A well presented article that encompasses much of my own philosophy on keeping chickens. This article should have a much higher rating. Unfortunately, like many of the good but not medical articles here it isn’t what many backyard chicken keepers want to hear.
Small flocks and single breed chicken keepers are in the minority.
Not many true back yard chicken keepers have the space to allow ‘natural’ behaviour from their chickens. However, to point out that most of the problems they have with chicken health and behaviour is because of the way the chickens are kept goes against the site’s interests in promoting chickens as fun and pets.
Excellent info, especially regarding diet and adaptability. So much info out there (especially in the UK, where it's illegal to feed animal produce) is basically USE ONLY SHOP BOUGHT FEEDS! DO NOT DEVIATE! DO NOT PASS GO!! But this article has taken out some of the fear of trying to supplement to save money, and make life a bit more fun for the chucks.
Thanks for the article. I had already known and followed a lot of this info, but it is always good to read to see if you can come up with additional info/ideas. And I'm happy to say that you've triggered one very good idea to improve my setup. I have 3 girls and one of the problems I've had to deal with is where they've been doing most of their dust-bathing: In the soft soil around a new fruit tree, exposing and damaging some of the roots.
I'm going to put in a small fence to protect that tree, but that doesn't eliminate the need/desire for an open dust-bath area. Instead, I'm going to put a tire under an established tree for dust-bathing. That should keep them from destroying another area and also provide good cover.
FYI- I agree that fewer birds are a positive when it makes sense. My three are in a chicken tractor that I move every two days for 9 months and park for 3 months. For most of the year, they can forage while in the tractor, pooping and partly eating the plants. I found that moving them every two days means that they don't kill the plants and the area grows back and is at least as healthy as the surrounding area after 2-3 weeks (depending mostly on precipitation). In the winter, they get to compost my leaves. This helps me, but also gives them something more interesting to play around in during the cold/dreary days than bare dirt.