Free feeding versus rationed feeding? Health issues?

Discussion in 'Feeding & Watering Your Flock' started by Huskerchickens, Mar 2, 2012.

  1. Huskerchickens

    Huskerchickens Out Of The Brooder

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    I was just talking with a co-worker who was interested in getting chickens herself, and she was somewhat suprised that I let my chickens free feed as opposed to rationing out how much they get. She had heard that chickens can overeat themselves to an unhealthy weight or even to death. I'm feeding the Layena crumbles and a toss or two or scratch (when it's not hot) to give them something to do. When I got started last spring it seemed like most of the feeder designs (both store bought and DIY) took a low-maintenance approach that would allow the chickens to eat whenever and however much they wanted. Thanks in advance for the input!
     
  2. halo

    halo Got The Blues

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    I have always fed free choice. They eat what they want, they dont gorge themselves and get too fat. If you try and ration out what you think they need, you will likely end up with egg eaters, because they wont be getting enough to eat.
     
  3. tigercreek

    tigercreek Chillin' With My Peeps

    Mine seem to do better with free choice if they can free range some. When left in a pen with free choice, and nothing else to do, they did get pretty fat. ..stan
     
  4. Lute

    Lute Chillin' With My Peeps

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    For now, I ration. Tomorrow, I free feed because I'm building my chicken coop and will be putting the chick's feed somewhere SAFE to keep the Pekin Ducks from devouring their noms! [​IMG]
     
  5. centrarchid

    centrarchid Chicken Obsessed

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    I free-choice only when birds are growing and when laying hens are confined during winter. Free-choice feeding system has two negatives for me. First is pest control where uneaten feed attracts rodents (rats and mice) that tear up my housing, wild birds carrying disease and opportunistic predators (oppossums and raccoons).

    Many of my birds are expected to live several years and when fed a lot do not seem to thrive long term. Such birds on a rationed diet seem to thrive and their weight is very easy to manage. Free-ranged birds beyond 10 weeks of age are provided enough feed in morning to enable filling crop about twice during day. The balance of their intake comes from foraging. When my ration size and pasture productivity are in tune, then the birds get out away from feeder yet go to roost with full crop of mostly forage. Too much feed and they stay in tight around feeder and go to roost with crop full of feed. Too little feed and birds scatter making dog's defensive chores more difficult, birds go to roost with less than full crop and risk develops of birds moving to roost locations closer to foraging areas away from desired central free-ranging area.
     
  6. Egghead_Jr

    Egghead_Jr Overrun With Chickens

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    Perhaps your friends confusion of over eating and health issues comes from Cornish cross meat birds. They are recommended to be 12 hours on free choice, 12 hours off feed after 4 weeks of free choice to cut down on losses. They are the broiler industry standard and grow too fast causing leg problems and heart strain.
     
  7. galanie

    galanie Treat Dispenser No More

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    x2
     
  8. centrarchid

    centrarchid Chicken Obsessed

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    Health issues can also arise in adults. My interest in heritage breeds involves having both sexes survive and perform well for several years. Putting effectively unlimited amounts of nutrient dense commercial feed is great for maximal egg production; but if chickens are anything like humans, mice, rats and dogs; then prolonged operating with all that extra weight on is likely to shorten lifespan. Game rooster fed all he wants of grower or even layer pellets has a hard time living a quality life beyond 5 years while if fed a restricted ration where he is kept trim, being a productive broodcock beyond seven years is not a big deal.
     
    Last edited: Mar 3, 2012
  9. halo

    halo Got The Blues

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    I guess I need to qualify my post with the fact that my birds are not confined, and free range from dawn til dusk. They probably eat as much out in the field as they do at the feeder.
     

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