beaks and were (literally) retarded -- they didn't have any of the developmental progress that a healthy chicken gets, because their environment for their whole lives had been so constrained and devoid of stimulus.

They would eat only pellets or corn, and they couldn't even find that unless it was in a pan on the floor inside the chicken coop. Outside in the chicken run they were confused and utterly helpless. You could drop handfuls of feed on their heads and they wouldn't bend down to peck it up.

Eventually they got better, but not until we got a few "normal" chickens (Rhode Island Reds that we raised from chicks, and a couple of adult Banty hens from somewhere who really knew how to be birds.) The battery Leghorns were bird enough to flock up with the other chickens and follow them around the run, and from there observation seemed to (very slowly) teach them how to peck and scratch and eat whatever was handy. They never got as good at is as they should have been, but they did improve enormously.

So in your shoes I think I'd try to find one or two random chickens on Craigslist or wherever that actually know how to chicken. Supplement your flock that way and they might learn a lot faster.
 
Stuart Hartley
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Thanks for all the replies. I just realized this is my second only post, I cant believe after stalking this website for so many years that this is the first time I have posted a thread.

I reckon I will start scaling back on their access time to the pellets and see if that encourages them. They have flown over the fence a couple of times and free ranged around the paddock for a few hours and when I finally put them back in the rush over to their food bowl and really chow down.

I like the idea of throwing the pellets around on the ground, I think that will work well. They do scratch around, but its a little half hearted, so this might encourage them a bit more. Ive built a mobile chicken coop on a trailer and there is plenty of straw inside for them to scratch around in when they want to.

I had also considered getting an old free range hen from the bloke up the road to see if she would teach them the basics, but we've had them for about 3 weeks now so I might have to introduce her in slowly
 
John Polk
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I would only feed them the pellets at night as long as they have forage to get during the day. Hungry animals find food.

That is the typical homestead way of feeding them. It has two benefits:

* They are hungry when they are roaming about. Encourages scavenging. (Scatter some grains to train them: a little near the coop & and more further away;)
* It assures you that they will return to their coop when they see you (and hear the pellets pouring).

 
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