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Discussion in 'Feeding & Watering Your Flock' started by Herbwifemama, Dec 18, 2010.
Will chickens be able to get enough just from foraging?
Some places they can but not everywhere.
Depends entirely on where you are located and what you have available for them to forage on. If they have to subsist entirely on their own they are likely to forage a fair distance, putting them increasingly at risk of predation. If you live where there is snow on the ground in winter it's going to be tough for them to get by.
It also depends on whether you want them to give you eggs. Their caloric input will FIRST go to maintain their weight/health and THEN go to produce eggs. If they are struggling to find enough to eat to survive, they will not have anything left over to produce eggs. Which goes back to - it depends where you are and what season it is.
They do in Kauai, HI. There are feral chickens which were released when a hurricane blew through the island back in 1982. They need a large amount of space with a large amount of variety to have a balanced diet. It would be theoretically possible with much study and planning to develop a forage feeding using staggered crops of fruits, grains and greens. To do this, you would probably need to create climate controlled areas or, at least, microclimates to manipulate the crop development. It's a much easier job, however, to supplement their regular feed with planted or naturalized forage. My chickens only have a run, but they ate tons of berries and veggies and greens all summer into the fall. I almost didn't have to feed them.
You didn't say where you're located. If I just let mine freerange here in the snow covered bluegrass they'd starve.
Colby in KY
I would at least give them the option of crumbles or pellets just to make sure they didn't starve. Mine foraged all spring, summer, & fall. I've only got four, but it took probably 1/2 the year before I had to buy a second bag of crumbles. Even now, they're foraging when the snow melts, but I wouldn't dream of making them rely on that during the winter. They need more calories to keep themselves warm during the winter and the forage supply is very low during the winter, so I don't think my girls could survive without intervention on my part. Although if you're in a location that is warm enough for plants & bugs to grow & live year-round, they may be OK, but I'd still give them the option of crumbles or pellets.
I'm in the middle of the US, and there's several inches of snow on the ground atm. I kind of figured they'd need help in the winter. To be honest, I don't really know what they eat- I know they eat, "bugs and stuff", lol! So, for someone in the midwest, is it possible, with the exception of winter for 3-4 chickens to find enough food to survive on (and produce eggs) 1/2 an acre for the majority of the year? We have a weedy lawn, there's violets, and dandelions, and clover, and grass, and bugs galore.
ETA: The farm where we get our milk has feed and water at the coops, and then the hens are allowed to free range. And our "chicken lady" does the same thing. Her farm is biodynamic, and when I asked about variation in yolk color she told me it depended on how adventurous the hen was- adventurous ranging ones will eat more weeds and bugs and have darker yolks. Homebodies will eat feed and have yellow yolks. So I'm guessing the setup is similar.
If a yes or no; then yes... But its not quite as simple as that.... Also; be sure to have a rooster (with grown spurs) to feed and protect your hens.... There are many simple things that can be done to supplement their diet with minimum continued maintenance outside of initial setup.
You can certainly let them forage, we do. But we also provide supplemental feed to our ducks and chickens.