Free range alternative for feed?

Discussion in 'Feeding & Watering Your Flock' started by Lavkid, Mar 21, 2018.

  1. Lavkid

    Lavkid Chirping

    Mar 11, 2018
    San Antonio, Texas
    Good day,
    Didn't know how to title this. But it's come to my attention thanks to chicken math I will be having at least 50 hens. Now the feed costs scare me. So my question is, if these chickens get free range all day (only in coop at night to sleep) can that be an alternative to chicken feed? Do I have to feed as much to them? Do I have to feed at all? I understand 1/4 lb a day per chicken but if free ranging how much does it cut down on the feed cost in reality?
  2. Red-Stars-in-RI

    Red-Stars-in-RI Songster

    Mar 24, 2014
    Rhode Island
    It's unlikely you would be able to replace feed completely, but if you have a lot of bugs, weeds, etc. on the property, it may reduce feed intake a little bit.

    Another (potentially more feasible) option would be to supplement the commercial feed with free or low cost food scraps collected from local grocery stores, restaurants, neighbors, etc.

    You'll need to make sure you have a good mix so that you don't end up with a nutrient deficiency. For example, too many veggies without enough protein (animal or vegetable) would be a risk.

    Hope that helps!
  3. centrarchid

    centrarchid Free Ranging

    Sep 19, 2009
    Holts Summit, Missouri
    The challenge will be with having 50 birds. They will have to range quite some distance away from roost and where you want to collect eggs. Going too far increases odds some will adopt a roost not of your choosing or deposit eggs where you can not find them. Another headache may involve increasing risk of loss to depredation if they get away from area you can protect. You can tighten ranging habits by supplementing with grains providing an incomplete diet to complement a forage that can often be limiting in only a few nutrients. I would still keep birds in some sort of calcium supplement.
  4. lazy gardener

    lazy gardener Crossing the Road

    Nov 7, 2012
    More information needed on what type of free range you can provide. Do you have a lawn? meadow? Pasture? Forested land? How many acres of each? Have you planted crops to provide good forage? As above poster states, that is a big flock, and they will quickly eat all of the available nutrients within a reasonable distance of their coop.

    Next set of questions: what are your flock goals? Do you really need 50 hens, or did chicken math sneak up on you? Would you be happier with a smaller flock? Sounds like your wallet would most likely appreciate a smaller flock.

    Short answer, they are not likely to find enough foraging to realize a big savings in the feed bill. Fermented feed might help you to save some. If you put your general location in your profile, that will help folks to give climate specific information.
    khind and lightchick like this.
  5. Lavkid

    Lavkid Chirping

    Mar 11, 2018
    San Antonio, Texas
    Hi so,
    I've started the fermentation idea and the compost idea. They have fenced in grassy 6 acres with access to forested (smaller trees) behind the coop about 2 acres.
    We live in southern Texas.
    Goal of flock, yes chicken math got me. But the supply of eggs will get used in Mass. Im sure a smaller flock would help and I'm sure a few (more like 10 of them) which I haven't bonded with yet will get sold once bigger. We also have huge Hawks and lots of coyotes. So there will be some who get eaten no matter how hard I'll try.
    But they get all day access to the 8 fenced in acres.
    Even if it brings the feed bill down a tad I'm good with suggestions. I love my girls and don't regret getting them. It's just the penny pincher side of me that smacks me on the back of the head every once in a while.
    khind and LovinThisFarmGirlLife like this.
  6. LovinThisFarmGirlLife

    LovinThisFarmGirlLife Songster

    Feb 1, 2018
    Bow, WA
    Hi there. I have what sounds like a very similar set up to you. Free ranging on 9 acres all day and sleeping in their coop at night. They return to the coop to lay their eggs so I don’t have that problem, but I do worry about my feeding costs.

    I’ve also been looking into cheaper feeding methods and stumbled upon fermented feed. Search BYC and on one of the threads there’s a YouTube video of a guy who breaks down his feeding plan and he says he only spends about $1.25 a day on feed. Might be worth it to you! I’m sorry I don’t remember the name of the video, but you might be able to find it if you search YouTube for “how I feed my chickens for $1.25 a day”. Heck, that might be the name of the video!:lol:

    I have 30 or so chickens (darn chicken math!) and they have plenty of room to roam and forage. I’m going to use the method from the video plus fermenting my feed and see what happens. Hope this helps!!:highfive:
    khind likes this.
  7. Folly's place

    Folly's place Free Ranging

    Sep 13, 2011
    southern Michigan
    Free ranging on a mixed area of plants, woods, and plenty of bugs and worms, does reduce feed costs. But, they still need that balanced diet at the coop, and oyster shell too. You will not have the snow season we have up here, which gives you year round foraging. That's good! Do you have very dry conditions sometimes? That will be a problem, but you can plan for it.
    Fermenting feed might help with wastage, if you try it. Also, using feeders that limit wasted feed.
    Laying hens will not do well without a good diet!!!

BackYard Chickens is proudly sponsored by: