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Free Range ONLY, no feed??? - Page 3

post #21 of 25
The below I posted with some editing about 4 years back. Current reality is I still do some free-range keeping with poultry tight perimeters, some where birds can go beyond pasture area but are still anchored to feeding stations and roost, and finally those anchored only to a roost that free-range much larger areas as most if not all nutrition is acquired by foraging. In addition to keeping a closed population of American Games (replacements are generated from my stock on sight), I also have a closed flock of American Dominiques. I strive for increased importance of forages for meeting nutritional needs but real limitation to that is the area required, limited distance birds will forage from roost / nesting areas, and dispersal from areas where I have effective predator management. These latters issues are often limiting before nutrition.
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We when comes to approximating feral chickens we kept games, lots. Most of our breeding was done on walks (locations where a cock and hens) were kept free range with minimal inputs other than selecting who was to be broodstock and the harvest young starting late summer - early fall. The number of walks numbered between 10 and 20 depending on year. Locations were usually centered on a barn or outbuilding of some sort although some were little more than fence rows with clumps of trees to provide roost and cover. Usually no feed was applied specifically for chickens unless it was really could and that amounted to little more than taking a a dozen ears of corn and shelling it by hand leaving kernels under a bush. Most walks at least had livestock close by, most. Usually better than 2/3' of walks yielded enough harvestable birds to be worth effort. Balance could simply have no survival of young or loss of some or all of breeders. With proven breeding groups, a given cock and hens were allowed to produce for several years before being swapped out. Some groups could operate for 5 years. More than once, walks were not checked because birds were thought lost only to find out 2 or three years later that somebody survived and bred in dunghill fashion without our oversight of birds present of breeding age. Original hens often persisted but old rooster seldom outlasted all of his male offspring. An exceptional group which I have descendants of now persisted for more than 15 years in that fashion and a couple of those years the number of birds approached 40 when flock size was maximal in fall. Predators took a heavy toll and winters with heavy snows were particularly hard on them.

Those games could do pretty much everything needed to survive for at least a couple generations but they always had at least some protection from predators by activities of humans, livestock or farm dogs.

__________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

To put it plainly, my experience with extreme free-range keeping is significant, especially when you consider my personal efforts started back in the 1970's.
Edited by centrarchid - 2/16/16 at 6:02pm

Make every effort to understand your chicken's biology and the environment that supports it.

 

 

Reminder to self: August 2021 Check Post #15852 in Show Off Your American Gamefowl

Reply

Make every effort to understand your chicken's biology and the environment that supports it.

 

 

Reminder to self: August 2021 Check Post #15852 in Show Off Your American Gamefowl

Reply
post #22 of 25
My father keeps chickens on his farm without giving them feed, although I have seen them foraging for snacks along side the cows. This leads me to assume that they are not finding enough food in the fields or they are looking for an easier food source.
post #23 of 25
It’s the quality of forage. Your father is giving them food, even if he is not buying something especially for them. By keeping cows he provides cow manure for them to scratch through and find good nutritional nuggets. If he is feeding hay they will forage in that for nutrition. A farm often provides a lot of different things for them to eat.

I don’t know if you have read through this thread. If you haven’t you might concentrate on Centrarchid’s posts. He has made a study of them foraging, what they need and how they do. One of his comments I particularly agree with is that the biggest service humans can provide in a foraging, free ranging environment is predator protection, more important than food in many cases.

I grew up on a farm that sounds somewhat like your fathers. If they depend on forage you are not likely to raise a show quality bird. How those are fed is an important part of winning prizes. But for thousands of years many farmers have helped feed their families by using chickens that pretty much feed themselves during the better weather months and by supplementing their feed in the winter. The chicken are generally healthy, don’t get diseases and the parasite load, if any, is manageable with minimal human interference. The hatch and raise a lot of chicks, lay a lot of eggs, and provide a lot of meat for the family at basically no cost. How efficient can you get?

 I grow a little impatient when people seem to think that they are unique in the world. Of course they are. Just like everyone else.

 

"If you make every game a life-and-death proposition, you're going to have problems. For one thing, you'll be dead a lot." — former North Carolina coach Dean Smith

 

http://www.backyardchickens.com/a/how-much-room-do-chickens-need

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 I grow a little impatient when people seem to think that they are unique in the world. Of course they are. Just like everyone else.

 

"If you make every game a life-and-death proposition, you're going to have problems. For one thing, you'll be dead a lot." — former North Carolina coach Dean Smith

 

http://www.backyardchickens.com/a/how-much-room-do-chickens-need

Reply
post #24 of 25
Quote:
Originally Posted by centrarchid View Post

The below I posted with some editing about 4 years back. Current reality is I still do some free-range keeping with poultry tight perimeters, some where birds can go beyond pasture area but are still anchored to feeding stations and roost, and finally those anchored only to a roost that free-range much larger areas as most if not all nutrition is acquired by foraging. In addition to keeping a closed population of American Games (replacements are generated from my stock on sight), I also have a closed flock of American Dominiques. I strive for increased importance of forages for meeting nutritional needs but real limitation to that is the area required, limited distance birds will forage from roost / nesting areas, and dispersal from areas where I have effective predator management. These latters issues are often limiting before nutrition.
__________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
We when comes to approximating feral chickens we kept games, lots. Most of our breeding was done on walks (locations where a cock and hens) were kept free range with minimal inputs other than selecting who was to be broodstock and the harvest young starting late summer - early fall. The number of walks numbered between 10 and 20 depending on year. Locations were usually centered on a barn or outbuilding of some sort although some were little more than fence rows with clumps of trees to provide roost and cover. Usually no feed was applied specifically for chickens unless it was really could and that amounted to little more than taking a a dozen ears of corn and shelling it by hand leaving kernels under a bush. Most walks at least had livestock close by, most. Usually better than 2/3' of walks yielded enough harvestable birds to be worth effort. Balance could simply have no survival of young or loss of some or all of breeders. With proven breeding groups, a given cock and hens were allowed to produce for several years before being swapped out. Some groups could operate for 5 years. More than once, walks were not checked because birds were thought lost only to find out 2 or three years later that somebody survived and bred in dunghill fashion without our oversight of birds present of breeding age. Original hens often persisted but old rooster seldom outlasted all of his male offspring. An exceptional group which I have descendants of now persisted for more than 15 years in that fashion and a couple of those years the number of birds approached 40 when flock size was maximal in fall. Predators took a heavy toll and winters with heavy snows were particularly hard on them.

Those games could do pretty much everything needed to survive for at least a couple generations but they always had at least some protection from predators by activities of humans, livestock or farm dogs.

__________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

To put it plainly, my experience with extreme free-range keeping is significant, especially when you consider my personal efforts started back in the 1970's.


Thank you for sharing this stuff about your work Centrarchid. It seems highly relevant to the OP as well as interesting. And I hope my earlier post didn't rub you the wrong way, as that was not my intent--just trying to articulate my own perspective to the thread (while at the time knowing nothing about you or your experience either way, which is obviously quite extensive). Things don't always read to everybody the way one intends them, especially on a web forum...

 

Am I correct in interpreting that the "walks" you described were totally open range? Or was their fencing barriers in some cases? How much distance separated them from each other (must have a been quite a bit, I'm guessing, to guarantee no straying/mingling of groups--I've seen feral chickens at least travel a good quarter mile or so foraging)?

 

It makes sense that at least some protection from predators would have to be provided (otherwise you would expect to see more populations of feral chickens across North America, which there aren't to my knowledge--but which is the case here in HI, only because there aren't any natural predators).


Edited by triplepurpose - 2/22/16 at 5:26pm
Chickens are the Swiss Army knife of farm animals
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Chickens are the Swiss Army knife of farm animals
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post #25 of 25
Walks totally free-range although actual ranging habits vary with flock size, forage quality and distribution of cover. Fence rows bordered by open field with minimal foarge promote longest ranging habits, Going quarter mile or covering 20 acres for three adults with young often realized with games. Adjacent flocks more than a couple hundred yards apart are slow to mingle with territoriality very important. Sex ratio that is not balanced can promote broader ranging by sex that is in excess. Ideal sex ratio to chickens does not favor females as much as we do.

Make every effort to understand your chicken's biology and the environment that supports it.

 

 

Reminder to self: August 2021 Check Post #15852 in Show Off Your American Gamefowl

Reply

Make every effort to understand your chicken's biology and the environment that supports it.

 

 

Reminder to self: August 2021 Check Post #15852 in Show Off Your American Gamefowl

Reply
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