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Do some people think free range = no food?

Discussion in 'Feeding & Watering Your Flock' started by SkyWarrior, Sep 24, 2010.

  1. SkyWarrior

    SkyWarrior Songster

    Apr 2, 2010
    Wilds of Montana
    First, I'm not trying to start a flame war. I think that most BYC folks take good care of their flocks. I'm not sure the person whom I got the roosters from didn't feed them.

    I picked up four roos today from a person who didn't want to spend the money to feed them through the winter. I can understand that. She said they were too skinny for butchering, but were dual purpose birds. Fair enough. I was told they were free range with layer feed. Okay. I picked them up and they're young and pretty things, but they are skinny -- I could feel no meat on their bones. So, I put them in the pen with the turkey and the ducks after clipping their wings and brought in about 5 lbs of food and poured it in the bowls. I also filled the two big water bowls and let them relax a bit.

    Tonight after dinner I go out to refill all the waterers. The waterers are drained dry by these birds (the turkey and ducks still have a pail that had some). The food bowl was COMPLETELY empty. I usually don't see it empty until the next day or so. When I handled the roos tonight to get them used to me, I could feel their crops were stuffed full. My other chickens don't eat like this -- yes, they eat, but not like this. These birds eat like my turkey!

    I'm wondering if maybe I should deworm them and if perhaps the person who free ranged them really didn't feed them but just let them forage. People in my area aren't wealthy by any stretch and its common for people to give away animals so they don't have to feed them in the winter. I'm wondering how many people think free range = no food bills. I mean, I spend about $40 a month feeding my poultry because I don't free range, but I do give grass, dandelions, weeds and table scraps. I'm not perfect in caring for my animals, but I always make sure they have food of some sort.

    Is not feeding an animal and calling it free range common? I'm really not sure poultry can get all the necessary nutrients from grazing. OTOH, I didn't see anything in behavior that was bad and the birds are very sweet. I can pick them up and examine them without much of a fuss.

  2. Dora'smom

    Dora'smom Songster

    Dec 14, 2009
    I'm not sure what the usual is, but I have read posts on this forum, stating that the poster was free-ranging because they didn't want to pay for feed. I think it happens. I wouldn't try to make my birds forage for everything, if they were free-range, but I recall comments that several others thought that was the way to go, and that if they had to pay for feed, it was cutting too much into their egg profits.
  3. pgpoultry

    pgpoultry Songster

    Oct 16, 2009
    My chickens are free range but I feed all juveniles a lot of additional food and the adults quite a bit.

    If I leave them without their food they promptly steal the sheep food from the barn and the sheep feeders, dog food, cat food, goat food etc.

    So, even though we have a very 'buggy' and green 18 acres, they still seem to want their additional feed.

    i wouldn't feel happy giving them no additional food, especially in the winter when there is little green and the ground is too frozen for bugs,

  4. Tala

    Tala Flock Mistress

    When my birds free range they DO eat CONSIDERABLY less, but they also beg like crazy and gorge like they've never seen food if I let the feeders go empty for an afternoon. Spoiled is probably a good word for them.
    Also young roos are skinny compared to adult roos.

    I do think it's possible for them to get most of their nutrients from range, otherwise our ancestors never would have been able to raise chickens.....BUT you need more range space than I have so I don't have firsthand experience. I know my aunt didn't have to feed her horses and cows much grain in the summertime when they were on pasture, of course they were also spoiled and loooooved their feeding times, but they never got skinny on good pasture.
  5. Beekissed

    Beekissed Free Ranging

    I can't imagine anyone is getting any real egg production out of purely foraged feed. I think some folks really do feel that free ranged means that you won't have to feed your chickens but I can't see how they would get that idea....yeah, with really, really good forage and variety of range one can get by with a lot less feed at certain times of the year.

    But to not feed entirely? I can't imagine the birds would thrive and lay well.
  6. Mahonri

    Mahonri Urban Desert Chicken Enthusiast Premium Member

    May 14, 2008
    North Phoenix
    My Coop
    I've been on here enough in the past 28 months to know that there are those who think that free range means no additional food or supplements.

    I have some skinny young roos, but they have all they can eat... and then they get 'free range' time to eat grass, bugs, leaves, blossoms etc...

    I've been meaning to deworm my flock for weeks. I hope to do it Saturday and see what happens to their size.
  7. SkyWarrior

    SkyWarrior Songster

    Apr 2, 2010
    Wilds of Montana
    Other than being really skinny and sucking down 5 lbs of food, they seem to be in decent health and have good temperaments. I just didn't expect for 4 roosters to eat that much feed all at once. [​IMG]

    I understand the money issue, I really do. I've gone and bought a shopping cart full of expired bread for the birds to add extra calories to stretch the feed out a bit and I'm not shy feeding leftovers. But yes, I really wonder how one can expect any sort of egg production with birds that just forage.

    I do have birds a tad younger than these and my younger birds are heavier (with the exception of my skinny EEs who are lightweights). I have two BR hens that would put the BR roos to shame in the weight department. I really like the Brahma roo, but he's a bean pole.

  8. SkyWarrior

    SkyWarrior Songster

    Apr 2, 2010
    Wilds of Montana
    Quote:Just out of curiosity, how long do you think I should wait after deworming to butcher them?
  9. Akane

    Akane Crowing

    Jun 15, 2008
    It is entirely possible for some birds (not all and definitely not all breeds) to get everything they need foraging on some properties(probably a fairly small minority). I had some mutt chickens that were half welsummer and half maran x penedesenca who would not eat poultry feed from mid-late summer through fall. All I fed were the rats during that time. I still got nearly an egg a day from every hen. That does not mean I would suggest just not feeding poultry and seeing what happens. I kept the feeder full through the first year to see when they needed to eat and then periodically (not constantly) left it empty during that same time of year after that to avoid all the pests going after the otherwise undisturbed feed. I don't even really agree with cutting feed to try to force them to free range better. If they can get enough in forage they will because most prefer it greatly over poultry feed.
  10. 33yardbirds

    33yardbirds Songster

    Jun 15, 2010
    Southern New Jersey
    I free range and supplement with feed. I'm sure feral chickens do fine for awhile if they weren't bred to the stupid fragile stage. It comes down to survival of the fitest. On the flip side, I made the choice of having chickens so the responsibility of making sure they have every advantage of care falls squarely on me. This time of yr they are jamming Fall seeds and Crickets down. It's a seasonal feed and then the hard winter comes. They will be glad the feeder is in the coop. They will get their share of table fare also.

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