Feeding free rangers - they don't want layer feed...

sande010

In the Brooder
Oct 3, 2019
9
6
19
Hi, We have 9 mixed laying hens about 10 months old, a surviving guinea hen and one accidental rooster. I want to check to make sure we are feeding and maintaining them appropriately. They seem amazingly healthy and have provided us with between 7-9 eggs a day since the mid-summer, and are still laying happily in mid-winter here in NC. They range freely around our house and farm, up in the woods and out in the fields as a flock, and come home each night to their coop to roost, when we lock them in. They return periodically to the coop during the day to lay their eggs - it's a rhythm we have all settled into during these COVID times. We haven't lost a chicken yet to predators, but know it's only a matter of time (except one of the guineas. One night they decided to roost on top of the coop and an owl took one of them.)
Regarding feeding, we maintain a feeder of 16% layer pellets of various brands ( I've tried them all from Tractor Supply) at the coop and undercover next to their waterer. They can access this during the day. In the morning, when we let them out of the coop, we give them a couple of pints of scratch gains scattered near the coop and sometimes a mash of layer feed in hot water mixed with scratch grains that I set up near a warming light on an especially frosty morning. They tend to eat the scratch grains and ignore the layer feed pellets (and the mash, and the warming light), heading off into the woods and fields to scratch and scrabble all day, returning occasionally to the coop to lay their eggs. The rooster watches over them attentively and is occasionally aggressive towards us, but we don't mind. We have a couple of dogs that amble in and out of their lives (also able to roam free) but wouldn't say these are good at guarding them. Their coop doesn't have an enclosed run anymore - It's on skids in the middle of a small horse corral. We bought a solar-powered mesh electric fence to surround that, but they flew over it as soon as they were able, so now we've given up trying to keep them in, opening up the electric fence each morning to let them out.
Does this all sound OK? We are first-timers with laying hens. I'm a bit concerned that they don't want much, if any, of the layer feed. They devour the scratch grain we give them and then spend most of the time scratching and feeding among the leaves in the woods and around our fields. I'm amazed they are able to garner enough protein in winter from this to keep producing eggs without harming themselves. Do we need to be feeding them something else?
 

Harmony Fowl

Crowing
Jul 17, 2017
644
1,273
266
Virginia
I agree so much scratch is not helping. I have 42 including a rooster and a turkey and they all get one cup of scratch at dinner time, between all of them. But also, you can do a higher protein all flock feed. It might suit your rooster and guinea better. It sounds like your egg production is great (not uncommon for hens in their first winter) but I've found an 18 or 20% protein feed helps with eggs, too.
 

GC-Raptor

Free Ranging
5 Years
Jul 26, 2016
5,683
11,693
671
Connecticut, USA
Regarding feeding, we maintain a feeder of 16% layer pellets of various brands ( I've tried them all from Tractor Supply) at the coop and undercover next to their waterer. They can access this during the day. In the morning, when we let them out of the coop, we give them a couple of pints of scratch gains scattered near the coop and sometimes a mash of layer feed in hot water mixed with scratch grains that I set up near a warming light on an especially frosty morning. They tend to eat the scratch grains and ignore the layer feed pellets (and the mash,
I would only offer the Layer feed to Free Ranging chickens. A lack of nutrients is a possibility especially during winter season. GC
 

sande010

In the Brooder
Oct 3, 2019
9
6
19
Thank you all so much! Really helpful and confirmed my concerns. We've been too kind in giving them the scratch feed, but may in the end be harming them. New diet on the way, starting with a 20% all flock feed in the feeder (plus some oyster shell mixed in) and scratch feed limited for special occasions. Will that work?
 

New posts New threads Active threads

Top Bottom