Free ranging- not eating feed, is this okay?

Discussion in 'Feeding & Watering Your Flock' started by Nicole01, May 27, 2012.

  1. Nicole01

    Nicole01 Crowing

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    This year I've decided to give my hens much more free range time. I supervise it, but they pretty much stay in their path and come to the run for a dust bath and a couple hour rest/nap. They are out from about 9 am to 7pm. They come in and out to lay eggs. Sometimes I'll have to sit in the coop to keep a hen company, they do not like being alone.

    Anyways, since I've given my hens more free range time, they barely eat the feed. They are actually getting much heavier now they are free ranging. This will be nice in the hot weather. It's very cool in the woods.

    However, are they getting enough nutrients from the bugs, grass and worms? Our lawn was infested with army worms, but my hens wiped them out.

    Is it okay they are not eating the feed as their staple diet? They ate quite a bit of feed during the winter. I also bought 15-20 pounds of alfalfa seed and sprout for them and ourselves during the winter and it kept their yolks orange. I still have over 10 pounds of seeds for next winter. I planted sunflower seeds all along their run yesterday, so they too will sprout in a few days for the hens. Their egg shells are still hard, but I do have oyster shell I provide.

    I do worry about the feed situation. I'm not convinced the bugs have the nutrients that is put into the layer feed we buy. If they continue this rate, my feed will go bad. I've used 1/4 of a 50# bag the past month for 8 hens.

    My husband and I are going to fence our 4 acre property next spring. We will do 1/2 next spring and the other 1/2 the following year. We will block off the unfinished are with chicken wire in the mean time inside the woods. This way I won't have to always watch my girls and this will keep stray dogs out, the stray dogs come in from the road or side year and not the woods. This will be very nice once finished. It will keep our dogs and cats in too.
     
  2. joan1708

    joan1708 Songster

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    do your eggs taste differently since your chickens are free ranging?
     
  3. Nicole01

    Nicole01 Crowing

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    No, but they sure are a deep orange! Yum! I've never had a bad tasting fresh egg. They are pooping more too. The poop is totally normal looking.
     
  4. If your birds are healthy, happy and they are producing eggs; then you have hit the motherload.

    Your flock is foraging and living off the living land and the Commmercial feed has been demoted from being their primary food source to being just a suppliment to thier diet...that is the goal of free ranging your poultry. The eggs that your free ranged flock produces will be more nutricious and healthy...your animals are happier & healthier then the commercial layers. But more importantly you have made a powerful and growing statement about what is important to you about your food sources for your family.

    My hat is off to you. Congratulations. [​IMG]
     
    Last edited: May 27, 2012
    1 person likes this.
  5. Nicole01

    Nicole01 Crowing

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    Thank you. I was worried they were not getting enough vitamins. My yard and woods are FULL of bugs, spiders, insects, worms, big larvae, moths, ticks, weeds, grass, ect.. You name it, we have the jackpot/mother load of bugs!

    Since I've let them free range, the less ticks I have seen! I can't stand ticks! I am so thrilled to fence our entire property most of all!
     
    Last edited: May 27, 2012
  6. mabhera

    mabhera Songster

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    That is my dream. free ranging them all day long but I can only let them out weekend and in the afternoons because of the predators. Mine are starting to lay. I'm afraid they would prefer to lay in the woods. Do they return to lay the eggs in their nest boxes or they will prefer the woods and i will have to go egg hunting everyday?
     
  7. Nicole01

    Nicole01 Crowing

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    Mine head back to the coop and lay. Last year I did not free range more then an hour or two a day. The hens didn't watch the sky and they were all over the place. Now they have their own system down pat. I still supervise all the free ranging, when they are in the woods, I can relax and go back into the house. I know I said this before, but I can not wait until we put in our chain link fence, we are fencing all 4 acres! This will keep our dogs and cats in our yard too! I have 2 dogs that protect our house and property.:/
     
  8. mabhera

    mabhera Songster

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    In weekends I free range all day long but I'll see if they still get back to lay the eggs. If not they will have less time outside.
     
  9. primal woman

    primal woman In the Brooder

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    Those bugs are the most nutritious food they can eat.
     
  10. Joe.G

    Joe.G Songster

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    Mine free range from 7 AM intill 730 PM times change as the light changes, Mine go back to the coop to Lay, Mine are eatting bugs and stuff all day but they still eat a bunch of feed. The eggs are so much nicer then store bought eggs, the color and consistency are so much nicer.
     

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