Originally Posted by centrarchid
Many chickens can digest greens better than we can. When in settings where the pasture is decidedly over-grazed and formulated feeds is available in excess which is the norm for most people on the website, then plants are not that important.
Chickens are omnivorous foragers that have a strong preference for animal prey. Yet, by volume, the bulk of their intake can be dominated by vegetative greens and those greens selectively taken tend to be dominated by tender and actively growing tissues. Seeds and fruit are often targeted but seldom consumed under natural conditions at rates that come anywhere near what is realized in commercial or backyard settings. Chickens have the ability to extract more nutritional gain from fibers (cellulosic from plants and chitinistic from arthropods) in part because some are processed by the cecum which like in a horse break down some of those fibers. Activities of the cecum may not be significant with diets dominated by formulated feeds but in situations where the diet is not as nutritionally dense, then the cecum's activity is likely to be much more important. The fatty acid profile provided by foraging for natural diets varies greatly from that provided by that of formulated diets especially when the latter is dominated by grains. It is the fatty acid profile differences that cause much of organoleptic differences the hip city folks, other poultry consumers, and people like myself can detect and appreciate. Faster growing breeds like those most frequently used for meat likely do not have the ability to meet an appreciable portion of their needs by fiber fermentation in the cecum therefore must acquire the bulk of their nutrition from more nutrient dense and easier to metabolize sources than typical of natural forages.If you took a group of 100 birds and spit into two groups of fifty where one group is fed a standard poultry feed and the other is allowed to forage a quality pasture enough to meet needs without supplementation with grains or other feed-stuffs, then you would be able to note the difference yourself
Hmmm... Intersting stuff on the nutrition! But i dont have 100 chickens myself, or enough "quality pasture" to conduct such a controlled experiment.
But, with respect, what does that prove anyway, other than that the chicken digestive system is extremely adaptible (like many omnivores)?
My earlier post wasnt an attempt to define the limits of the digestive ability of poultry, however, but simply a comment on what might and might not be considered "natural diet." To that end, i think actually watching what feral or wild chickens, given unlimited range, seek out and consume, and where and how they do it (like what sort of places they prefer for foraging) is more instructive about the nutritonal habits of poultry generally than drawing conclusions from a group of chickens confined to a pasture (forest birds, on grassland?) and supplied a limited (and, if you will, artificial) ration. Pastured poultry may be good, but wouldnt forest poultry, or orchard poultry with access to compost and mulch piles to find insects in be even better?!
Disclaimer: observing feral chickens is something I HAVE had plenty of opportunity to do myself because my neck of the woods, and farm, is infested with feral chickens!
Hopefully we can all agree that basic, visceral-level "food system literacy" is really important yet neglected in our world right now--otherwise i dont thinkso many of us would be raising chickens in our back yards... Edited by triplepurpose - 2/16/16 at 1:54pm