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Wont Eat Scraps...

 
William Bronson
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Location: Cincinnati, Ohio,Price Hill 45205
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That's it. They will hardly touch the scraps, from stale bread to fresh veg.
I have tried "salting" offerings with BOSS,which they love,with little success.
I have confined then to their large deep litter coop-n-run, with nothing but scraps for the day,but they still don't  make a dent.
Pellets,they will eat. Slugs,worms, ice( they have water!)
On a side note,they love to scratch in the yard, especially in the remainings of a lasagna bed,but don't scratch in the deep litter very much.
I am wanting more chooks, but I really want them to eat our food scraps and turn the compost.
Any ideas on changing their eating habits?
Should I blend everything into a slurry?
Dry it ?
Give up and vermicompost? I hate that idea, seems like an added step,with associated loses.
I have considered spiking the deep litter with compost worms or mealies. Come spring something will show up to eat the buried food scraps and chicken dung, probably BSF, but what good will that do if my chooks won't scratch them up?
I stopped giving them meat, they don't do much with it, and the dog sneaks into the coop to get at it.  Now the chicken bones and egg shells are collected for making bio char.

I am not giving them the worst kinds of food waste, mostly they get tired veg or fruit, or day old breads .

Any help would be great, I need know if this is a fixable situation.
 
Joseph Lofthouse
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Seems to me like there is too much food for too few chickens.
 
Libbie Hawker
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Most individual birds will stop eating before they take on so much food that they can't get off the ground. This is instinctive, so they can escape from predators. Some individuals don't seem to have that instinct and will eat until they're beyond "fed up" (that's where our saying "I'm fed up!" comes from) and can't get off the ground until they digest it and poop some of it out.

We don't think of galliformes (chickens, turkeys, guineas, peafowl, etc.) as flighted birds, because they prefer to run around on the ground. But they are flighted, and most of them still have that instinct to guard their ability to flap a few feet off the ground and get to safety in case a sudden predator appears. So some of this could be a case of too much food for too few birds.

It could also be that these guys just don't recognize anything you're offering as food, since they seem to prefer pellets. Their lack of interest in scratching makes me wonder what breed they are. If they're a battery breed, or if you don't know their breed (and they could be factory-farming chickens), maybe they've simply had a lot of their instinctive behaviors bred out of them in favor of behaviors that would make a bird more suitable to the unnatural conditions on an industrial farm (eagerness for pelleted feed, minimal scratching instinct, etc.)

It sound like you've got some frustrating/disappointing chickens! Since you've already tried withholding pelleted feed and giving them scraps, and they still won't eat them, my personal response would be to eat the chickens in retaliation. Not really retaliation, but you know what I mean! I'd cull these guys, or find them a new home as somebody's garden pets if you don't want to eat them, and start over with a heritage breed that's proven to forage and scratch more. You need your birds to earn their keep by performing farm duties for you. No freeloaders!
 
William Bronson
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Location: Cincinnati, Ohio,Price Hill 45205
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Truthfully,they are already pets!
I ain't frustrated with them as much as my own ability to husband them...
They are starter chickens,rescued from being punching (pecking?) bags in another flock.
I knew the deal when I got them, and frankly I delight in our relationship, the give and take feels right.
They are the first animals I've kept that have given back more than poop and affection.
Any way they are a Rhode Island Red and an Ameraucanas. They were raised in a bare dirt chicken yard, which might be why they prefer scratching in  dirt to  scratching in leaves.
They will ignore scraps in favor of scratching!
Their feathers have grown back in beautifully,and just a week ago the Ameraucanas started laying(I have had them since last summer)

I want more, but I want the new chicks to take up the slack eating and scratching.
 
Charli Wilson
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My first lot of chickens were raised eating only pellets, and only recognised these as food. They didn't eat scraps or grass or anything.
Then one went broody and we got her some hatching eggs, the young ones were raised on a mixture of the woodchip run and grass- and are much better at foraging and eating scraps and things. And they taught the older ones a few things! So the older birds now eat scraps too, and grass- they're not as good at foraging, but it seems like they needed to be taught at all these new things I was giving them were food.

So for me- new chicks did solve the problem!
 
Pascal Paoli
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Did you try hand-feeding yet? You could get them excited with something familiar from your hand, than slowly offer other stuff from your kitchen. If  one chicken gets interested, the others will come, too. Once they know that you give them "good stuff" it might train them to accept more scraps.
 
Casey Williams
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We have Rhode Island Red chickens and they always have a difficult time eating food scraps for us at first. Thankfully, the old chickens who are used to eating the scraps teach the young ones (from new batches) that the scraps are yummy.
I have seen chickens that didn't want to eat scraps at first take to them eventually, even without guidance, but it helps tremendously if they can be shown by others.

What if you threw some scraps out there with some of the insects or worms that they like to eat mixed in? Then they would inevitably eat some of the food scraps, too. Do that for a week or two, then phase out the bugs. They may get into the habit of eating the scraps and continue to do so even when the bugs are withdrawn.
 
Chad Anderson
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If they have continuous access to grain, crumble or pellets, maybe they're not hungry enough? Picky eaters of all species are cured by a lack of options. Maybe only put their favorite stuff out at dusk, so they have a good appetite to put them to work on scraps and compost during daylight hours. Chickens, like my children, more readily recognize vegetables as food in the absence of sweets!
 
Sarah Joubert
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We took on 4 hens that had been raised in a cement floored coop and they were notoriously fussy. They would eat some scraps but you never knew what they would take to. Trial and error. However, when they started laying we decided to get a rooster and sourced one from a free range/grain free source. This rooster was used to finding his own living. He would find some nice tidbit and start clucking, calling over his ladies and assuring them it was good stuff! He would get quite angry when they spurned his offerings. They did learn to eat a lot more scraps but the turning point was when they hatched chicks. These chicks would sample everything and of course when Mr Rooster told them it was good, they believed him! The hens have since learned that all good things come from the scraps bucket and fight with their offspring for their fair share. As we have a large homestead and they are free to roam unhindered, we have stopped feeding them altogether. They forage farther afield and now the scraps bucket is a prized bonus that descends from time to time. We check their crops regularly just to be sure they are finding enough to eat and at bedtime they are chocablock full and their egg production is steady.
Good luck with your hens-I fully empathise with your situation as each of our hens has her own character and it would be difficult to despatch them if necessary.
 
Raven Sutherland
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we feed our chickens slices of baloney cut into small cubes AND THEY GOBBLE IT UP

WE ALSO GIVE THEM  sliced lettuce or cabbage  ......but  they need green's man

the other thing we give them and especially our DUCKS is fresh heated corn

and meal worms  as a treat.....  especially to the HENS

it's a rich and expensive diet but our EGGS are outrageously GOOD

along with that stuff we givem cracked corn, black sunflower seeds, and layer grain combo
 
Glenn Ingram
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I feed my chickens tons of food scraps and at first they weren't that into it even when withholding feed.  I was putting in a compost pile in the chicken coop.  The great thing about that is if the chickens don't eat the scraps, the bugs will and then the chickens get the bugs.  When I got a few free chickens once that weren't good foragers, I trained them by tossing their feed into the area I want them to work.  They would really scratch to get at their feed that way.  Then they discovered that were other yummy things in the grass or the leaves and they learned pretty quickly.
 
Hans Quistorff
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On a side note,they love to scratch in the yard, especially in the remainings of a lasagna bed,but don't scratch in the deep litter very much.
I am wanting more chooks, but I really want them to eat our food scraps and turn the compost.
Any ideas on changing their eating habits?

They may be considering that they don't eat off the floor.  You may be able to change that if after dumping the scraps you take a fork and play rooster and start scratching and turning the litter. As they encounter the scraps they will probably try a sample and eat what they like otherwise it becomes part of the deep litter and feeds things they eat in the future. The only danger of playing rooster to your hens is if you get a rooster he may get jealous and attack you. but that is covered in another thread.
 
William Bronson
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Great responses,very encouraging!
Sounds like more chickens, hand feeding  and persistence are the way forward.
I do think breaking up the food will help, and even if they don't eat it ,it will make things easier for the crawlers and microbes to do their job.

 
Deb Rebel
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Chickens like other creatures have to learn what to eat. In most birds there is a flock mentality, and the members of the flock eat what they're taught. If you keep large exotics, (especially parrots and cockatoos) they won't touch something unless they were taught very early on, or another member of the flock will eat it. If you offer broccoli to your three and none of them have ever seen it, they won't touch it. If one has seen it and likes it, the other two will learn to try it and like it. This is a safety mechanism, learning what is safe and good to eat.

Letting a hen go broody is the best way to get her to eat almost anything she can find, her chicks will be adventurous enough to try anything and everything and she will follow suit. Or as someone else mentioned, get a rooster that's used to foraging for his daily calories and he'll lead them to the way to be (feathered garbage disposals). Don't give up hope. A friend I farmsit for, there is a shed with a window that looks into their pen area, and she feeds them old wheat bread. You step up to the little table there to break some bread up and put it in the feed pail and they all come to watch you. They will grab a chunk and run off with the world's greatest prize... (they are layers and she has four Ameraucanas in her mixed flock, she just adores the colored eggs) You might teach one of your hens to brood, then get her some fertile eggs or get a rooster to do the same for you. You do have to rotate your hens anyways, they have 1-2 years of good laying in them then back off. Most I've met usually laid good for about 15 months so having a few younger hens up and coming (as they come into laying get a few more chicks or pullets) and rotating the older ones out to the soup pot keeps your flock going. My friend has a flock in the mid 20's, and does raise from chick in batches of six... and they eat everything and teach the younger ones what to eat.
 
Wes Hunter
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I would just withhold their regular feed until late in the day, and give them only a measured amount (what they will clean up in, say, 15 minutes).  In short, make them hungry enough for the scraps.  Egg production might go down a bit, but so will your cash outlay.

I don't feed our birds until evening, and even then only whole grains (corn and what mostly--sometimes fermented, sometimes not).  I get fewer eggs, surely, than if I fed them multiple times a day with a premixed, balanced ration, but this encourages them to roam and forage all day, and makes for absolutely delicious (and cheap) eggs.
 
Libbie Hawker
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William Bronson wrote: Truthfully,they are already pets!
I ain't frustrated with them as much as my own ability to husband them...
They are starter chickens,rescued from being punching (pecking?) bags in another flock.
I knew the deal when I got them, and frankly I delight in our relationship, the give and take feels right.
They are the first animals I've kept that have given back more than poop and affection.
Any way they are a Rhode Island Red and an Ameraucanas. They were raised in a bare dirt chicken yard, which might be why they prefer scratching in  dirt to  scratching in leaves.
They will ignore scraps in favor of scratching!
Their feathers have grown back in beautifully,and just a week ago the Ameraucanas started laying(I have had them since last summer)

I want more, but I want the new chicks to take up the slack eating and scratching.


Aww. <3 I'm glad they've found a good home with you!

I think if you get your new chickens from a heritage breed that has strong foraging instincts, you'll be fine.
 
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2017 Homesteaders PDC (permaculture design course) & ATC (appropriate technology course) in Montana
https://permies.com/wiki/61764/Homesteaders-PDC-permaculture-design-ATC
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