Free range and scratch feed

OzarkEgghead

Songster
8 Years
Oct 8, 2015
97
49
121
My chickens are permitted to free range from dawn to dusk 365 days per year, if they desire, and I feed table scraps & veggies from my garden. I also feed their dried shells back to them as grit & for calcium content & they clean up the whole oats my horses invariably seem to drop as they eat.

Knowing they have a varied diet, do you think I can supplement with scratch grains ONLY during the warm months when bugs & veggies are plentiful...or do I still need to supplement with actual commercial layer feed?
 
Just from my experience, scratch grains won't do them any good if you want lots of eggs. I would leave some layer feed out and let them eat as they need it.

You could give them a bit of scratch grain for a treat every now and then, but I would still let them have a choice of layer feed.
 
If the area they forage is large / effectively not limiting, then supplementing with scratch grains alone will be effective during the summer months. Mine will sometimes ignore the scratch grains when foraging is really good or be picky about what component of the scratch grains they consume. Shelled corn and oats are the parts they sometimes ignore while still going after the millet and BOSS.
 
My 23 month old hens eat about half the layers pellets in summer than they do in winter, because they need more caloric intake to keep warm in winter and with little to no bugs, worms or lizards, exaggerates it even more.
I worry that if I give them too much scratch grains or bird seed in summer, they may be missing out on some of the added vitamins, minerals and amino acids in feed that are necessary to maintain egg quality and production. I mix pellets and seeds 50/50 and my girls think it's all a treat. 20171204_130505.jpg . I scatter the seeds pellet mix in the straw in their pen twice daily and they have to search for it. Keeps them busy doing what they like best.
My hens are let out to free range 1 hour before sunset daily, weather permitting.
They have unlimited access to layers pellets and water 24/7 in their coop 20180216_085725.jpg and water outside the coop. GC
 
I feed Flock Raiser all year, with oyster shell on the side. The birds range when it's not snow covered, but of course find more to eat when the ground isn't frozen! They eat a lot less from the feeders in summer but they do eat some of the feed. I want them to have a balanced diet all year, and not skimp on nutrients. They get some table food and a bit of scratch grain a few times per week too.
Mary
 
If the area they forage is large / effectively not limiting, then supplementing with scratch grains alone will be effective during the summer months. Mine will sometimes ignore the scratch grains when foraging is really good or be picky about what component of the scratch grains they consume. Shelled corn and oats are the parts they sometimes ignore while still going after the millet and BOSS.

My ladies are permitted to free range in one of my horse pastures....and that's 20 acres...so, yes, they have a large area to forage. I try to keep them out of the other fields because they're closer to the wood line where they'd be more likely to be preyed upon by hawks, owls, eagles or our large coyote & bobcat populations.

Honestly, I have a hard time getting my girls to eat the commercial layer feeds...even in winter. I went through a week of bitter cold weather this year when the girls didn't eat ANY of the layer pellets and I got so concerned that I mixed them 50/50 with scratch. They've been eating the scratch but throwing the layer pellets out on the floor. I've even tried changing pellet brands to see if they just didn't like a specific brand but, no, they just don't want the pellets....period. I want them to have adequate nutrition but I also don't want to waste $$ on feed that's gonna get wasted.
 
I've been feeding Purina Flock Raiser crumble for many years, and everyone eats it just fine. I'd rather have pelleted feed, because there's less waste, but now have feeders that work very well to limit the crumble spillage, so that problem is over.
Given a choice, scratch is yummy and will be preferred, but I like candy too!
Have you been checking the mill dates on each bag of feed? Old stuff isn't as nutritious, or tasty.
Try an all-flock crumble that's fresh at your local feed store, and transition to that.
Chickens hate change! They are holding out for the tasty treats regardless of their nutritional value.
Mary
 

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