free ranging in a NY winter?

Discussion in 'Feeding & Watering Your Flock' started by aqualung1919, Jan 30, 2009.

  1. aqualung1919

    aqualung1919 Hatching

    Jan 30, 2009
    Upstate New York
    I'd like some info on free ranging chickens in a snow covered winter. My flock has a coop and stays in it whenever the ground is covered. However During the summer they are completely free ranged. My problem is I don't like buying commercial chicken food, b/c it is expensive and I don't know exactly what is in it. Any comments and feedback would be appreciated.
  2. digitS'

    digitS' Songster

    Dec 12, 2007
    ID/WA border
    You may be expecting too much from your birds.

    At one time, farm families just turned their birds out and they lived without purchased feed. The chickens cleaned up after other livestock for the most part. Many flocks are raised that way in some parts of the world.

    There isn't much expectation of high production from these birds. If they raise up a couple batches of chicks for the table, that's about all that can be hoped for.

    We probably don't have too many modern breeds that could forage that well outside of the growing season. Certainly, they are genetically much too productive to have to scavenge all of their feed on their own and still produce what they are capable of in the way of eggs or weight gain.

    Right now, my hens are still eating some of the grass in the yard (where they can get at it between piles of snow). That grass can't have much feed value but there's really nothing else for them to peck at. I think it is mostly some exercise for them to get out there and scratch around a little on frozen ground.

    Obviously, if you can grow crops for your chickens they can handle most of the harvesting on their own. Grain crops are probably the most nutritious for them but there are plants that can survive freezing temperatures and snow cover and still provide forage. Brassicas like forage turnips and rape are grown for livestock.

  3. We are also located in Upstate NY, and try to free-range our birds whenever possible. Lately, the snow seems reluctant to disappear so everyone stays in most of the time. We do, however, provide our flock with layer rations as we feel their diet and health are very important factors, ESPECIALLY in our harsh winters. They would have nothing to eat if we didn't provide them with feed. Right now, I'm not even able to see the ground at all. There is nothing for our girls and guys to even peck at, so they rely soley on the commercial feed.

    Unless you're porviding them with something that gives them the necessary nutrition they need to thrive, especially in this cold weather, I wouldn't suggest this diet.

    See what else is said. I don't have too much experience in this field as we've been doing the same thing for a while now. [​IMG]

    Oh, and, [​IMG] .
    Last edited: Jan 30, 2009
  4. Beekissed

    Beekissed Free Ranging

    I don't like to feed commercial feeds to my free rangers either and I try to supplement with as much home grown nutrition as possible....but the inevitable conclusion would have to be that, especially in the winter, those birds are going to need some additional food to stay alive and healthy.

    Free range chickens only derive some of their nutrition from greens and the rest is from bugs, grubs, etc. that they may find. Of course, in the winter both food supplies are going to be in short supply.

    If you don't like commercially prepared and formulated feeds, you can buy individual grains and mix them to your own satisfaction.

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