Feeding and watering free-range birds

Discussion in 'Feeding & Watering Your Flock' started by Its Just Us Chickens, Nov 24, 2008.

  1. Its Just Us Chickens

    Its Just Us Chickens Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Nov 24, 2008
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    Hi,
    I'm completely new to chickens and have some questions I'm hoping you all will help me with.
    We recently got some rhode island reds and barred plymoth rocks. All together I have 7 hens and one rooster.We live in a rural area and turned the chickens loose in the yard to forage for food. In the evenings the have nesting boxes to come back to.
    I am being given a lot of conflicting info on feeding and watering my birds, so I'm hoping someone can tell me for sure what I should give them. I've read that I should give them pellets, crushed corn, and oystershell, then let them forage for the rest of their food. I've also read that the more fruit and veggies scraps I give them the less feed they need. But then I was told that layer pellets are expensive and I'd come out cheaper giving them wild birdseed and day old bread, and this would be just as good for them. Then beans, some say feed them beans, some say don't.
    What I would really like to have is healthy free range birds, and as a result healthy free range eggs. But I'm really confused now as to what to feed them to accomplish that.
    Also, what about watering them? We have troughs of water set up in the yard that we keep full of clean fresh water. Will this work for chickens too, or do I really need to make them a waterer?
    Thanks
     
  2. gritsar

    gritsar Cows, Chooks & Impys - OH MY!

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    Nov 9, 2007
    SW Arkansas
    Hi and welcome to BYC!
    You say you have nesting boxes to come back to? Are they in a coop? A secure coop is the best place for your chickens at night. Predators are more prevelant at night.
    You don't want your chickens to get into the habit of using your nest boxes to roost. The result will be dirty, poopy eggs. You should install roosts and make sure they are a little higher than your nest boxes. This will encourage the chickens to roost at the highest point (the roosts instead of the nest boxes).
    My birds free-range all day. They have layer pellets and fresh water available in their coop at all times. I also offer free-choice oyster shell. Now that the weather has turned cooler I give them some warm corn mash in the evenings before they go into roost. They also get table scraps when I have them. You can look at the top of the feeding & watering category for the treat chart authored by Buff Hooligans. It will give you an idea of the kinds of kitchen scraps they can have.
    Most days my chickens don't come back to the coop for water. They've learned to drink out of the dog or goat's water bucket or basically wherever they find water. If you have an extra waterer I'm sure the chickens would appreciate it.
     
  3. chickenfever

    chickenfever Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Jul 22, 2008
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    Yeah, I agree.
     
  4. jacyjones

    jacyjones Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Jun 9, 2008
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    My girls free range in the day. I feed them layers pellets morning and afternoon and they forage for the rest of their food. At the moment they have windfall apples to eat in the orchard and they help themselves to the left over horse breakfast!! they have oyster shell all the time in their run and water there also. they also drink from the horse's water bucket and any puddles around the place. when I started with chickens I read that it is easier for a newbie to use commercial food rather than guess at protein etc. so was advised to avoid scraps and encourage them to free range for extra food. it has worked for 12 + years so must be ok!
     
  5. Its Just Us Chickens

    Its Just Us Chickens Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Nov 24, 2008
    Mississippi
    Thanks for the info, that clears things up some. [​IMG]

    As far as coops go, we were given the chickens on short notice without much time to prepare for them. SO My hubby went and got an old kitchen cabinet, took the doors off, and mounted it on the shed wall. We set crates inside it and stuffed them with hay. Then this is covered with a heavy duty tarp (the kind the use on big trucks), to make a sort of tent over the box. It's enclosed on 3 sides, with room for them to get in on the fourth side. It's done redneck style [​IMG], but at least they have somewhere to go for the moment. If it ever happens to not be pouring down raining on my husbands day off [​IMG], we're going to get them an actual coop built soon.
     
  6. Its Just Us Chickens

    Its Just Us Chickens Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Nov 24, 2008
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    I saw not to feed them raw eggs, but what about shells from raw eggs? I've got a bowl full of them in my kitchen from where I was cooking. I've got a bucket full of fruit scraps and boiled egg shells and was debating on whether or not to add the raw eggs shells. If not, I'll compost them with all the other stuff I'm not feeding my chickies.
     
  7. gritsar

    gritsar Cows, Chooks & Impys - OH MY!

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    Quote:I think most folks boil theirs first.
     
  8. hollyk

    hollyk Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Nov 21, 2008
    Canton, Texas
    My great grandmother always fed raw and/or boiled egg shells to her chickens. She was from the old days when commercialized feed wasn't readily available. She also fed vegitable scraps and such. She always had good results with lots of eggs. I haven't ventured from the laying pellets as supplements for free-ranging yet, but I think I am going to try it in the spring when more bugs are available. I am also concerned about what might be lurking in the pellets.The shells took the place of oytser shells. She said the shells would make the chickens egg shells stronger. Oyster shells were not available at that time.[​IMG]
     
    Last edited: Nov 25, 2008
  9. BethinIrving

    BethinIrving Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Nov 13, 2008
    My hens free range. I put corn scratch out for them every day and will add medicated crumbles and wild bird feed as well as table scraps. But, their primary source of food are the bugs they find.

    None of my hens get laying mash. And, they lay every day and are extremely healthy birds.

    We have a lot of wild birds here and the risk of cross contamination is very high. That is the reason for the food choices I've made for my flock.

    My hens are primarily Barred Rocks, I've got one Buff Orphington hen, and White Chinese geese.

    I do have a lot of trouble with the geese muddying up all the birds drinking water.
     
  10. Barn Maid Ann

    Barn Maid Ann Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Oct 28, 2008
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    Our chickens free range. We have a nice insulated 4x8' coop for the original three hens. Then this year we bought chicks to raise, and ended up keeping way more than I planned. So those 17 now live in an extra 12x12 stall in the barn. The chickens are locked up every evening after coming in to roost. In these nesting areas, we keep feeders full of layer pellets, oyster shell, and water. We also have chicken sized water buckets inside and outside the barn for the birds. DH put electric outlets outside of the barn so we can use heated buckets in the winter. We throw some scratch feed to the chickens a couple times a day as a treat. We give them left overs, of course. Some or all come running whenever we call them!Otherwise, they are roaming and eating what they find.
     

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