free choice feeding--no go!

Discussion in 'Feeding & Watering Your Flock' started by polychickens, Dec 12, 2007.

  1. polychickens

    polychickens Out Of The Brooder

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    Apr 23, 2007
    I am planning a January vacation, and have someone who can look in on the chickens 2-3 times in 9 days.

    I didn't think food would be a problem since my feeder can hold 30# and I could get a second.

    However, I am finding that chickens are like dogs in the sense that they will eat what is available, when it is available, in whatever quantity it is available.

    The other day I carried out 5-6 pounds of table scraps...oatmeal, pasta, salad, etc for the run. At the same time I gave twice the daily amount of commercial feed to see if it would last for 2 days. No go. They ate it all!

    Same thing the next day. It seems it won't work to put out 40# of feed and allow them to eat it over several days.

    I wonder...do chickens store excess food as fat and burn it as necessary. If they eat three days worth of ration in one day, are they good to go for three days? I am picturing a feast/famine situation while we are on vacation, but I cannot find someone to come daily.
    Polychickens

    PS: I weigh feed and give according to the generous guideline recommended by the manufacturer...85#/bird/year
     
  2. devora

    devora Chillin' With My Peeps

    Not sure about manufacturer's instructions b/c we *oooops* forgot to follow any. I thought 'free choice' meant that they get to eat as much commercial feed as they want all day (and night, if they wanted to get up for a midnight snack).

    Everyday the girls fill their crops to get thru the night, every morning they begin the routine again. As far as I know they don't overeat in that dog way, but will sometimes choose treats over commercial.

    I want to know how you can take a vacation! I haven't been away for more than three days since last spring and see no hope of ever going anywhere again![​IMG] I'm too much of a scaredy-cat to not have someone here everyday if we're away. Over-the-top, I know, I know.

    Maybe I can find a cruise line that takes chickens....
     
  3. CovenantCreek

    CovenantCreek Chicks Rule!

    Oct 19, 2007
    Franklin, TN
    What kind of birds do you have? They sound like hungry little things. I have red sex-links that are given free choice layer mash plus free range during the day. Are yours bred more as meat birds or dual purpose?
     
  4. Cuban Longtails

    Cuban Longtails Flock Mistress

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    Sep 20, 2007
    Northeast Texas
    I also was going to ask what kind of chickens you have and how many. Are they broilers? Are they kept in a coop? Do they have access to outside? That sounds like an excessive amount of feed to be going through in a day. Also, do you keep a light on them at all times? This encourages eating after they would have naturally gone to roost for the night.
     
  5. silkiechicken

    silkiechicken Staff PhD Premium Member

    If you are letting their feeders go empty daily, chances are they are not really getting enough to eat. They don't overeat UNLESS they are cornish x meat birds. Cold weather here doubles the feed consumption in the winter. The same 50 lb bag lasts only a week vs 2 or more in the summer.

    The "guidelines" that you can usually find are made for the commercial white leghorn. That is a hen who makes eggs like mad and weighs about 3 lbs. It lives in a cage without moving around so doesn't need as much energy to stay alive.

    A 5-6 lb normal layer can easily eat twice as much food to stay healthy compared to the skinny production birds designed to eat light and lay lots.

    Trust me, a 10.5 lb rooster watching over his four 6-lb hens will eat about 3x as much feed as a 5lb leghorn boy with four hens of his own kind. I raise both types.
     
  6. polychickens

    polychickens Out Of The Brooder

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    Apr 23, 2007
    My flock of 45 includes roughly 10 Rhode Islands, 7 New Hamp Reds, 5 Barred Rocks, 5 Brown leghorns, 2 Buff orps, and around 15 Ameraucanas. One RIR rooster in the bunch.

    Around 1/3 of these are under 22 weeks, some being 13 weekers, but since they are housed together, they all eat layer ration. I feed them all based on the 22 week+ recommendation on the feed.

    I thought that free choice meant keeping more food available than they could theoretically eat, so a 2 day supply should be enough 'free choice' for more than one day. If I put 4 days worth of ration out, it should be essentially free choice for 3 days, plus eat the leftovers on the 4th or refill on the 4th. Ha! Not so when they eat like dogs!

    I am pretty sure that as I cull/replace, I will go with the white leghorns like the commercial producers use so as to not break the bank on food.

    PC
     
  7. silkiechicken

    silkiechicken Staff PhD Premium Member

    Yes, most of those are "heavy" or dual purpose. Yes, putting two day's rations would be fine. Free choice is basically not letting food go empty. But if they are eating 2x the "recommended" ration in one day, you have to give 4x the recommended ration for every 2 days. Base their food requirements on what they eat, not what some company tells you they need to eat.

    If you didn't feed them for a few days, they won't die on you. They just wont be as healthy as they could be and might over gorge when presented with food again. Since it seems you are going for eggs, a flock of leghorns rotated every 3 years or so sounds like a winning situation as they eat less and lay the most.
     
  8. Cuban Longtails

    Cuban Longtails Flock Mistress

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    Sep 20, 2007
    Northeast Texas
    Do they have access to a run or any sort of free range? This helps cut down on the amount of feed they will eat because they'll snack on grasses and bugs instead.

    Those types of chickens will definitely eat, they're heavy birds (though not as heavy as cornishX - who will eat and eat and eat...etc)
     
  9. NS2A

    NS2A Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Jun 11, 2007
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    My Buff Orp hens will eat pretty much all the table scraps we give them no matter the quantity.

    But, if I don't feed them scraps, they still won't eat all their feed, they only seem to eat what they need.

    I guess its like kids: they'll eat candy all day, but only vegatables when they are hungry.
     
  10. CovenantCreek

    CovenantCreek Chicks Rule!

    Oct 19, 2007
    Franklin, TN
    If 40# only lasts a day and a half or so, put out 100-150# before you leave and have your helper fill the feeders each time so they never run dry. You may want to get feeders that will hold 50+# of feed to make it easier.
     

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