Can chickens live on just free-ranging?

Discussion in 'Feeding & Watering Your Flock' started by mirandalola, Nov 16, 2016.

  1. mirandalola

    mirandalola Out Of The Brooder

    Oct 13, 2016
    NorthEast Texas, USA
    Or do they need some food thrown at them every day?

    We have typical Arkansas / East Texas grass/weeds, about 1 1/2 acres. We currently have 9 full-grown chickens and 4 chicks, but will be acquiring chicks and eventually plan to raise more chicks from our fertile eggs. Would a flock of 30 or so survive on an acre and a half of grass/weeds and the bugs they find?

    How would I be able to tell if chickens aren't getting enough to eat? Their feathers make it hard to tell if they're skinny!
  2. azygous

    azygous True BYC Addict

    Dec 11, 2009
    Colorado Rockies
    There are two ways to tell if a chicken is getting enough to eat.

    One is to feel their crop at roosting time. It should feel full. Chickens that aren't getting enough to eat may have flat crops at bedtime.

    The other way is to feel the keel bone down the center of the breast. If it's nicely cushioned on either side by flesh, they're eating well. A knife sharp keel bone that protrudes is indicative of a chicken having trouble finding enough to eat.
  3. Alexandra33

    Alexandra33 Overrun With Chickens

    I'm nearly positive they still need food, even if it's just a little. Not only this, but your property doesn't seem large enough to sustain 30 birds. I know of somebody who went this route and most of her flock died of starvation. I personally wouldn't do it, but ultimately it's whatever you feel is best! [​IMG]

    Last edited: Nov 16, 2016
  4. junebuggena

    junebuggena Chicken Obsessed

    Apr 17, 2015
    Long Beach, WA
    If you want a healthy and productive flock, you will need to supplement them with feed. I've got an acre for my birds to forage over, with a variety of seasonal berry patches, grasses, wooded areas, and overgrown pasture. We don't get hard freezes so forage is available all year long. 18 birds still eat about 5 pounds of feed a day.
    And it's not just about them getting enough to eat, they also need the right amount of nutrients. Vitamin or mineral deficiencies can lead to all sorts of bone and joint deformities, as well as neurological problems. Protein deficiencies can lead to egg eating.
    Feed helps minimize these issues.
    2 people like this.
  5. dekel18042

    dekel18042 Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jul 18, 2013
    While chickens may be getting enough food with free ranging, it may not be enough balance and of the right kind of food. Bugs and earthworms tend to peter out in winter. What about calcium for your layers?
    My chickens free range and I've found the best thing and it also absolves me from unnecessary worry is to make sure I have enough high quality balanced feed out. When they get enough from free ranging the barely touch it. Other seasons and times they eat more.
    They also get leftovers and food scraps Today must have been a decent day in finding food. Their feeders were only slightly touched.
  6. centrarchid

    centrarchid Chicken Obsessed

    Sep 19, 2009
    Holts Summit, Missouri
    Everything above I agree with. Without bringing in feed from the outside, I would estimate three birds tops in your area assuming timely rainfall. During growing season the ground might be able to support a few more but same area can be depleted in fall long before winter really sets in. Some years you will be able to support more, some years less.
  7. Folly's place

    Folly's place Chicken Obsessed

    Sep 13, 2011
    southern Michigan
    Wild jungle fowl do great out there in southeast Asia. Modern laying hens in mid-America need a balanced ration fed free choice all year, and then whatever they can glean from your little patch of grass and weeds will be a bonus. And you want them to raise healthy chicks? If not actual death from starvation, then severe malnutrition and minimal production. Mary

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