Foraging 101

Discussion in 'Feeding & Watering Your Flock' started by LazyGirl, Jul 1, 2008.

  1. LazyGirl

    LazyGirl In the Brooder

    Dec 29, 2007
    I made a horrible mistake when I decided to raise a batch of layers during the winter. Basically, for the first 14 weeks they were inside, or in a coop with snow surrounding them.
    I now have a batch of layers that do not forage at all!!! I guess they do a bit, maybe a handful of them, but most of them lay around and wait to be fed. I've tried feeding them at different times of the day but that doesn't help. I scatter seeds all over to encourage foraging, but they just stop once they've eaten the seeds. I don't believe they know how to scratch the ground!
    Is there any hope for them? I sell eggs as organic (i feed them organic seed) and free range, but I know I could and should be getting even better eggs if they foraged more.
    Will they ever learn? I realised my mistake when I set out a batch of meat birdsat 3 weeks old and they started scratching immediately.
    I am so frustrated!!![​IMG]
  2. funkychicken

    funkychicken Songster

    Jun 9, 2008
    East Texas
    mabey you could try live bet they would run after a cricket!!
  3. JennsPeeps

    JennsPeeps Rhymes with 'henn'

    Jun 14, 2008
    South Puget Sound
    I'm with Funky - try crickets in the pen.

    You'll need to start introducing foods to them. Maybe fresh earthworms, shredded greens, & yogurt?
  4. LazyGirl

    LazyGirl In the Brooder

    Dec 29, 2007
    Next thing you know I'll be chasing down bugs for them![​IMG] I give them lots of scraps, and they usually eat them (they eat apples, fruits, bread, but thumb their beaks at greens), but still they just sit and wait for me to toss them!
  5. chickenannie

    chickenannie Songster

    Nov 19, 2007
    What if you 'borrowed' one or two other good foraging hens to 'teach' them what to do?
  6. Kev

    Kev Crowing

    Jan 13, 2008
    Sun City, California
    It also depends on the breed or "line". Some breeds or lines are just naturally placid.. having them raised free range does not have all that much difference. For example my Marans are very placid.. and they always were raised by hens or set loose to be literally free range(as in no coop! Trees or whatever for roosts..) yet those ALWAYS are sedate.. and most of them never are very far from the... feed source(trash cans). I have new Marans- black coppers and blue coppers, and they are exactly the same, although I do have them in a pen and never let free range.. but they show the same "inactivity"(they are literally always standing, sitting or eating.. that's it) and they are nearly mature now yet they all still sleep in a heap on the ground despite low perches for them.

    Sometimes placidity is deliberately bred for in layers so they would tolerate confinement better- less plucking, nervousness etc.

    It's a common misconception that all chickens scratch a lot while foraging, most of the time my birds are simply walking around looking over the ground or weeds, the "busy scratchers" usually are either hens making a new dust bath or mother hens with young babies.. otherwise, not that much scratching really. If you insist on scratching. till up the ground, fresh soft moist soil seems to almost invariably trigger scratching(and often bathing also).

    I wouldnt worry about it really. If they are not picking each other's feathers, I would say you actually have a good situation there.
  7. sBrickmanHouse

    sBrickmanHouse Songster

    Feb 10, 2008
    Well, our girls were in an enclosed coop for the first six weeks or so, and then an enclosed dirt run for another 4.

    When we first let them out, they didn't know much what to do, either! It took them a while to figure out what was food and not food, but they got slowly but steadily better at it. It probably also had to do with spring becoming summer, and more bugs, berries and other good things to eat coming along.

    We also offer free choice layer pellets, but now at 20 weeks, I've noticed a marked decline in the amount of pellets they eat. They're shiny, healthy, and laying well, so they must be getting their nutrition from foraging!

    Have patience-- hopefully yours will get it down, too!

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