Free ranging and feed reduction

Discussion in 'Managing Your Flock' started by Want Less, Nov 27, 2011.

  1. Want Less

    Want Less Chillin' With My Peeps

    376
    1
    123
    Mar 24, 2010
    New Bern, NC
    Since Hurricane Irene we've had to keep our entire flock in two smaller pens (aka FEMA trailers..lol) while we rebuild our big pen. Because of that we have been free ranging them more than normal. We used to free range 4-6 hours a day, but for the last couple months they have been free ranging 12 hour days at least 4 days a week.

    Even though we have feed out for them 24/7, I am noticing that they hardly even touch it if they are free ranging. They have several acres to scratch and forage on so the feed just gets ignored.

    I'm happy that we have a lower feed bill of course, but I just want to make sure they are getting what they need. Everyone is acting fine, laying normally (aside from the fact we have 2 in molt right now) and seeming happy.

    Should I assume that if they need the feed, they will go get it? Or is free ranging enough? I should also mention that we raise all layers, no meat birds.
     
  2. southerndesert

    southerndesert B & M Chicken Ranch

    1,356
    12
    141
    Jun 17, 2011
    Morristown, AZ
    If all is normal with eggs and health of your birds I wouldn't worry and they will indeed eat their feed when they need to in our experience....

    Chickens are pretty darn good at being chickens [​IMG]
     
  3. silvercat76

    silvercat76 Out Of The Brooder

    88
    5
    43
    Oct 26, 2011
    Mountaidale
    I believe that what's out in nature is plenty for them and if they need more they will go to the feeders. I so wish I had a lower feed bill, mine are getting ready to settle into the hen house for the winter! I let mine free range from about noon until they go in at night fall, I don't fill the feeders until night time so whats out is out for them during the day always seems like its enough. Good Luck
     
  4. ninabeast

    ninabeast Chillin' With My Peeps

    775
    6
    121
    Apr 10, 2011
    Upstate New York
    My girls free range all day, too. Now, I know NOTHING, but my girls are happy and playful and mentally engaged, their feathers are glossy and their eggs are tremendous, so I'm going to continue to trust them to know what to eat. And yes, a large bag of feed lasts me almost a four weeks for ten laying hens, which seems like a long time to me. My girls are wonderful foragers. Not looking forward to winter, I must say...
     
  5. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner Chicken Obsessed

    20,118
    3,322
    496
    Feb 2, 2009
    Northwest Arkansas
    Do not worry at all, just be happy for the reduced feed bill. They are getting a really varied diet with all they need as long as they are active and laying good eggs. I personally think they are healthier out finding their own food and getting plenty of exercise instead of being couch potatoes, laying around all day stuffing their faces and getting fat. When most chickens were backyard flocks raised on farms, they lived much as you describe, except they were out seven days a week and probably were fed even less than you are feeding. You must have happy chickens! [​IMG]
     
  6. WoodlandWoman

    WoodlandWoman Overrun With Chickens

    5,719
    42
    283
    May 8, 2007
    Wisconsin
    I leave it up to the chickens. Mine eat what they need. I never withhold feed, to drive them to forage more. Foraging is their preference and they'll be out all day long, unless they're laying or the weather is really bad. We have a shorter growing season here, so the forage base changes from very rich to nothing, depending on the time of year. Mine are very good at eating feed in whatever volume they need, next to nothing or almost a full day's ration.
     
  7. dirtsaver

    dirtsaver Chillin' With My Peeps

    567
    9
    133
    Mar 20, 2010
    Northern Kentucky
    Like the other responders, our girls vary the amount of feed they eat depending on how much free-range time they get and what forage is available. We also grow pumpkins and kale in the garden to supplement the reduced forage in the winter months and give a small amount of scratch/kitchen scraps every morning when we open the coop.

    The money saved on feed in the warmer months helps pay for winters feed bill. Granted we do not expect to sell enough eggs to pay the cost of having chickens but between egg money and foraging we do manage to keep the bills with-in reason.
     
  8. Want Less

    Want Less Chillin' With My Peeps

    376
    1
    123
    Mar 24, 2010
    New Bern, NC
    Thank you everyone for your thoughts! I personally believe our flock is happier free ranging, so in all our post-hurricane reconstruction, we are trying to make the farm more free range friendly (ie fencing off gardens and blueberries is top of the list...)
     
  9. centrarchid

    centrarchid Chicken Obsessed

    17,707
    2,336
    466
    Sep 19, 2009
    Holts Summit, Missouri
    I keep some feed out at all times during day. Even my best free ranging birds will cherry-pick food items offered. Keeping some food items out ensures ranging will be tight enough the birds will not shift roost to a new location that is closer to quality forage. It is also a barometer for when the forage base begins to collapse / become reduced. If you are not on game, then birds will expand range to compensate at possibly get into areas where predator pressure is higher.
     
  10. Want Less

    Want Less Chillin' With My Peeps

    376
    1
    123
    Mar 24, 2010
    New Bern, NC
    Quote:Thank you, very good to keep in mind!
     

BackYard Chickens is proudly sponsored by