Feed and Foraging

Discussion in 'Feeding & Watering Your Flock' started by FMAFarms, Apr 12, 2011.

  1. FMAFarms

    FMAFarms Chillin' With My Peeps

    Feb 20, 2011
    Rural Michigan
    My husband believes that once our chicks are out in their runs, they are going to forage for a substantial part of their diet, thus reducing our feed costs. We are raising an egg-laying flock -- Orpingtons, Wyandottes, Ameraucanas, Cochins, Marans, and Barred Rocks -- and I believe that, while they may forage a little and eat bugs and grass, we will still be providing the majority of their food via layer pellets, grit, and oyster shell. My husband thinks that foraging will supply about 50 percent of their food. I see foraging at the most providing 15 to 20 percent of our layers' food. Your thoughts and experience with this? Thanks in advance.
  2. WingingIt

    WingingIt Chillin' With My Peeps

    Apr 16, 2009
    It sort of depends on how big of an area they'll have to roam, scratch and eat in and what your location is like. If they are free ranging completely and you live in an area with plenty of grass, worms and bugs, they'll get a lot of their diet from what they find. If they are going to be in a small run where they'll eat all the grass and bugs in a day or two, you'll be providing pretty much all of their food. If you're talking about a standard run where they are confined in the same run every day (not different runs where they rotate to give the grass time to recover) then you are probably closer to the truth, although your estimation of what they'll find may be a bit too high, too, if the run isn't pretty big. They can decimate vegetation very quickly.
  3. Judy

    Judy Chicken Obsessed Staff Member Premium Member

    Feb 5, 2009
    South Georgia
    When let loose in the summer, mine have access to several acres of mowed lawn, high weeds and woods. They eat way less than half as much as in winter when they are confined, maybe 25%, I didn't measure or keep track. And confined for me is about 15 chickens in a 64'x64' yard -- which they decimated the first year. The only thing growing in there now is weeds they won't eat.
  4. Sjisty

    Sjisty Scribe of Brahmalot

    May 18, 2009
    My chickens will clean their bowls daily when they are cooped. When they free range, the bowls don't empty for several days, so I would guess they get more than 50% from foraging. I have about 60 chickens on 3 acres, so they have plenty of room to run. I do go through more dog food when they are out, though. The dog doesn't care - I've caught her eating layer pellets!
  5. WoodlandWoman

    WoodlandWoman Overrun With Chickens

    May 8, 2007
    It really depends on what your forage base is like and what your stocking levels are. The bug season is pretty short up north, which makes a big difference. It takes awhile to get going, too. In mid-summer you have a lot more available than you do in the early spring or late fall. The amount of bugs, size of the bugs and length of the bug season in the south is amazing in comparison. [​IMG]

    How large a foraging area do you have for them and does it have a diversity of plants on it? Do you have pasture with legumes in it? That helps, too. Any livestock? They can also clean up spilled grain and leaves from alfalfa hay if there's any around. If you have leaf litter in wooded areas or along fences, that's a good place to hunt for bugs and worms, too.

    Some places that I've seen are pretty bare looking. Nicely manicured, but with not much to eat. I think some people use more pesticides on their property, too. Sometimes a LOT more. Worms aren't that keen on high doses of chemical fertilizer in the soil and go deeper, from what I've read. So, even two places that look similar can have a differing amount of food available, especially at particular times of the year when people are spreading and spraying an assortment of things around.
  6. mistymeadowchicks

    mistymeadowchicks Chillin' With My Peeps

    Nov 19, 2010
    As mentioned by other posters, feed consumption will depend on weather & situation. My 15 hens/ 2 roos free range year round w/ access to 9.5 acres (in piedmont NC). In the winter, they were going through a 50# bag of layer pellets each week free choice; now that it's warmer, the same bag will last almost 2 1/2 weeks. In Michigan, there probably won't be much if any foraging, for them in the winter. Unless you either have a HUGE run or rotate (or minimum # of chickens), then chickens (much like horses) will quickly turn it into a dirt lot. If they aren't getting enough to eat, either from feed or foraging, eggs & their health will suffer. IMHO, you should offer a quality feed free choice & let them determine how much they need, and I don't think it's realistic that they'll get the majority of what they need from a run.
  7. FMAFarms

    FMAFarms Chillin' With My Peeps

    Feb 20, 2011
    Rural Michigan
    Because of neighborhood dogs, plus plenty of raccoons, opossum, and coyotes (our property backs up to a state woodland park), the chickens will be in an enclosed run. We were considering doing a paddock rotation, but we're not sure if we'll be able to do so at this point. We've got 42 chickens, and they'll have about an acre to roam around in. Plenty of bugs -- those have been out for a while already, even with the snow on the ground! -- and just your average turf. Some wild grasses tossed in, clover, and that's about all. I've been looking at getting the grass seed specifically designed for chicken runs, but I don't remember where I saw it. I'm getting the feeling that we'll still be providing a lot of the feed!

    Oops, forgot to mention that my husband is very much into having us be self sustaining, and in his view having to provide feed bought from a feed store is NOT self sustaining. Then again, we wanted docile chickens, not foragers. There's got to be a compromise somewhere!
    Last edited: Apr 12, 2011
  8. flowergirl60

    flowergirl60 Chillin' With My Peeps

    Feb 13, 2011
    Austin Tx
    Quote:I don't give mine grit b/c they free range. That is what I learned on this forum. That said you could save money by not buying it. My girls are doing quite well without it.[​IMG]
  9. spottedtail

    spottedtail Chillin' With My Peeps

    Aug 5, 2007
    If you want maximum egg production you'll have to make feed avaible to your hens at all times, even when they have the opportunity to go foraging.

    Let the hens decide if they want to go out and forage, or come in and eat their layer feed.
    Free choice.

    I think your 15 to 20% forage estimate will be fairly accurate!

    Good luck,

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