An unexpected feeding problem.

Shadrach

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Jul 31, 2018
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All the chickens here free range from early morning until roosting time.
I’ve been experimenting with different feeds for about a year and a half now.
The original feed was a locally produced fish based feed and in general the hens have done very well on it. Unfortunately it had a very high calcium content (4.7%) and a bit high in the fat content (2.1%) too.
The reason I started to make changes was while high calcium may be fine for laying hens I’ve got roosters, cockerels, seniors and pullets and for the roosters in particular this level of calcium I believe is unhealthy and I think may have caused the early deaths of three roosters.

For the last couple of months I’ve been feeding what in the US would probably be described as an ‘all flock feed’. It’s organic (I’m not convinced this matters much) and the calcium content is 1%, protein 18%.
It took me a while to find this feed and it’s slightly more expensive than all the other feeds I’ve tried at 16 Euros for 25 Kg.

Dry feed gets scratched out and wasted so I headed down the fermented feed route and the waste was greatly reduced. I’m sort of straddling the line between fermented and mash at the moment.

Excluding predation and injury, the chickens here tend to lead long and healthy lives. and one of the reasons I believe is partly responsible, is the varied diet they get through free range foraging. Most of the year there is plenty to eat. Foraging only really gets difficult when the ground gets too dry to scratch and the bugs head deeper into the soil to escape being baked. None of the chickens have been particularly fond of any of the feeds I’ve used before; some of the hens hardly eat any of the commercially produced food and managed very well on what they foraged.
Most of the chickens seem to like the mash I give them now, but what has happened is they are now foraging noticeably less and eating much more of the commercial feed. I don’t think this is a good thing. I don’t have an awful lot of faith in the idea that commercial feeds supply everything that all chickens need. Most commercially produced feeds, even those with low calcium are focused on egg production and not necessarily on a chickens long term health.
I want them to forage; just having that extra exercise helps keep them fit and the bugs, shoots and vegetable matter provides a varied diet.
I don’t want them living entirely on the commercial stuff; I don’t believe it’s good for them no matter what the nutrition ‘experts’ say.
I can’t go back to the fish based feed because of the calcium and fat content.
I can’t find another fish or meat based feed here.
I have two reference chickens from each tribe which I weigh and they’ve put on weight; only a couple of ounces but they were fine before; better a bit thin and hungry is my view.
The other point is the chickens are now eating almost twice as much commercially produced feed and this while not bank breaking is more expensive.
Anybody got any ideas?
 

Shadrach

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Have you tried only offering the mash right before bedtime, so they'll (hopefully) forage all day?
They get their treat food at roosting time and this gets them out of the trees.:D
I did try offering the commercial food at roost time instead of the treats and they weren't fooled for long.:(
 

Shadrach

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Do you offer free choice feed all day? Maybe change it to feeding a set amount in the evening. That way they go to roost with food in the crop, but are forced to forage all day.
I can't leave food down during the day. I feed them in the morning and again mid afternoon. After breakfast they tend to forage until it gets too hot, or recently too wet, and forage again when the sun is about 45 degrees on the horizon until roost time.
 

townchicks

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Well it seems to me, that as long as they are still foraging part of the day, they will probably still be getting trace nutrients that may be lacking in the food. Other than the increased drain on the pocketbook, I don't think there's any harm in them eating more of the commercial feed.Possibly they like it better because it gives them more of what they need, than the previous diet did.
 

Percheron chick

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Apr 12, 2013
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I think you are looking at this wrong. Don't get hung up on the % in the first feed. How does it average out when you add all the other things they eat over the course of foraging? If they eat 1/2 feed and 1/2 kitchen scraps, bugs, greens... the fat and Ca were probably cut in half as well.
When chickens eat more of one feed, they are trying to satisfy a nutrient need.
In your testing, have you ran side by side tests of the feeds? Include laying as that is the most important part of feeding.
 

Shadrach

Roosterist
Jul 31, 2018
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I think you are looking at this wrong. Don't get hung up on the % in the first feed. How does it average out when you add all the other things they eat over the course of foraging? If they eat 1/2 feed and 1/2 kitchen scraps, bugs, greens... the fat and Ca were probably cut in half as well.
When chickens eat more of one feed, they are trying to satisfy a nutrient need.
In your testing, have you ran side by side tests of the feeds? Include laying as that is the most important part of feeding.
I haven't done any side by side comparisons.
The egg layng isn't particularly important to me and you are probably right about the averaging out effect of the foraged food. It's the reduction in exercise that concerns me most.
 

Perris

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Jan 28, 2018
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how about reducing the quantity of commercial feed you offer for breakfast, so they forage more to get the requisite exercise & bugs then? and if they like the FF, I don't see why it wouldn't work (esp if your trad bedtime treats were sprinkled on top) to get them out the trees before bed, esp if you didn't offer mid afternoon food too.
 

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