Free Range forage diet?

matthew_John

In the Brooder
Jun 2, 2017
4
1
12
Ballston Spa, NY
Hey all!
I'm a new BYC member, and go my first flock May 10th. I have: Black Aussies, Dominiques, Anconas, and Americunas. I bought them primarily because they are good foragers. I have a large field, and wooded area that they will find lots of food in. I plan on supplementing with chicken feed, but was hoping their foraging will make a dent in that. Will feeding them less feed encourage more foraging, or should I just always leave food out and let them monitor their own diet? What will will they prefer to eat?
Thanks!
 

lazy gardener

Crossing the Road
7 Years
Nov 7, 2012
27,615
26,876
917
CENTRAL MAINE zone 4B
I would ferment their layer feed, and offer it towards the end of the day, when they come back in to roost. This will ensure that if the pickings have been lean, that they go to bed with full crops. I'm assuming that these are adult birds. If they are still young, I'd ferment their starter or their multi flock. Best to not leave any feed out over night, thus discouraging mice, rats, and other unsavory creatures. Do you have a coop and run available? You'll want to lock them in a secure coop at night, and will want a run available to train them to the nest, and when predators come calling and decide to camp out at your place.
 

SunHwaKwon

Crowing
Jul 19, 2015
5,610
2,655
407
North Central Florida
I always leave feed out (during the day). They forage throughout the day but do like to finish off filling their crops before bed and I think it helps round out their diet since I don't have the nutritional diversity in my yard and surrounding area (it is farm fields not wooded like yours). Are they all females?
 

lazy gardener

Crossing the Road
7 Years
Nov 7, 2012
27,615
26,876
917
CENTRAL MAINE zone 4B
I always leave feed out (during the day). They forage throughout the day but do like to finish off filling their crops before bed and I think it helps round out their diet since I don't have the nutritional diversity in my yard and surrounding area (it is farm fields not wooded like yours). Are they all females?
I like your method also, and use a bit of a variation on that. My flock is not able to free range all day, so the amount of feed they eat varies greatly depending on how much out of run time they get. They eat about 1/3 less if they are able to forage "most" of the day. If they were foraging all day long, and if I had a LGD, I think I'd feed at the end of the day. But no matter what one chooses to do, it's always a work in progress, assessing flock condition, crop fullness, flock behavior.
 

matthew_John

In the Brooder
Jun 2, 2017
4
1
12
Ballston Spa, NY
my girls are 4 weeks. They won't go outside until they are 5-6 weeks. I'm still just feeding them a grower feed. Won't let them free range totally for a while. Suggestions on when I can trust them to forage?
 

SunHwaKwon

Crowing
Jul 19, 2015
5,610
2,655
407
North Central Florida
Mine only get to free range all day on the weekends. Evenings only during the week :( I have a lot of birds though so by keeping it out the whole day they can come and go as they please and there is no last minute crowding at the feeder or anyone going to bed hungry.

When they are confined to the run its sort of a guessing game about how much food to leave. If I fill the feeders, many times they will empty them but I am almost certain a lot of it is boredom eating.
 

centrarchid

Crossing the Road
10 Years
Sep 19, 2009
25,686
16,124
766
Holts Summit, Missouri
They will be at high risk to depredation.

Initially, the only change with free-ranging would be with allowing them out. Have exact same feed for a few days. Then I take one of two routes, either simply arming the same amount of feed into feeder each morning so all is eventally consumed before middle of day or I start to mix in whole grains (used to use scratch). Either way forages become increasingly important. Bird weight checked frequently at night as well as crop fill. During day I try to develop handle on ranging habits as they vary to meet nutritional needs. You do not want chickens going two far away.
 

HenOnAJuneBug

Crowing
5 Years
May 20, 2015
2,714
5,694
392
Buy and plant some comfrey. They love it and it's high in protein. You can either get seeds, or root stock from sterile plants (they make seeds that aren't viable).
 

HenOnAJuneBug

Crowing
5 Years
May 20, 2015
2,714
5,694
392
my girls are 4 weeks. They won't go outside until they are 5-6 weeks. I'm still just feeding them a grower feed. Won't let them free range totally for a while. Suggestions on when I can trust them to forage?
My homegrown chicks begin foraging on day 3 or 4. Chicks without a broody can begin any time you feel it's safe. Certainly supervised would be the best.
 

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