Does it not balance out?

Wiccedbug22

Hatching
Nov 8, 2020
5
9
3
So I've been trying to do chickens for a few years now and it's been a losing process financially. The coop is basically in the woods, and constantly dealing with predators etc. But my real question is. Food. I gave a few auto feeders in a tree that sling food around, my hope was that by throwing food onto the ground they would dig around and get natural sustenance as well but it seems that they are just too stupid to feed themselves AT ALL. They are free roam totally. There is plenty of leaf litter with bugs in it everywhere. They wait for the feeder, etc. Whatever comes out of it, then stand around and wait for it again. It only goes off 1 time a day. I feel like at the cost of food for them to stay in a healthy laying stage I could just buy eggs from the store and avoid all the other problems that come along with them. Its become a "don't want to give up" situation because I feel like this should not be difficult. I thought OK I'll just set feeders to every other day, force them to look for food on off days. Well they just stand around and starve. Is the only way to get them to look for food on their own to not feed them in a cage as chicks? It's like they learn 1 way, 1 food or water source and then never deviate even at cost of starving to death.
 

21hens-incharge

Nuttier than a squirrels stash
Premium Feather Member
Mar 9, 2014
21,512
88,738
1,542
Northern Colorado
Buying eggs from the store is definitely less expensive.

Even birds that forage should have open access to properly balanced feed all daylight hours. What your method is doing is keeping them in a state of extreme hunger so they hang around waiting for a "guaranteed" food source.

Losing them to predators...... Yeah I am not willing to do that.

I feed my birds in their coop/run every morning. When I let them out for a few hours they forage instead of sticking by the feeder.

I think your management of their feed needs reassessed.

As to losing them to predators...that is a risk with free ranging. Sometimes it means losing everyone in one short attack.
 
Last edited:

Folly's place

Enabler
Sep 13, 2011
21,776
33,667
1,036
southern Michigan
Welcome!
The short answer is that modern chickens NEED to be fed a balanced diet at all times! And, there's no way for backyard chicken keepers to compete with the production model practiced by the big commercial egg factories.
Approximately where do you live, how many and what breeds do you have, and what are you actually feeding? What are you growing for them to eat outside?
Bugs in leaf litter are nice, but are a yummy supplement to the diet of your chickens. they need 'real food' free choice, and then the free range extras are helpful.
@centrarchid and @Shadrach both have experience with management a bit closer to what you are trying to do, with some breeds and land management practices that do work.
Meanwhile, having safe coops at least for night time roosting, and having a balanced feed available are both necessary.
Mary
 

kelzey

Songster
Aug 14, 2020
171
473
101
newfoundland and labrador, canada
^^ i agree with selling eggs by the carton depending on how many you get, a lot of people love the idea of buying free ranged eggs- it also helps with the cost of keeping them. when i build up my flock more and i keep more birds, it’s something i’m personally going to look into. my chickens (i only have five right now) free range for 3/4 hours a day and have a fairly large run, and have 24/7 access to food and water and they are doing wonderfully. i definitely recommend trying another feeder, perferably a free choice one where they can have access all day and eat when they feel hungry. the bugs, grass and such are really just an added bonus on top of their feed, not enough for a full diet
 

EggSighted4Life

Crossing the Road
Apr 9, 2016
13,734
18,325
782
California's Redwood Coast
Is the only way to get them to look for food on their own to not feed them in a cage as chicks?
Hi there and welcome to BYC! :frow

You've already been given really good answers.

The basic one.. most of us aren't keeping chickens to save money but to know where are food comes from and how it's treated every day.. Since we can't buy and store feed in bulk our cost is much higher than that of factory farms.

My cost to keep the chickens I want means eggs are double the super market price.. if compared to bottom shelf.. but when compared to other pasture raised, humane eggs.. maybe the same cost.. I never bought those before just always what was cheapest. NOW.. the all mighty dollar is NOT my top concern and I have a much clearer understanding of why things cost so much and the effort and time that goes in to making the food I use to take for granted.. If the dollar is your concern then buying market eggs is the easiest way to go.. noting my eggs have never been recalled for salmonella trace antibiotics or any other cross contamination type issue and THAT is the number 1 reason I started keeping chickens.. take my life into my own hands instead of leaving to Big Chicken. :confused:

I don't keep chickens just for eggs.. the meat cost also at least double to raise a heritage breed bird than market broilers.. And that's just feed, not even building materials to keep them safe at night etc.

I also use them as physical therapy for the chores, psycho therapy as they make good listeners who are super entertaining, the gym.. etc.. the benefit of chicken.. for those of us who need it.. is FAR more than just an egg.

Please understand that by feeding a complete ration, choosing birds that people want to buy, and selecting HARD for superior qualities.. I can sell hatching eggs.. for $65 per dozen.. Eating eggs local go for $4 dozen and market are about $2 dozen.. My personal cost of feed for a mature bird.. is about $2.50/month..

I use a free choice feeder open all day closed at night.. they usually hit it up a couple times per day.. no ONE stands around by it.. Give them what they need.. then they will have the energy to go forage up some grubs. So.. you don't throw food onto the ground to teach foraging.. you give them food in a feeder and throw high value treats like meal worms or red wigglers or crickets onto the ground.. ta-da! You're right chickens aren't super bright..

Then you add in.. the free pest control, natural fertilizer, entertainment value, and so on.. to find out what YOUR true value is. ;)

Nutrient deficient birds will never be cost effective when compared to healthy birds.. and those nutrients DO correlate to the egg micro-nutrients ultimately making it into our families.

True free range ONLY birds need about 1 acre per bird to be sustained long term. Of course it will vary by how lush it is or isn't.

Maybe put down a flattened cardboard and water it into the ground good. Leave overnight or 2 days.. call the chickens over before lifting it.. and see if they like the earth worm pay off.

Hope this helps give you some ideas, and also that with a renewed understanding you might still continue to enjoy keeping chickens! :fl
 

Wiccedbug22

Hatching
Nov 8, 2020
5
9
3
I started out with the feeders in a fenced area around the coop that went off multiple times a day, but then they never left that area and the cost of feed was certainly not worth the egg return. I can happily eat 1 dozen a day and wasn't trying to sell any. They don't seem to roam outside a 100 yards even though there's 22 acres. It's why I moved the feeders out further to spots with trees that drop acorns, leaves with bugs etc. But if I fed them as much as they want to eat the cost would just be illogical vs buying even 5-6 dollar so called "organic" eggs. It seems the only reason to DIY I'm seeing is to not support egg factories, and certainly cost more to do so. Kind of depressing. I figured having true free roam land would allow for an easier time raising them but It doesn't seem to make a difference. The most egg production I had was when I closed off the inner fenced area and kept them trapped in basically one spot of 15x15 with no natural forage. Let them free roam and production dropped. Sitting in front of tractor supply thinking it was all a waste of time and perhaps I should just give it up
 

LaFleche

Free Ranging
Sep 22, 2012
3,060
10,599
512
Germany
So I've been trying to do chickens for a few years now and it's been a losing process financially. The coop is basically in the woods, and constantly dealing with predators etc. But my real question is. Food. I gave a few auto feeders in a tree that sling food around, my hope was that by throwing food onto the ground they would dig around and get natural sustenance as well but it seems that they are just too stupid to feed themselves AT ALL. They are free roam totally. There is plenty of leaf litter with bugs in it everywhere. They wait for the feeder, etc. Whatever comes out of it, then stand around and wait for it again. It only goes off 1 time a day. I feel like at the cost of food for them to stay in a healthy laying stage I could just buy eggs from the store and avoid all the other problems that come along with them. Its become a "don't want to give up" situation because I feel like this should not be difficult. I thought OK I'll just set feeders to every other day, force them to look for food on off days. Well they just stand around and starve. Is the only way to get them to look for food on their own to not feed them in a cage as chicks? It's like they learn 1 way, 1 food or water source and then never deviate even at cost of starving to death.
Welcome to BYC!

To get an idea of your set up, please give us some more information:

How many hens, what age, what breed?
How big is your coop?
How big is your run, what did you use to cover the top?

Some pictures would be good.
What exactly do you feed them?
 

Folly's place

Enabler
Sep 13, 2011
21,776
33,667
1,036
southern Michigan
It's about having realistic expectations, not expecting the impossible. Of course the cheapest eggs and meat at the store can't be reproduced at home!
We have fifty acres of mixed woodland and pasture, and the birds free range over about five acres at most, for the goodies they love to find. It does cut our feed use a bit during warm weather, and also has occasional losses to predation, very occasionally severe losses.
In Southeast Asia the wild jungle fowl can survive (minus predator losses) on wild forage. Those birds are small, and might lay thirty eggs each year. Our birds in no way live in that environment, are larger, and produce 150 to 300+ eggs each year!
Mary
 

LaFleche

Free Ranging
Sep 22, 2012
3,060
10,599
512
Germany
Did you check the coop for poultry mites and other parasites? did you check your chickens?
When did you last deworm them?

Just standing around all day would be a sign that something is amiss with their health, such as parasites feeding on their blood at night leaving them listless or worms feeding on their nutrients leaving them devoid of vitamins etc.
 

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