Free feeding vs holding back forcing them to forage.

Eris

Chirping
8 Years
Aug 15, 2011
112
7
89
El Paso, Texas
What does everyone prefer? Do you free feed? I'm interested in holding back on food and making them forage for their own food (when old enough). We have about 50 acres in the Texas desert. Feeding 30 chickens seems like a steep feed bill when we have so much land.

So, free feed vs making them free range forage.

What are your thoughts?
 

EncinoMan

In the Brooder
8 Years
Mar 11, 2011
73
0
29
Encino
I doubt you'll have to force them to forage. Scratching around for misc edibles is what they love to do, and what their most basic instincts tells them to do. My girls can't wait to get out in the yard...first they check to see if I've brought them anything and if not they descend onto the nearest grass/dirt area and start digging away for bugs and greens. I'm in a suburban backyard that is mostly swimming pool and concrete, and they still manage to gorge themselves and eat very little of the crumbles that are always available in the coop. With all that land at your disposal, you should be in great shape.
 

Mac in Wisco

Antagonist
12 Years
May 25, 2007
3,479
81
256
SW Wisconsin
Quote:
We sell eggs for a living. Our feed bill is $5,000 a month... If there was any way to make them scrounge up more nutrients from free ranging without hurting production then I would be all over it.

How important is egg production to you? You can take away some feed and they will survive by scrounging more on their own, but egg production will more than likely suffer as a result. Less feed = less eggs, you could get the same effect by doing away with some of your chickens...
 

cottagechick

Songster
8 Years
Jul 11, 2011
594
6
123
Cottage Grove, Oregon
Quote:
We sell eggs for a living. Our feed bill is $5,000 a month... If there was any way to make them scrounge up more nutrients from free ranging without hurting production then I would be all over it.

How important is egg production to you? You can take away some feed and they will survive by scrounging more on their own, but egg production will more than likely suffer as a result. Less feed = less eggs, you could get the same effect by doing away with some of your chickens...

Wow! You must have ALOT of chickens ($5000)...would it even be practical for you to free range them...? IDK. I have two very small pullets so far and I kept them in their cage for a week before I let them forage in my large yard. I can only say that they are definitely growing bigger. Their color has gotten more and more beautiful. Their gullets are always full and I have noticed a substantial drop in their pellet consumption. Personally, I would never deny them access to food. But they do seem to prefer what they can forage on their own.
 

Mac in Wisco

Antagonist
12 Years
May 25, 2007
3,479
81
256
SW Wisconsin
Quote:
We have 2500 organic layer hens. They do go outside onto lush pasture, they eat a lot of it, but never forget where that layer feed is... If I were to withhold feed they wouldn't make up the deficit and maintain the same egg production by eating alfalfa, grass, and bugs. With so many birds I can see rather small deviations in production. A loss of even 1% of production in one day is quite noticeable. If I withhold feed for more than a few hours in the middle of the day or raise or lower the protein level by a half of a percent I can see noticeable effects in production.

So, it depends upon how important that production is to you. If they are just animals that run your property and you want to feed them less, then feed them less. With enough area to run they will get by. Even when we had small backyard flocks though I expected those birds to do their part, they weren't necessarily pets that got a free handout.

https://www.backyardchickens.com/web/viewblog.php?id=2328-wisconsin-may-2011
 

psyverson

In the Brooder
8 Years
May 26, 2011
34
0
22
I free range/forage my 3 Buff hens... I don't care much about egg production, I just like having them around and having them as a hobby.
Luckily I work at a restaurant that often throws away, at the end of a day, fruits, veggies, and cold hard nasty grits. My girls gobble them up
scratch around the yard, find what they find, and a few times a week I add food in their feeder, BUT often times they neglect the feeder and
it remains full.

But with 2,500 chickens, I imagine I'd worry big time about keeping them fed.

-Pete
 

7L Farm

Songster
9 Years
Jul 22, 2010
4,635
79
231
Anderson, Texas
Quote:
Where are you referring to in Texas? I live in now what feels like a desert its even starting to look like a desert. Only thing I know is my chickens don't like to forage in direct sun light when its in triple digits they run for the shade.Mine hide for most of the day under a deck or any shaded area. I have to provide them with supplemental food are as Mac pointed out my egg production will go South. Another important ingredient you will have to provide is fresh cool water. Chickens will die real fast in the heat without water.
 
Last edited:

7L Farm

Songster
9 Years
Jul 22, 2010
4,635
79
231
Anderson, Texas
Quote:
We sell eggs for a living. Our feed bill is $5,000 a month... If there was any way to make them scrounge up more nutrients from free ranging without hurting production then I would be all over it.

How important is egg production to you? You can take away some feed and they will survive by scrounging more on their own, but egg production will more than likely suffer as a result. Less feed = less eggs, you could get the same effect by doing away with some of your chickens...

Wow! You must have ALOT of chickens ($5000)...would it even be practical for you to free range them...? IDK. I have two very small pullets so far and I kept them in their cage for a week before I let them forage in my large yard. I can only say that they are definitely growing bigger. Their color has gotten more and more beautiful. Their gullets are always full and I have noticed a substantial drop in their pellet consumption. Personally, I would never deny them access to food. But they do seem to prefer what they can forage on their own.

No doubt !! Chickens are pros's at finding any little morsel to eat. Thats what they do scratch & peck.
 

deerman

Rest in Peace 1949-2012
11 Years
Aug 24, 2008
9,491
111
293
Southern Ohio
Quote:
We sell eggs for a living. Our feed bill is $5,000 a month... If there was any way to make them scrounge up more nutrients from free ranging without hurting production then I would be all over it.

How important is egg production to you? You can take away some feed and they will survive by scrounging more on their own, but egg production will more than likely suffer as a result. Less feed = less eggs, you could get the same effect by doing away with some of your chickens...

Mac i agree if you don't feed a good layer , less eggs ....so many try to feed cheap feed ,or more corn, then wonder why hens don't lay well, sure pature free range bird , will save on layer feed ,just keep layer in front of your hens 24/7 free range birds do give better eggs / with a good layer
 

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