Free range chickens don't seem to like feed.

JeanetteDunn

Songster
Sep 30, 2018
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My free range chickens don't seem to like feed. They range in the back yard all day. I keep both crumbles and pellets out for them, and they eat a little bit. I've tried different brands. They do dig in the compost pile and get some wild bird feeder droppings. (They get grit and just started providing oyster shell). We don't generate a lot of food waste, and I do feed them a couple bags of spinach a week; especially since it 'winter' (Texas) and there isn't as much green in the yard. My question is, will they get what they need in their diet? One of them just started laying at 17 weeks, and the two little eggs look to be in good shape and the birdy-babies look ok, too.
 

Shadrach

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Jul 31, 2018
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My free range chickens don't seem to like feed. They range in the back yard all day. I keep both crumbles and pellets out for them, and they eat a little bit. I've tried different brands. They do dig in the compost pile and get some wild bird feeder droppings. (They get grit and just started providing oyster shell). We don't generate a lot of food waste, and I do feed them a couple bags of spinach a week; especially since it 'winter' (Texas) and there isn't as much green in the yard. My question is, will they get what they need in their diet? One of them just started laying at 17 weeks, and the two little eggs look to be in good shape and the birdy-babies look ok, too.
I would say if they look healthy, (the keel bone test and by body weight can be misleading) then they are probably getting enough to eat.
The chickens here didn’t like the layers pellets I used to feed them.
I tried various feeds. Now I’ve found one they like and while this seems good, it has meant they don’t forage as much as they used to.
Whether the balance is right now, or not, I have no idea.
I would go about it like this.
Check their crops at night while they are on their roosts. If the crops are firm and full, then they are getting quantity. It’s very hard to tell if the quality is right. I don’t think the commercial feeds do give the right quality given they are generally grain/seed based with added supplements. Chickens are omnivorous and the bugs and stuff they pick up free ranging may be better for their overall health than the stuff you can buy.
If their eggs seem fine, good strong shells and the laying rate is comparable to other hens of that breed then again, it would seem they are getting what they need.
Being able to get what they need for good health, rather than just survival changes with the seasons. Winter can be difficult for chickens who feed mainly free range.
If they have access to a commercial feed, when they are hungry they will eat it.
If you want to encourage them to eat more of the commercial feed then making a mash (adding enough water to make a thick paste) may help.
I’ve found adding warm water to make a mash in the mornings is popular with the chickens and I at least know they had a proper breakfast.
Chicks/babies should have a medicated feed to help build resistance to coccidia.
Some people don't do this and the chicks are fine but imo it's a risk. Sick chicks fade and die very fast.
 

Molpet

Enabler
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Sep 7, 2015
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I have very large poultry yards and bagged feed consumption goes way up when there is snow on the ground and they can't find food on their own. I have the large yards to cut down on the food bill, and I think they are happier.
The only issue I have had was several tom turkeys that were aggressive if they ate low protein food they found instead of the high protein turkey food. The chickens have been fine.
 

FlyWheel

Crowing
5 Years
Mar 19, 2016
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As others have said, if they're healthy happy and laying good, then they are probably getting most of their needed nutrition from their free ranging (that is how chickens did it before Purina came along, after all). This is actually one of the benefits usually stated for letting your birds free range; lower feed cost.

So as long as they are doing fine I would just let them go for it and enjoy the extra funds.
 

Pork Pie

Flockwit
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Jan 30, 2015
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Great advice above, imo. I would never feed pellets - mash replicates the innate need to forage for longer periods of time and thus provides a more feed system more akin to the behavioural needs of a chicken. This results in reduced environmental stressors that may potentially result in negative behaviour.
 

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