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Free Range Chickens

 
Charley Hoke
Posts: 66
Location: Blue Ridge Mountains
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We recently got our first batch of chickens, first of May to be exact. At that time they were 8 weeks old. We are still waiting for the egg machine to kick in, hopefully within a week or 2.

They are free range during the day and have plenty of forage available to them. We seldom cut our grass and I see them eating the seeds from the grass and plants that are starting to seed, and daisy and other wildflower petals. They also forage into the woods and get plenty of insects.

We also feed them grub worms and other insects we collect from the garden.

We throw down scratch feed for them at night when they come in to roost.

My question is, do we need to be feeding them some sort of supplement or is this free range diet sufficient?

We are trying to sustain them on as natural a diet as possible and refrain from buying commercial feeds.

The girls are filling out nicely, looking plump like chickens should.
 
paul wheaton
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Location: missoula, montana (zone 4)
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I've always thought that when raising chickens, it is best to give them the very best of everything - especially if they are ever contained everywhere.  This means letting them decide what is best for them. 

I think most breeds far prefer stuff they forage for over any kind of feed.  So what I try to do is make chicken feed available 24x7 and then offer them the world of all that is better than chicken feed.  I also try to offer some alternatives to chicken feed - different kinds of seeds and grains.
 
Leah Sattler
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In the summer mine get nothing but what they can scratch up and whatever table food is leftover including their own egg shells. I do keep oyster shell out although it doesn't seem they ever touch it. I have only had a few soft eggs.
 
Charley Hoke
Posts: 66
Location: Blue Ridge Mountains
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paul wheaton wrote:
So what I try to do is make chicken feed available 24x7


That's a good point we only contain them at night so I always throw down plenty of scratch feed for them. Something we tried yesterday and they love it, we have plenty of squash and cucumbers coming in so we diced up a platter of that for them. Today I added some chard and beet greens too.



Also Paul, inspired by your yellow jacket thread I went out this morning and collected some Japanese beetles, let them sit for a few hours in a jar in the sun, and the girls had a feast. I had tried feeding them these beetles live before, but they always flew away.

Leah Sattler wrote:
including their own egg shells.


Interesting, I have wondered about this too, do the shells need to be ground up pretty fine? And do you put them in a feeder of some type or scatter them like scratch?

Thanks for your input
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Leah Sattler
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I usually just give them a good squeeze before I toss them with in the container I keep by the sink for all the food scraps that go to them. I don't put much effort into it. They get the shells along with bits and peices of whatever food items are not fit for human consumption for one reason or another and sometimes whole failed cooking experiments. You should see them come running when they see me carrying a 9x13 pan out the back gate they will pick bones clean too but I only put that kind of stuff out there if I am going to make sure to remove it by nightfall so I son't attract unwanted critters. I watched some nearby neighbors chickens pick a deer carcass clean over a few weeks. (what the hunters left) thought that was strange the first time I saw it .  All the chickens and the goats wait out side the fence when they see me working in the garden patiently waiting for grubs and weeds too.
 
Charley Hoke
Posts: 66
Location: Blue Ridge Mountains
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I had not thought about the table scraps, I usually save these for the compost pile but I guess I will start sharing these with the chickens.

I'm really curious about the bones, does this also include chicken bones?

Thanks for your tips.
 
Leah Sattler
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yes, I include chicken bones. I know, I know kinda weird. But its really not any stranger than them eating their own eggs.  when we raised some pigs one year I took me awhile before I could toss them any scraps that had pork in it. I was joking with my butcher about it and he said you could be certain that if one were to meet its demise amongst fellow pigs, they WOULD eat them. I believe it too. I got the distinct impression that if I were to lay still in their pen long enough I would be toast. Of course I fell in my pasture once and all my half grown cornish/rocks tried to eat me too! geez- they can bite hard!
 
Susan Hoke
Posts: 36
Location: Western NC
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Leah Sattler wrote:
I believe it too. I got the distinct impression that if I were to lay still in their pen long enough I would be toast. Of course I fell in my pasture once and all my half grown cornish/rocks tried to eat me too! geez- they can bite hard!


If you've ever seen the movie "Snatch" or the TV show "eadwood". That's how the bad guys get rid of their victims. Feed them to the pigs.

Sorry to go off topic Charley!

On Topic:

Will they eat the bones? Or just pick them clean? What about the bones attracting predators & other critters?
 
Leah Sattler
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they don't eat the bones they just pick them clean. I don't leave any out over night because I'm afraid they would attract coons and possums. another option for economical dietary supplementation is old bread from the outlets. I can get a whole pick up load for 10$ of course then you have to toss it in the freezer and feed them a bit at a time. I have wondered if I could dry it real well to eliminate having to use my precious freezer space. but, like I said this time of year they are mostly on their own.
 
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