Feeding with mealworms as the only protein source

Kiki

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NO! Please don’t feed anything other than regular layer pellets. @Kiki
doesn’t even feed treats I think…
Correct...I would NEVER even buy a bag of scratch.

My birds get a complete balanced diet. I don't have disease or illness of any kind in my flock either. My birds are 5 years old.
 

6BeachChicks

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Correct...I would NEVER even buy a bag of scratch.

My birds get a complete balanced diet. I don't have disease or illness of any kind in my flock either. My birds are 5 years old.
Thats very healthy! Listen to Kiki. I feed my chickens a watermelon or a cabbage occasionally, but I make sure they eat their pellets 99% of the time.
 

Cindy in PA

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Bagged chicken feed was first used in the very early 20th century, so chickens haven't been raised without it for a very long time. I feed 20% feed, either layer or flock raiser & feed a cup of scratch per day for 15 hens. Never have dealt with disease over 28 years & many different flocks. To each their own. There is no really cheap way to feed backyard chickens & keep them productive & healthy.
 

3KillerBs

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However, I can't imagine that all historical chickens were nutritionally unbalanced and unhealthy before the relatively recent addition of bagged feed to the market.

'Historical chickens' weren't the high producing birds we have now, and the farms they inhabited had a much more diverse source of foodstuffs.

You can download a book of the latest and greatest poultry science from 1921 here: https://www.backyardchickens.com/threads/poultry-for-the-farm-and-home.1443907/

The thing that struck me the most was that this advice (which includes diet formulas), was aimed at getting a profitable 100 eggs per hen per year -- from LEGHORNS!

The worst layer in my flock, the Brahma in my avatar, did better than that.

It sounds like we've bred our chickens into a problem then

Only if you consider hens that lay more than 2 eggs a week to be a problem.

Once my chickens hit 2 yrs old they are 100% free range, not allowed in the run. I still have them a roost and nest box. I pick 15-20 eggs weekly off of the 8 free rangers rite now. I do not feed them anything.

A good solution in your climate, but untenable in most areas. :D
 

Lizzy733

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Thank you for your input; and I know bagged feed is the easiest way to make sure they are getting proper nutrition. They are currently on layer feed and I'm not going to start experimenting on them with my guesses. However, I can't imagine that all historical chickens were nutritionally unbalanced and unhealthy before the relatively recent addition of bagged feed to the market. I am sure there are combinations of foods that would work for them. I want to do some research on this, and talk to anyone else who may be ahead of me or had experience feeding this way.
Historically, chickens weren't bred to support their current level of productivity, be it eggs or meat. They're quite far removed from the wild flocks of yesteryear.

Commercial poultry feeds are down to a science - literally, backed up by years of investment by battery farms to produce the perfect balance to suit our modern high-yield birds.

Chickens are also like people in that they will eat what they like, not me necessarily what's good for them - which is why crumble and pellet feed is recommended over loose grain.

Also remember, the nutrition of their 'product' will directly correlate to what they're being fed. If you want healthy, nutritious eggs, you feed a healthy nutritious diet.

There are some breeds that are known as good foragers, and in a free-range environment, this can lead to a reduction in feed costs, but they should still be offered a quality staple.

With production hybrids, don't even try. Stick to the crumble or pelleted feeds designed for the m. They are way too sensitive to poor nutrition and will medically suffer for it.
 

Acre4Me

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@WhiteTreeOfGondor lots of comments above - basically, pellets are pretty easy, and foraging in warmer climates (like South Carolina) can work out ok most of the year. But, they will need a VARIETY of foods accessible to them, and that may not be the case unless you plan for that. If you have land, and learn about year round gardening (if possible in your microclimate), you could very well provide them with a nutritious diet. But, what some people find is they supplement free range with pellets in the evening before roosting. Some people do not free range due to predators.

Feeding meal worms as protein: BAD idea as meal worms are actually very fatty. Too much fat and your birds can end up dying from fatty liver disease. So, using meal worms as part of their diet can be ok, when used sparingly.

Other sources of protein: nature's bugs, alfalfa grass (if dried form, get pellets and rehydrate, and make sure they have access to grit!) as alfalfa bought in pellets or cubes have a 16% minimum protein. DRY cat food, but watch the sodium, too much is quite bad for birds...grind it or hydrate it and don't use exclusively. Canned meats, but again, watch the sodium content. You roast a chicken/turkey, etc and give them the leftover carcass to pick over. Fish food, yup dried fish food but careful with the sodium. Catfish pellets - apparently high in protein. Keep in mind, many of the feeds I mention are formulated for healthy fish or cats or catfish...so some nutrients are likely not in ideal ratios. If you are able to provide your chickens with good forage, then supplementing with some of these can work out ok.

My spouse grew up in SC, and is pretty sure their chickens did not have a closed coop - but they did have shelter. And no recollection of having feed pellets...but, kids don't remember everything. Basically, the chickens foraged whatever and got food leftovers.
 

Weeg

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Thank you for your input; and I know bagged feed is the easiest way to make sure they are getting proper nutrition. They are currently on layer feed and I'm not going to start experimenting on them with my guesses. However, I can't imagine that all historical chickens were nutritionally unbalanced and unhealthy before the relatively recent addition of bagged feed to the market. I am sure there are combinations of foods that would work for them. I want to do some research on this, and talk to anyone else who may be ahead of me or had experience feeding this way.
Here is a good thread that my be helpful to you. The OP is in a location were chicken feed isn't available with balanced nutrition, and some members helped formulate a recipe with balanced nutrition containing lots of different seeds, and grains, than meat and vegetable scraps for protein etc. Very interesting thread, though its going to be much more costly than a bagged feed, and more effort. I love your idea! I prefer to stay away from GMO's as well, and love research and experiments with natural nutrition. Hopefully this thread can be of use.
https://www.backyardchickens.com/threads/making-feed-at-home.1495914/

I'll also provide another link were a member successfully raised healthy chickens on a 100% forage diet. Keep in mind that she had a much smaller flock of birds on her current land, so they had more room to forage. You'll need quite a lot of room for a successful 100% forage diet with 38 birds. An acre per bird is ideal.
I think your vision is doable, but its going to be a lot of work formulating a feed for your birds with your climate, readily available seed/grains etc, the amount of land you have, etc. It will be a lot of work though. Like I said above, I love the idea, and would be happy to follow along and see how it goes. If your willing to put in the work and the cost, I'd say go for it!
https://www.backyardchickens.com/threads/successful-100-forage-diet-experiment-long-post.1435544/
 
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