Grain-free chickens?

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

  1. A.T. Hagan

    A.T. Hagan Don't Panic

    Aug 13, 2007
    North/Central Florida
    A chicken's nutrient intake needs aren't so different than ours. They need a certain amount of digestible protein, fats, carbohydrates, vitamins, and minerals - particularly calcium for laying hens. If they are able to free range over good ground during the warm months when plants are growing and insects are to be found a hen can often get nearly everything she needs that way. Nearly everything. What usually comes up short is carbohydrates. But if you are adverse to grains they can get those carbs from other foodstuffs such as white potatoes, sweet potatoes, pumpkins/squashes and so on. With some forethought and planning it can be done.

    The two big problems lie in how many chickens over how much ground? The more birds the more ground they need to be able to access. And good ground at that.

    The second problem lies in what to do about the winter time when nothing is growing and there are no insects to be found. Long droughts in the summer can be much the same. Growth and/or egg production is going to slow as the quality of the range decreases to the point they are doing well just to get enough to stay alive. Even that can be met with planning and forethought though.

    Of course relative to cheap grains and soy proteins those chickens are going to cost more, but it can be done. Could be a good niche market for someone who is interested if they research it carefully and have a market of folks who are willing to pay what such poultry are going to cost.

  2. Davaroo

    Davaroo Poultry Crank

    Feb 4, 2007
    Leesville, SC
    Quote:None. The natural diet of the chicken consists of grain, greens and meat. These are most often in the form of grains and seeds, succulent green growth and insects/carrion/small animals. It is simple and it works - for both the chicken and we who must feed them.

    I personally don't see the incessant need to muck around with the chickens diet. Chickens don't need fancy, but they do have certain basic needs in their food. I can see no practical reason to eliminate grain from their feed. In fact, when you consider the energy needs of the chicken, I rather doubt they can be provided for without grain.

    Some might claim a worry over gluten issues, but eggs are "bio-filtered" so that gluten is not present in them.

    Like I said, practical application dictates certain things be present in the poultry diet. However, practical implies good sense and we all know that is often in short supply. P.T. Barnum was right... tell your friend I said so.
    Last edited: Feb 23, 2010
  3. runsamuckranch

    runsamuckranch New Egg

    Apr 11, 2009
    Norco, Southern California
    The benefits to grain-fee eggs (and meat) are more for the people following the "Primal Blueprint" type of lifestyle: no carbs or grains. It makes a HUGE difference for some people and I am trying to find a way to feed my chickens without grains.
    1 person likes this.
  4. Wifezilla

    Wifezilla Positively Ducky

    Oct 2, 2008
    Exactly! Plus chickens didn't evolve eating soy. Soy as a source of protein for chickens is a recent invention.
  5. Clay Mudd

    Clay Mudd Chillin' With My Peeps

    Mar 28, 2011
    South MS swamps
    My chickens spend as much time as I let them wandering the woods -- lots of bugs and other goodies down in the leaf mold layer.
  6. outdoorpodcast

    outdoorpodcast Out Of The Brooder

    Mar 11, 2012
    I've had up to 5 or 6 of my ladies free ranging in year round. I used to put commercial feed out for them but once they get a taste of free ranging, they wouldn't touch the commercial feed. That should tell you something about the quality of commercial feed.

    The only supplements that I add are sunflower seeds and maybe a suet cake or two during the winter time. They generally forage through the wooded areas scrounging for food and have done quite well. Their egg production does drop during the wintertime but they remain healthy.

    Chickens are omnivores not vegetarians as most people think.

    Also, a lot of people want to avoid grains because of GMO concerns.
  7. ThePigeonKid

    ThePigeonKid Chillin' With My Peeps

    May 24, 2010
    Ohio - Chickens 3yrs
    How much per day/week?
  8. outdoorpodcast

    outdoorpodcast Out Of The Brooder

    Mar 11, 2012
    I generally do about 2 handfuls per day per chicken.
  9. outdoorpodcast

    outdoorpodcast Out Of The Brooder

    Mar 11, 2012
    An I'm also experimenting with cooking venison and grinding it in the food processor. I am however mixing this with BOSS and Cracked corn, but they absolutely love it.
  10. Davaroo

    Davaroo Poultry Crank

    Feb 4, 2007
    Leesville, SC
    I'm not ready to condemn a prepared ration simply because the chickens have found other things to eat. They are creatures of habit like most other critters - and are also keen opportunists. This in no way condemns prepared feeds. In fact, it places a greater burden on us to ensure we KNOW what they are eating out there, as they roam around.

    So what I'm curious to know is this: Why eliminate grains?
    To my way of thinking, grains are a part of the birds natural diet. They provide much needed energy in the form of carbohydrates. Along with seeds, nuts, bugs, carrion, fruit, mice, well - you name it - grains are an intrinsic part of the diet.

    A hundred years ago, when a chickeneer might have to prepare his own feed, every recipe from the period included grain of some kind. They had this stuff figured out.
    What do we know that they did not?
    Last edited: Apr 8, 2012

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