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What do chickens need?

post #1 of 21
Thread Starter 

I know people use a variety of feeds:
bagged feed
bugs
table scraps
egg shells
bugs
medicated feed
worms
grass
soybean meal

What is vital?

post #2 of 21

A good quality bagged feed or pre-mixed from your coop.  Water.  That is all they REALLY need.

Layers also need calcium (oyster shell)
If they do not have a dirt run, they need grit.

Table scraps, scratch, bugs, grass, etc are all nice additions, but not absolutely necessary to life.

***It doesn't matter where you go, just make sure the last trip is UP***

http://www.youtube.com/watch_popup?v=N5ddoyfn6g4
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***It doesn't matter where you go, just make sure the last trip is UP***

http://www.youtube.com/watch_popup?v=N5ddoyfn6g4
Reply
post #3 of 21

Ditto.  Good feed (laying feed if they are laying), oyster shell for laying hens, and fresh water every day.  Freeranging is nice for fresh grasses and bugs.  Leftovers are treats as is scratch and boss and should be fed sparingly.  Dont obsess over it.  I like to spoil my chickens but in moderation.  They are pretty forgiving animals.

Mom of 3 girls, 1 calico cat, 7 spoiled silkies, a coop full of terrorists and the start of a Heritage RIR flock.  Love cheeps!!!
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Mom of 3 girls, 1 calico cat, 7 spoiled silkies, a coop full of terrorists and the start of a Heritage RIR flock.  Love cheeps!!!
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post #4 of 21

Most of the commercial feeds that you buy and are labeled as Starter, Grower, Developer, or Layer contain the proper balance of nutrient and other things that chickens need to stay healthy and either grow or produce the right size and quality eggs, whatever their stage in life.  This is under commercial conditions where everything is controlled.  Many commercial operations go so far as to only feed at certain times of day so that all the chickens are hungry and eat.  This reduces certain bullies pigging out and those lower in the pecking order not getting their share.  The whole feeding process has been studied in detail and is set up for maximum efficiency. 

When they are growing, assuming a future laying flock, the progression of Starter, Grower, Developer, and Layer is controlled so they grow and mature at the proper pace to lay decent sized eggs when they do start laying.  They do not want the pullets to start laying too early.  The most cost-efficient egg is a grade A large, plus if the pullet starts laying too early, she is more susceptible to injure from laying before her internal organs have matured properly.  They control when a pullet starts laying by managing how much light they get each day, and they control how much they eat, especially protein, so the eggs are mostly grade A large.  Protein is expensive and commercial operations are in business to maximize profits. 

Feeding too much protein will cause the eggs to be larger but the amount of extra protein they eat is not cost effective.  Those extra-large eggs can cause injuries to the hens, such as them becoming egg bound or prolapse.  Eating too much protein can also cause some diseases, such as gout.  Eating too much or too rich food can make the chickens fat.  For hens, the first place they put on this fat is what is called the fat pad, in the pelvic area.  This fat can also interfere with egg laying.  The egg cannot get through the fat.  Again, think egg bound or prolapse.  Feeding too rich a feed can also cause a hen to release more than one egg yolk a day, which can result in more double yolk eggs or laying more than one egg a day.  The double yolkers are not the profitable grade A large and if she lays multiple eggs a day, these usually are not either. 

The whole commercial operation is set up for cost efficient, healthy chickens regularly laying plenty of the right sized eggs.  With a few chicken houses with 5,000 laying hens in each chicken house, a small percentage change in egg laying is critical to the profit margin.  It is a tightly controlled business.

We are not commercial operations.  Cost efficiency is not that important to many of us.  We feed treats or give them access to growing things so we lose a lot of control over how much of what types of food they eat.  We don't control the light.  We give them space so things don't have to be as tightly controlled for them to be healthy.  We keep feed available all the time.  And our chickens usually do real well.  They are very adaptable. 

A big point I want to make is that there is a big difference in operating at maximum efficiency and having healthy happy chickens.  Many people on this forum will say that they are domesticated animals and cannot survive foraging on their own.  I grew up on a farm where chickens survived by foraging on their own.  We did not live where the foraging was in a manicured lawn with the only food available is a specific type of grass and the number and type of creepy crawlies are kept down.  These chickens foraged in a pasture where there was a tremendous variety of grasses and weeds, including grass and weed seeds.  All kinds of creepy crawlies were everywhere.  We did not even know what oyster shell was and our egg shells were fine.  They got sufficient calcium from the environment, such as hard shelled bugs, certain weeds, and even from the pebbles they used as grit.  The only time we ever gave them anything to eat was when the ground was covered with snow.  They were not so obese they had trouble getting around.  They did not lay a double extra huge egg every day, but they laid pretty well, both in frequency and size.  They certainly did not look at a worm or bug and say, "I've had my quota of protein today so I think I'll pass".  I have no reason to think they were not healthy and happy. 

What do chickens need, as far as feed goes?  They need a relatively balanced diet.  That does not just mean protein.  That means fiber, fats, minerals, vitamins, the whole thing.  They need calcium for the egg shells.  How you give them that balanced diet depends on your circumstances.  If all they eat is the feed you give them, then the 16% Layer provides all they need, including calcium.  You don't have to supplement with anything else, including oyster shell, unless your egg shells are thin.  There is nothing wrong with offering oyster shell on the side.  I have oyster shell available, mine free range most of the time on pasture and have Layer available, and they hardly ever touch the oyster shell. 

If you keep them confined but you offer them treats, don't overdo it on one specific treat.  Limit the amount of treats they eat so their major food source is their balanced feed.  Give them a variety of different treats.  It is not an exact science for us like it is with the commercial operations.  They can do well within a pretty wide range of that "balanced" diet as long as you don't overdo anything and will remain healthy and productive. 

I know I've made it sound a lot worse than it really is.  You really do have a wide tolerance when feeding them.  But the key is a balanced diet. 

Fort most of us, with a laying flock, I suggest the 16% Layer as a base, whether they are strictly confined or totally free range.  Or when I have chickens under laying age, Grower with oyster shell on the side.  Give them treats as you should give a child candy, enough so they can enjoy it but not enough to ruin their main meal.  If they forage, that is out of your control but don't worry about it.  If the egg shells are hard enough, you do not need to provide oyster shell, but having it available on the side is not a bad idea. 

I have not touched on grit.  They need it to digest a lot of what they eat.  If they free range or have access to dirt with small pebbles or sand, you should not have to provide it.  But if they are contained to a fairly small area or access to the ground is limited, you should provide it.

So what do chickens need?  A balanced diet and grit.

Editted for poor spelling and grammar.


Edited by Ridgerunner - 4/19/11 at 5:29am

Freedom is not the right to do what we want, but what we ought....Abraham Lincoln (Freedom carries responsibility)

The spirit of liberty is the spirit which is not too sure that it is right.....Judge Learned Hand  (The more sure your are that your way is the only right way, the more likely you are wrong.)

 

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

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Freedom is not the right to do what we want, but what we ought....Abraham Lincoln (Freedom carries responsibility)

The spirit of liberty is the spirit which is not too sure that it is right.....Judge Learned Hand  (The more sure your are that your way is the only right way, the more likely you are wrong.)

 

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

Reply
post #5 of 21

I think ridgerunner summed it up. The problems I've had with my flock seems to be a balanced diet. I still give my flock some treats but its hard for me to figure out how much is to much. So, Ive backed way off  of handing out treats. I now have two flocks & let them free range. I let the older flock out at 9 am & then put them up at around 4 pm & then let the other flock out. It sure helps on the feed bill.

I'm out of eggs. But I know where some brown ones are. I now raise big Ol' Honkin' Bob Whites & Layed back Coturnix. Pray For Rain In Texas!

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I'm out of eggs. But I know where some brown ones are. I now raise big Ol' Honkin' Bob Whites & Layed back Coturnix. Pray For Rain In Texas!

Reply
post #6 of 21
Quote:
Originally Posted by ARose4Heaven 

A good quality bagged feed or pre-mixed from your coop.  Water.  That is all they REALLY need.

Layers also need calcium (oyster shell)
If they do not have a dirt run, they need grit.

Table scraps, scratch, bugs, grass, etc are all nice additions, but not absolutely necessary to life.


That's funny, because I had a written request for a Dish satellite hookup for their big flat screen. It seems Comcast was too unreliable, and they were less interested in it once I cut off the internet access.
Last year it was heated tile floor in the bathroom, new artwork for the patio garden, a Thermador double wall oven with convection (and a Fannie Farmer cookbook). That was after the upstairs re-model where the hardwood floors were carpeted wall to wall. Seems the wood floor was too "noisy".
Now with the introduction of a new hen, I'm hearing rumblings of jacuzzi. I'm sweating this one, because it will mean an addition somewhere and space is limited. I wish they'd stop commenting on my neighbors house being up for sale.

post #7 of 21
Quote:
Originally Posted by Jayers 
Quote:
Originally Posted by ARose4Heaven 

A good quality bagged feed or pre-mixed from your coop.  Water.  That is all they REALLY need.

Layers also need calcium (oyster shell)
If they do not have a dirt run, they need grit.

Table scraps, scratch, bugs, grass, etc are all nice additions, but not absolutely necessary to life.


That's funny, because I had a written request for a Dish satellite hookup for their big flat screen. It seems Comcast was too unreliable, and they were less interested in it once I cut off the internet access.
Last year it was heated tile floor in the bathroom, new artwork for the patio garden, a Thermador double wall oven with convection (and a Fannie Farmer cookbook). That was after the upstairs re-model where the hardwood floors were carpeted wall to wall. Seems the wood floor was too "noisy".
Now with the introduction of a new hen, I'm hearing rumblings of jacuzzi. I'm sweating this one, because it will mean an addition somewhere and space is limited. I wish they'd stop commenting on my neighbors house being up for sale.


yuckyuck

Had to read it twice to figure out what Dish Satellite had to do with chickens...  Mine only demand Steak and Eggs for breakfast, you must have gotten yours from the D Trump hatchery!

***It doesn't matter where you go, just make sure the last trip is UP***

http://www.youtube.com/watch_popup?v=N5ddoyfn6g4
Reply
***It doesn't matter where you go, just make sure the last trip is UP***

http://www.youtube.com/watch_popup?v=N5ddoyfn6g4
Reply
post #8 of 21
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Ridgerunner 

Most of the commercial feeds that you buy and are labeled as Starter, Grower, Developer, or Layer contain the proper balance of nutrient and other things that chickens need to stay healthy and either grow or produce the right size and quality eggs, whatever their stage in life.  This is under commercial conditions where everything is controlled.  Many commercial operations go so far as to only feed at certain times of day so that all the chickens are hungry and eat.  This reduces certain bullies pigging out and those lower in the pecking order not getting their share.  The whole feeding process has been studied in detail and is set up for maximum efficiency. 

When they are growing, assuming a future laying flock, the progression of Starter, Grower, Developer, and Layer is controlled so they grow and mature at the proper pace to lay decent sized eggs when they do start laying.  They do not want the pullets to start laying too early.  The most cost-efficient egg is a grade A large, plus if the pullet starts laying too early, she is more susceptible to injure from laying before her internal organs have matured properly.  They control when a pullet starts laying by managing how much light they get each day, and they control how much they eat, especially protein, so the eggs are mostly grade A large.  Protein is expensive and commercial operations are in business to maximize profits. 

Feeding too much protein will cause the eggs to be larger but the amount of extra protein they eat is not cost effective.  Those extra-large eggs can cause injuries to the hens, such as them becoming egg bound or prolapse.  Eating too much protein can also cause some diseases, such as gout.  Eating too much or too rich food can make the chickens fat.  For hens, the first place they put on this fat is what is called the fat pad, in the pelvic area.  This fat can also interfere with egg laying.  The egg cannot get through the fat.  Again, think egg bound or prolapse.  Feeding too rich a feed can also cause a hen to release more than one egg yolk a day, which can result in more double yolk eggs or laying more than one egg a day.  The double yolkers are not the profitable grade A large and if she lays multiple eggs a day, these usually are not either. 

The whole commercial operation is set up for cost efficient, healthy chickens regularly laying plenty of the right sized eggs.  With a few chicken houses with 5,000 laying hens in each chicken house, a small percentage change in egg laying is critical to the profit margin.  It is a tightly controlled business.

We are not commercial operations.  Cost efficiency is not that important to many of us.  We feed treats or give them access to growing things so we lose a lot of control over how much of what types of food they eat.  We don't control the light.  We give them space so things don't have to be as tightly controlled for them to be healthy.  We keep feed available all the time.  And our chickens usually do real well.  They are very adaptable. 

A big point I want to make is that there is a big difference in operating at maximum efficiency and having healthy happy chickens.  Many people on this forum will say that they are domesticated animals and cannot survive foraging on their own.  I grew up on a farm where chickens survived by foraging on their own.  We did not live where the foraging was in a manicured lawn with the only food available is a specific type of grass and the number and type of creepy crawlies are kept down.  These chickens foraged in a pasture where there was a tremendous variety of grasses and weeds, including grass and weed seeds.  All kinds of creepy crawlies were everywhere.  We did not even know what oyster shell was and our egg shells were fine.  They got sufficient calcium from the environment, such as hard shelled bugs, certain weeds, and even from the pebbles they used as grit.  The only time we ever gave them anything to eat was when the ground was covered with snow.  They were not so obese they had trouble getting around.  They did not lay a double extra huge egg every day, but they laid pretty well, both in frequency and size.  They certainly did not look at a worm or bug and say, "I've had my quota of protein today so I think I'll pass".  I have no reason to think they were not healthy and happy. 

What do chickens need, as far as feed goes?  They need a relatively balanced diet.  That does not just mean protein.  That means fiber, fats, minerals, vitamins, the whole thing.  They need calcium for the egg shells.  How you give them that balanced diet depends on your circumstances.  If all they eat is the feed you give them, then the 16% Layer provides all they need, including calcium.  You don't have to supplement with anything else, including oyster shell, unless your egg shells are thin.  There is nothing wrong with offering oyster shell on the side.  I have oyster shell available, mine free range most of the time on pasture and have Layer available, and they hardly ever touch the oyster shell. 

If you keep them confined but you offer them treats, don't overdo it on one specific treat.  Limit the amount of treats they eat so their major food source is their balanced feed.  Give them a variety of different treats.  It is not an exact science for us like it is with the commercial operations.  They can do well within a pretty wide range of that "balanced" diet as long as you don't overdo anything and will remain healthy and productive. 

I know I've made it sound a lot worse than it really is.  You really do have a wide tolerance when feeding them.  But the key is a balanced diet. 

Fort most of us, with a laying flock, I suggest the 16% Layer as a base, whether they are strictly confined or totally free range.  Or when I have chickens under laying age, Grower with oyster shell on the side.  Give them treats as you should give a child candy, enough so they can enjoy it but not enough to ruin their main meal.  If they forage, that is out of your control but don't worry about it.  If the egg shells are hard enough, you do not need to provide oyster shell, but having it available on the side is not a bad idea. 

I have not touched on grit.  They need it to digest a lot of what they eat.  If they free range or have access to dirt with small pebbles or sand, you should not have to provide it.  But if they are contained to a fairly small area or access to the ground is limited, you should provide it.

So what do chickens need?  A balanced diet and grit.

Editted for poor spelling and grammar.


Wow!   Thanks for the input.   My 9 will be cooped most of the time with a run on the ground.   I will let them out a few times a week to help themselves to what they can find.   I'll supply some grit and some oyster shells.   Mostly I will use the bagged feed you recommend, but since I work at a soybean processing plant, I'll also mix in a bit of soy meal.    A guy here told me that he boils soybeans and gives it to his chickens and they love it.    I'll do that every now and then.   The japaneese beetles are abundant here, so they will get their share of those as well.

post #9 of 21

Just a suggestion!!! I recently put a bug zapper in my chickens run. At night their locked in the coop. I plug the zapper in & every morning when the auto pop door opens they have a good hardy bug breakfast. They use to hang out on the roost in the morning. Now, the second the pop door opens their running over each other to get their bug breakfast.

I'm out of eggs. But I know where some brown ones are. I now raise big Ol' Honkin' Bob Whites & Layed back Coturnix. Pray For Rain In Texas!

Reply

I'm out of eggs. But I know where some brown ones are. I now raise big Ol' Honkin' Bob Whites & Layed back Coturnix. Pray For Rain In Texas!

Reply
post #10 of 21
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by 7L Farm 

Just a suggestion!!! I recently put a bug zapper in my chickens run. At night their locked in the coop. I plug the zapper in & every morning when the auto pop door opens they have a good hardy bug breakfast. They use to hang out on the roost in the morning. Now, the second the pop door opens their running over each other to get their bug breakfast.


Sounds like a good idea.

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