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Grain-free chickens?

post #1 of 62
Thread Starter 

A friend of mine in VA pays good money to get eggs from chickens that are "grain-free" and only eat grass and insects. First of all, I don't see how that is possible during the winter unless they are feeding alfalfa pellets or something, and second, is that nutritionally balanced for the chickens?

Oh, and third, what is the benefit of having eggs from chickens who don't eat grain?

Country girl in the city.
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Country girl in the city.
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post #2 of 62

I had someone tell me they were raising meat chickens that were pasture raised with no grain as well.  I remain skeptical.  I suppose in warmer climates they may have greens available all year.  We were actually thinking of planting some red clover in the spring for the chickies to graze on..

Greens vs grains increase the omega 3 in the yolk.

Barnevelders,Welsummers,Lavender Ameraucana,Bantam SilverDuckWing Wellsummers,Tomaru,Cream Legbar, BlueSlate Turkeys Midget Whites and Indian Runner Ducks. A husband well aware he is out numbered. NPIP Certified #WV 122   !

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Barnevelders,Welsummers,Lavender Ameraucana,Bantam SilverDuckWing Wellsummers,Tomaru,Cream Legbar, BlueSlate Turkeys Midget Whites and Indian Runner Ducks. A husband well aware he is out numbered. NPIP Certified #WV 122   !

Member WCNA - http://wcna.webs.com/   Member Cream Legbar Club

 

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post #3 of 62

I have heard of people around here doing that. We actually have more grass available in the winter here than in the summer. Anyway, their reason has to do with allergies. Apparently some people are so allergic to grain that they can't even eat animals that eat grain. Sounds miserable to me--for the people I mean. I imagine chickens in our climate at least can live fine without grain.

post #4 of 62

Chickens can probably scavenge up a meager diet in many places altho' it won't be possible for our higher production breeds.

Even Joel Salatin is only talking about a 30% reduction of commercial (grain-based) feed for pastured poultry. Some poultry experts suggest lower percentages.

Seeds of any sorts pack more nutrition generally than the other parts of the plant. Chickens aren't ruminants. They cannot gain necessary nutrition from high-fiber foods.

Steve

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post #5 of 62

Chickens are not cows. roll  Grain is really not beneficial to many of our larger livestock and most cases harmful.  They are designed to graze on forages.  Chickens are not grazing animals.  Chickens were not designed to live on grass.  They benefit from some grains and have a better ability to digest them than most other animals we raise.  Lots of animals benefit from being grain free but chickens are not one of them.

post #6 of 62

This link explains it all. Grass feed poultry seem to have great heath benefits like less cholesterol and a lot of omega-3's.


http://www.lionsgrip.com/pastured.html

hope this helps

post #7 of 62
Quote:
Originally Posted by chicken coop scoop 

This link explains it all. Grass feed poultry seem to have great heath benefits like less cholesterol and a lot of omega-3's.


http://www.lionsgrip.com/pastured.html

hope this helps


Well that explains grass fed, but it states that "grass fed" means 30% of the diet comes from grass.  It does not say if any supplemental feed was given or not.  I'm still not sold on a chicken getting 100% of its diet/nutrition from free ranging.  Possibly if during that free ranging they had access to plants with seeds or grain plants, but not just grazing in  a field of grass.

Barnevelders,Welsummers,Lavender Ameraucana,Bantam SilverDuckWing Wellsummers,Tomaru,Cream Legbar, BlueSlate Turkeys Midget Whites and Indian Runner Ducks. A husband well aware he is out numbered. NPIP Certified #WV 122   !

Member WCNA - http://wcna.webs.com/   Member Cream Legbar Club

 

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Barnevelders,Welsummers,Lavender Ameraucana,Bantam SilverDuckWing Wellsummers,Tomaru,Cream Legbar, BlueSlate Turkeys Midget Whites and Indian Runner Ducks. A husband well aware he is out numbered. NPIP Certified #WV 122   !

Member WCNA - http://wcna.webs.com/   Member Cream Legbar Club

 

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post #8 of 62

Interesting!  I wasn't aware how little of the layer feed mine were eating until I put them on lock down for the last two days.  They went through almost a 5 gallon bucket of feed in TWO DAYS!  It had been taking them at least 2 weeks, sometimes close to three weeks to eat that much.  Mine are out foraging all day, typically.  Though I have horse pastures, and two of the fields have been used for hay in the past.  Until last year anyway.  So the grain based hays are there, and one field has gone to seed, and the chickens do eat that.  I think it's possible, if the proper plants were there, and the amount of poultry to land was kept to a minimum.  For instance, we have 10.5 acres.  Also have horses grazing the land!!!  So with 31 chickens, I don't have any bare dirt land.  Well I take that back, I have one bare area in front of the main field gate.  The horses refuse to let any grass grow in that area. roll

If you think back, there hasn't always been chicken feed for the backyard farmer.  Sure the commercial farmers had access to feed, but I remember my great grand ma, and my grandma... different sides of the family, had chickens, and they fed table scraps, stuff from the garden that was too blemished to use/had gone to seed/ etc., and I remember having some cracked corn that was used as our scratch feed is.  Both had chickens running around in the yard, and were giving some corn when they were put up at night.

Barnyard assortment of chickens, and lots of animals! 

My first Mille Fleurs, and golden sebrights ! One lone Silkie hen.

Bottle raising 4 pot belly piglets. 

Loving every minute of it!!   

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Barnyard assortment of chickens, and lots of animals! 

My first Mille Fleurs, and golden sebrights ! One lone Silkie hen.

Bottle raising 4 pot belly piglets. 

Loving every minute of it!!   

Reply
post #9 of 62
Quote:
Originally Posted by chicken coop scoop 

This link explains it all. Grass feed poultry seem to have great heath benefits like less cholesterol and a lot of omega-3's.


http://www.lionsgrip.com/pastured.html

hope this helps


From that link:

Since chickens also need grain, they cannot be totally grass-fed, according to several experts. In the chicken tractors are grain feeders, and watering devices. Chickens will eat up to 30% of their calories in grass (and that's a LOT of grass), if allowed access to unlimited supplies. Pasturing the poultry assures that they have these supplies of living grass at all times.

A few purists want to reserve the term "grass-fed" for animals raised exclusively, 100%, on grass and nothing else. Now, ruminants, such as cows and sheep, can be raised totally on grass, but by all accounts, poultry cannot. (Nevertheless, certain of these purists claim they are raising their private poultry stock on 100% grass.) This confusion of terms has given rise to a false rumor among city meat handlers and restauranteurs that there is no such thing as "grass-fed poultry" because chickens cannot eat grass!!

Barnyard assortment of chickens, and lots of animals! 

My first Mille Fleurs, and golden sebrights ! One lone Silkie hen.

Bottle raising 4 pot belly piglets. 

Loving every minute of it!!   

Reply

Barnyard assortment of chickens, and lots of animals! 

My first Mille Fleurs, and golden sebrights ! One lone Silkie hen.

Bottle raising 4 pot belly piglets. 

Loving every minute of it!!   

Reply
post #10 of 62

In addition to the allergy concerns and health benefits already mentioned there are environmental implications that come with feeding grain that some people choose to avoid by supporting grain-free poultry practices.

It is possible to raise chickens without grain. Am I saying it's the best way? No, but I'm not saying it's a bad way to do it either. wink

During the warm months my "regular" breeds do very well with MAYBE 1% of their feed coming from commercial processed feed.  And I'm pretty darn confident that's a heavy estimate. They won't go through a medium sized feeder in MONTHS, let alone weeks. I can raise from chick to full-sized chicken from spring to fall with very, VERY little grain and honestly, if I didn't offer the grain am pretty confident they'd not have any problem getting that last little bit from added foraging. It's just convenient and there so of course they're going to peck at it occasionally. But my chickens are FREE range. This doesn't mean I have an acre fenced in yard that they can roam around. This means NO fences whatsoever. And lots of open land with a variety of bugs, grasses, weeds, etc available to them.

ETA: I think the distinction that needs to be made here is that between grains obtained commercially and those found naturally by the chickens. I'm sure my chickens are eating "grains" just not those I purchase in a feed store.


Edited by Olive Hill - 9/18/09 at 4:45pm

I arise in the morning torn between a desire to improve the world and a desire to enjoy the world. This makes it hard to plan the day.   - E.B. White

 

No one can make you feel inferior without your consent. - Eleanor Roosevelt

 

The best way to be missed when you're gone is to stand for something while you're here. - Seth Godin

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I arise in the morning torn between a desire to improve the world and a desire to enjoy the world. This makes it hard to plan the day.   - E.B. White

 

No one can make you feel inferior without your consent. - Eleanor Roosevelt

 

The best way to be missed when you're gone is to stand for something while you're here. - Seth Godin

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