Feeding Meat....How Much, How Often...??

Discussion in 'Feeding & Watering Your Flock' started by TwoCrows, Nov 1, 2013.

  1. TwoCrows

    TwoCrows Show me the way old friend... Staff Member

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    My small flock of Black Australorps of 2 1/2 years old is going thru their annual fall molt. At least most of them are. It is a blizzard of feathers in the coop and run and I do my best to keep them all picked up, however I cannot be with them 24/7 to pick up every feather that falls.

    I noticed over this past week that several of the chickens are eating these fallen feathers. They are on a 16% protein diet and never in the past have I seen them eat feathers before, and never have they exhibited symptoms of lacking in protein during a molt or any other time of year. On this note, I have never tried feeding them meat before. I take it they are indeed lacking in protein at this time what with eating feathers, so I figured what the heck, and I cooked up some raw ground Turkey. Just a handful of it as I really didn't think they would eat it, the scaredy babies that they seem to be of new foods.

    So I sprinkled the cooked meat on a plate and took it out to them. HOLY CROW! It was like watching piranhas feed!!! Had I left my hand in there, no doubt they would have eaten it too!!!

    So, my question is, how much of this cooked Turkey is safe to feed them during this molting season and how often can I feed it to them?

    Thanks so much!
     
  2. donrae

    donrae Hopelessly Addicted Premium Member

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    I don't have a hard and fast answer to your question, just my experience. I feed my birds all my scraps, and sometimes that's included freezer-burnt meats from the way dark depths of the chest freezer. I had several days one year where I fed my flock at least 2lb raw meat every day, this is for around 2 dozen birds. Some days it was more, some days less. Did I cry at losing all that meat? You bet. Did my chickens love me and stalk me for weeks after that? You bet. Was there any issues from the meat? Not that I noticed. It was summer, no molting, so can't speak to that, but there was no change in egg production.

    I'd think you'd be fine giving each bird say up to an ounce of meat every day until feathers are established. You can also switch to a higher protein feed, grower or turkey starter are in the 20% range. I've never been good at measuring things, sorry. Just know my birds have been bolused well on meat on and off and had no problems.
     
  3. TwoCrows

    TwoCrows Show me the way old friend... Staff Member

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    Thank you SO much!

    Stalking you for meat...LOL I think I already know what you mean. After reading your post here, I took another handful of cooked Turkey out for them and I have to say that they saw me coming with that plate from a very far distance away! I was nearly trampled at the doorway to the coop!! LOL

    Now I have an excuse to go digging around in the farthest reaches of the freezer, looking for other tasty meats that I can feed the chickens. I thank you so much for this valuable information!
     
  4. Pathfinders

    Pathfinders Overrun With Chickens

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    Feather eating is generally a sign that your chickens are not getting enough protein in their diets. What brand of feed are you using? If you read the tag, does it say only vegetable protein? Or does it show animal protein.

    There are a number of ways to include animal protein into your chicks diets:

    - Find a feed that includes it, like Purina's Game Bird feed line
    - Add in some cooked ground beef or raw trimmings from your local butcher shop if you can get them to give you some
    - Add in a small amount of high quality, non-poultry based cat food, such as Evo Herring and Salmon dry cat food: http://www.evopet.com/products/1431, which is about 50% protein
    - Add in some catfish feed pellets, which are generally about 35% protein.
    - Add some 30% Turkey starter mixed into your regular ration.

    Doing that will (generally) be less expensive than adding in human food, and should reduce or eliminate the feather eating, and support your birds during molt.
     
  5. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner Chicken Obsessed

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    I don’t have a problem with them eating loose feathers at all. It’s just free protein flying around. It’s when they start picking feathers off each other that I’d get worried.
     
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  6. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner Chicken Obsessed

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    TwoCrows, that’s not an easy question to answer. There are a whole lot of variables involved. But I’d use the same rule of thumb recommended for all treats. If they can clean it up in 10 to 15 minutes once a day, it’s not too much.
     
  7. TwoCrows

    TwoCrows Show me the way old friend... Staff Member

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    Thank you everyone for the replies!

    Ridgerunner, I agree with you on this one...they are not pulling each others feathers out, only eating the fallen ones. I do know that this means that they do in fact need more protein, but molting can be difficult on birds. And being that feathers are 85%+ protein, it can be hard to fulfill a birds needs at that time. Especially for those birds that "poof" nearly all their feathers off at once. Which seems to be happening in my flock. VERY bald birds. LOL So lots of feathers growing in at one time. My birds have never pulled a feather off themselves or another bird to eat it. And this is the first time I have ever seen this happen. Someone once told me here on BYC that Australorps have more feathers than many other types of chickens and that they do require more protein year round, especially during molting.

    I am a firm believer that chickens need animal proteins added to their diets as well as plant proteins. (their feed has fish meal and egg food in it). I am going to add a bit of meat protein each day to get them thru this molt a bit easier and will probably continue feeding animal proteins occasionally throughout the rest of the year.

    Thanks so much!
     
    Last edited: Nov 2, 2013

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