Grain-free chickens?

Discussion in 'Feeding & Watering Your Flock' started by tamlynn, Aug 29, 2009.

  1. tamlynn

    tamlynn Songster

    Nov 5, 2008
    Torrance, CA
    A friend of mine in VA pays good money to get eggs from chickens that are "grain-free" and only eat grass and insects. First of all, I don't see how that is possible during the winter unless they are feeding alfalfa pellets or something, and second, is that nutritionally balanced for the chickens?

    Oh, and third, what is the benefit of having eggs from chickens who don't eat grain?
  2. faykokoWV

    faykokoWV Mrs Fancy Plants

    Nov 4, 2008
    Cross Lanes, WV
    I had someone tell me they were raising meat chickens that were pasture raised with no grain as well. I remain skeptical. I suppose in warmer climates they may have greens available all year. We were actually thinking of planting some red clover in the spring for the chickies to graze on..

    Greens vs grains increase the omega 3 in the yolk.
  3. chickiedoodle

    chickiedoodle In the Brooder

    Mar 15, 2008
    I have heard of people around here doing that. We actually have more grass available in the winter here than in the summer. Anyway, their reason has to do with allergies. Apparently some people are so allergic to grain that they can't even eat animals that eat grain. Sounds miserable to me--for the people I mean. I imagine chickens in our climate at least can live fine without grain.
    1 person likes this.
  4. digitS'

    digitS' Songster

    Dec 12, 2007
    ID/WA border
    Chickens can probably scavenge up a meager diet in many places altho' it won't be possible for our higher production breeds.

    Even Joel Salatin is only talking about a 30% reduction of commercial (grain-based) feed for pastured poultry. Some poultry experts suggest lower percentages.

    Seeds of any sorts pack more nutrition generally than the other parts of the plant. Chickens aren't ruminants. They cannot gain necessary nutrition from high-fiber foods.

    1 person likes this.
  5. Akane

    Akane Crowing

    Jun 15, 2008
    Chickens are not cows. [​IMG] Grain is really not beneficial to many of our larger livestock and most cases harmful. They are designed to graze on forages. Chickens are not grazing animals. Chickens were not designed to live on grass. They benefit from some grains and have a better ability to digest them than most other animals we raise. Lots of animals benefit from being grain free but chickens are not one of them.
  6. chicken coop scoop

    chicken coop scoop In the Brooder

    Aug 5, 2009
  7. faykokoWV

    faykokoWV Mrs Fancy Plants

    Nov 4, 2008
    Cross Lanes, WV
    Quote:Well that explains grass fed, but it states that "grass fed" means 30% of the diet comes from grass. It does not say if any supplemental feed was given or not. I'm still not sold on a chicken getting 100% of its diet/nutrition from free ranging. Possibly if during that free ranging they had access to plants with seeds or grain plants, but not just grazing in a field of grass.
  8. Interesting! I wasn't aware how little of the layer feed mine were eating until I put them on lock down for the last two days. They went through almost a 5 gallon bucket of feed in TWO DAYS! It had been taking them at least 2 weeks, sometimes close to three weeks to eat that much. Mine are out foraging all day, typically. Though I have horse pastures, and two of the fields have been used for hay in the past. Until last year anyway. So the grain based hays are there, and one field has gone to seed, and the chickens do eat that. I think it's possible, if the proper plants were there, and the amount of poultry to land was kept to a minimum. For instance, we have 10.5 acres. Also have horses grazing the land!!! So with 31 chickens, I don't have any bare dirt land. Well I take that back, I have one bare area in front of the main field gate. The horses refuse to let any grass grow in that area. [​IMG]

    If you think back, there hasn't always been chicken feed for the backyard farmer. Sure the commercial farmers had access to feed, but I remember my great grand ma, and my grandma... different sides of the family, had chickens, and they fed table scraps, stuff from the garden that was too blemished to use/had gone to seed/ etc., and I remember having some cracked corn that was used as our scratch feed is. Both had chickens running around in the yard, and were giving some corn when they were put up at night.
    2 people like this.
  9. Quote:From that link:
    Since chickens also need grain, they cannot be totally grass-fed, according to several experts. In the chicken tractors are grain feeders, and watering devices. Chickens will eat up to 30% of their calories in grass (and that's a LOT of grass), if allowed access to unlimited supplies. Pasturing the poultry assures that they have these supplies of living grass at all times.

    A few purists want to reserve the term "grass-fed" for animals raised exclusively, 100%, on grass and nothing else. Now, ruminants, such as cows and sheep, can be raised totally on grass, but by all accounts, poultry cannot. (Nevertheless, certain of these purists claim they are raising their private poultry stock on 100% grass.) This confusion of terms has given rise to a false rumor among city meat handlers and restauranteurs that there is no such thing as "grass-fed poultry" because chickens cannot eat grass!!​
  10. Olive Hill

    Olive Hill Crowing

    Apr 19, 2009
    In addition to the allergy concerns and health benefits already mentioned there are environmental implications that come with feeding grain that some people choose to avoid by supporting grain-free poultry practices.

    It is possible to raise chickens without grain. Am I saying it's the best way? No, but I'm not saying it's a bad way to do it either. [​IMG]

    During the warm months my "regular" breeds do very well with MAYBE 1% of their feed coming from commercial processed feed. And I'm pretty darn confident that's a heavy estimate. They won't go through a medium sized feeder in MONTHS, let alone weeks. I can raise from chick to full-sized chicken from spring to fall with very, VERY little grain and honestly, if I didn't offer the grain am pretty confident they'd not have any problem getting that last little bit from added foraging. It's just convenient and there so of course they're going to peck at it occasionally. But my chickens are FREE range. This doesn't mean I have an acre fenced in yard that they can roam around. This means NO fences whatsoever. And lots of open land with a variety of bugs, grasses, weeds, etc available to them.

    ETA: I think the distinction that needs to be made here is that between grains obtained commercially and those found naturally by the chickens. I'm sure my chickens are eating "grains" just not those I purchase in a feed store.
    Last edited: Sep 18, 2009
    2 people like this.

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