fodder & balanced diet

Discussion in 'Feeding & Watering Your Flock' started by BelleInBoots, Nov 1, 2014.

  1. BelleInBoots

    BelleInBoots Out Of The Brooder

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    May 21, 2014
    West GA
    Hey guys!
    i currently have 3 hens (just lost one to our boerboel :'( ) and two mini goats ranging on just over 1/3 an acre. we also have 18 chicks in the brooder that will be joining them next month- possibly minus about 4 to the freezer. I have noticed that sense i have started letting them range they eat MUCH less of their laying pellets, yay. but i have been forced to feed them in their tractor for a few hours each day before letting them out to pasture and removing their feed to keep the goats from getting it an dying. so so my question is, I know some of you feed your hens once or twice a day and let them range for the rest, how much time do you give them with the feeder?
    And with this amount of land, what would a good balanced diet look like? should i definitely be using the laying pellets or something else? I plan to start giving them some barely fodder next week, but i know that only provides about 11% protein, along with the fodder, grit, and calcium (currently feeding their shells back) do i just keep offering their pellets or use something else instead with more protein like bloodmeal? although i have no idea where to get that. oh and i also offer kitchen scraps, lots of veggies and some bread in limited quantities on a regular basis. Trying to figure out the most economical and healthy way to supplement the pasture for my birds as i know my feed costs are about to go up drastically :) thanks for reading! oh, and at what age can i start giving my chicks scraps and fodder? thanks again!

    Christie
     
  2. Folly's place

    Folly's place Chicken Obsessed

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    If your birds are laying eggs, feed layer. Have oyster shell free choice in the pen, and then free range with some added goodies. Keep the goats out of the chicken coop; they will not be helpful there. My birds have layer available all the time, not just intermittently. Fence so the goats have no access to the coop, and feed there. Mary
     
  3. BelleInBoots

    BelleInBoots Out Of The Brooder

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    May 21, 2014
    West GA
    so your saying im supposed to put up another fence just to keep the goats away. and then feed the chickens in it all the time. aka a run. doesnt that defeat the purpose of free ranging?
     
  4. Folly's place

    Folly's place Chicken Obsessed

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    There will be times when the flock can't be outside a safe run, so having a set-up for them makes sense. Something to keep the feed separate. How about a goat proof barrier of some sort? Electric tape? Your young birds won't be eating layer until they are producing eggs, so flock raiser and separate oyster shell for the birds will be needed. I knew there's a reason for no goats here! Mary
     
  5. AkChris

    AkChris Chillin' With My Peeps

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    May 20, 2014
    SE Alaska
    A closed in run can be a good idea if you need to keep the birds close for any reason (like a predator in the area) but may not really be needed depending upon your coop set up and how you free range. You don't need a whole run to keep the goats out of the chicken food. You mention feeding in a chicken tractor. Can you not just leave the food there and let the chickens access it throughout the day? Does it have or can you add a small pop door so the chickens can get in and out of the tractor but is too small for the goats to stick their heads in? You could also just put the chicken food inside some type of box, small shipping crate, an dog kennel, etc with a chicken sized hole cut in the side so the chickens can get in to the food but the goats can not.

    My hens also free range most days. They do have a small covered run where they can hang out in bad weather but prefer to spend most of their time outside, I leave the door open during the day so it's their choice to come or go. I give them a treat when I let them out in the morning (usually table scraps or a handful of scratch). They then spend the day free ranging for food. In the evening they head back to the coop and get fed layer pellets. This summer I didn't need to top off their feeder much at all...there was almost always food left over. Some days I'm not sure they ate any at all. Now that it's getting colder and there are less bugs and fresh greens they're eating more of the pellets. Still trying to figure out how much they need as a winter feed. I'm sure it'll go up even more once there is snow on the ground and they aren't finding any forage. I may get a larger feeder and let them have free choice food all the time.

    As for what makes a balanced feed I think you'll find a wide variety of opinions on that. Some say they have to be feed only a commercial feed that is properly balance for them. Other entirely free range or feed scraps or make their own food. Lots try to extend their food bang with fermented feed and fodder systems. Chickens are omnivores like us and can eat a wide variety of foods so i think feeding them a variety works best. Free ranging birds will choose for themselves what they want or need to eat (assuming there is enough variety and volume of food for them in the area they can range). Most smaller lots will not have enough food for them to exclusively free range and so you need to supplement. If you feed a commercial layer then they'll get the vitamins/minerals they need. Or you can give them supplements like oyster shells, insects (like mealworms) for protein, or high protein seeds like black oil sunflower seeds.

    You could spend years reading about food and feeding choices. Its not really something someone else can answer for you. You have to decide what system works for you. How much you need to supplement free ranging birds will depend a lot on your property and what type of forage is available to the birds. 1/3 an acre isn't going to provide enough to only free range. It'll also likely change seasonally. The breed of bird, whether it is a high-production layer, a dual purpose heritage, or a fast growing meat bird will change what it's dietary needs are as well. My best advice is just to try some different things and see what works for you.
     
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