Chicken feeding question

Discussion in 'Feeding & Watering Your Flock' started by switters, Nov 10, 2009.

  1. switters

    switters Out Of The Brooder

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    Nov 3, 2008
    We've got 9 gals (4 months old) in our backyard flock, all laying varieties (Australorp, Rhode Island Red, White Leghorn, Black Star, White Rock, 2 Barred Rocks and 2 Buff Orpingtons). They get out into our garden/yard maybe 3-4 hours a day. We are feeding them an organic layer mash as well as table scraps.

    We're considering making our own organic chicken feed, and I'm calculating how much it will cost. To do that I need a good estimate of how much they're likely to eat as adults. I've seen 1/4 pound per chicken per day mentioned elsewhere. Is this true even if they're free ranging a few hours a day and eating table scraps? What has your experience been with this?

    Thanks.
     
  2. digitS'

    digitS' Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I'd say only eating 1/4 pound of feed each day would be pretty good for the breeds you have. Only your Leghorn could be called a light-weight . . . okay, maybe the Black Star isn't too big either.

    Foraging depends on what there is to forage. They can find enuf on their own to eat virtually none of their commercial feed. However, I think most of us are inclined to greatly over-estimate the forage capacity of our backyards. In Southeast Asia (pretty much of a "natural" environment for a chicken), it isn't surprising to find a village flock one-half mile from their home. They aren't there as sight-seers. They are looking for food. How far can they range in an American backyard, by comparison?

    Table scraps? Again, what are they eating? If you are tossing 5 pounds of "people food" into their run everyday, the may not be eating anything from the feeder. But, food from the kitchen isn't all equal. If a chicken had only lettuce to eat, it would soon starve. With a diet heavy in forage or scraps, a hen may be neither productive nor even healthy. And, she may have a diet that's very imbalanced by choice, just because she likes what is available to her.

    In cold weather, your larger hens will eat closer to one-half pound of feed each day. Just like people, they will eat until they've consumed enough calories and then they will eat a little bit more. Surplus calories along with surplus protein can be turned into eggs if there is a balance to the nutrients.

    Steve
     
  3. switters

    switters Out Of The Brooder

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    Thanks for your reply, Steve. I did a bit more research last night and as you said, a backyard isn't exactly a "pasture". I think we were in danger of overestimating the forage available on our modest little urban plot of land.

    We do feed table scraps every day, but nowhere near five pounds! Carrot tops, greens, ripe fruit cores, bread crumbs, etc. is mostly what we give them.

    The idea behind mixing our own feed was this: if we're just feeding the organic commercial stuff, why not just buy organic eggs from the store? We're not saving much money doing it in the backyard (we've spent $700 so far on brooder & coop construction, materials, food - and we haven't yet gotten a single egg). I'm wondering how much better the nutritional content of our eggs will be than the store-bought ones with the limited access to our backyard the chickens have and a few table scraps each day.

    On the other hand, after calculating what it would cost to make our own feed, we've pretty much given up on that idea! We're going to focus on giving them as much access to different parts of the yard as possible, and supplementing with more nutritious table scraps. Any suggestions for good "human food" we can feed them?
     
  4. toletiquesbysam

    toletiquesbysam Chillin' With My Peeps

    Sep 19, 2008
    Nebraska
  5. digitS'

    digitS' Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Switters, I can certainly understand your desire to lower the cost of egg production. It's tough, tho'.

    The feed industry is very efficient as using ingredients that are essentially waste products of other food processing. There are cheap ingredients going into the bag but, of course, there are certain standards that the industry has to live up to. The animal nutritionists that work for them are pretty smart and clever people.

    What you are talking about is replacing that approach with a more "home-grown" one. One of the 1st issues that jumps up is how do you keep protein levels high and how do you keep them balanced enough that the birds can change that protein into egg protein? Carbohydrates are a fairly simple (and cheap) component, by comparison.

    I think every person should eat a well-balanced diet of mostly home prepared food AND own a chicken [​IMG].

    An average adult human eats about 2 pounds of food each day. Having one-quarter pound of leftovers isn't unreasonable.

    It seems to me that chicken & human protein requirements are nearly the same, as a percentage of our diet. So, "setting another place at the table" for a laying hen may work. But, the hen has to get the same the good food as the human. That could be expensive unless it was food that would otherwise be thrown away.

    My approach has been to feed a 20% protein feed to my backyard flock, allow them out to eat mostly lawn grass each day, give them a limited amount of what must be low-protein leftovers, and a handful of scratch each day. The way I keep things somewhat "in control" is to weigh the feeder so I know how much of the 20% protein feed they are eating. If it fall below about one-quarter pound per chicken per day - - I give them less treats.

    Steve
     
  6. switters

    switters Out Of The Brooder

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    Thanks again, Steve. With 9 chickens x 0.25 lbs. of food that's actually a significant amount of human food to give them! We tend to eat very high quality, organic produce and grass-fed meat, so I don't think we can afford to give much of that to our birds.

    What we've settled on (for now) is to find the highest quality commercial organic feed we can and then, like you, supplement with what they have access to in our yard (dark green leafy veggies, grass, bugs, etc.) as well as table scraps. I hope that with this program our eggs will at least be up to par with what we've been getting from the local farmer's market.
     

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