Grain Free

Discussion in 'Meat Birds ETC' started by cehasz, Jan 27, 2015.

  1. cehasz

    cehasz In the Brooder

    Jul 28, 2014
    Before I begin, I am doing my research, so please no comments on how this is not doable or healthy. Chickens used to live off the land before commercial feed so I know it can be done.

    I have a few people interested in grain free chicken due to allergies and personal reasons. I know Freedom Rangers are good foragers and I completely free range so I have that opportunity. My issue is, what to feed the birds as new chicks. I know sunflower seeds, flax seeds, chia, soy, and chickpeas are not considered grains. The protein content is there, but is it enough to sustain them until they are out of the brooder?
  2. I know this isn't probably what you are looking for, but I wonder if allowing a band of broodies to rear your chicks could be an alternative for the situation. Mine always glean plenty from the yard/pasture to keep their babies on the right track.

    Good luck with your research.
  3. cehasz

    cehasz In the Brooder

    Jul 28, 2014
    I was thinking that and that's what I wanted to do. The issue is with the amount of meat birds we get and we currently only have two hens who go broody!
  4. justplainbatty

    justplainbatty Songster

    Nov 30, 2007
    emmet MI
    If you are concerned with allergies, please research the soy/animal/human effects.
  5. I figured the numbers might be an issue.

    Would alfalfa be an option?
  6. Amberjem

    Amberjem Crowing

  7. LBKS

    LBKS Songster

    Mar 1, 2013
    Louisburg, KS
    Not an expert, just looked into this as I'd like to improve my pasture/forage area to supply as much of my flock's feed as possible:

    There are a lot of "false grains" like amaranth, teff, quinoa, etc that are other possible options. You can also use seeds from vegetables where if you are saving your own for replanting, you end up with tons of extras. Radishes, pumpkins/squash, etc. For chicks don't forget to make sure they have grit to process these whole foods. If you are feeding them strictly plant foods, make sure you get a complete set of protein (you want to cover at least all the essential amino acids for chickens to be sure they are getting the right kind of protein).

    I imagine if you want them to free range as adults for most of their food what would be wise to do is to seed your range with plants that are good sources of nutrition and food for them (as opposed to an ocean of grass). Some of these sorts of plants could double as good cover from predatory birds (such as blackberry brambles, etc). Add in that food sources mature at different times of year, and it'd require some care to make sure you provide ample opportunities for foraging year round.

    Additionally, making bug habitats might be wise too, so you can 'grow' bugs for them to hunt. I know there are bug hotels designed to attract beneficial insects, not sure what you'd do for just attracting feeders though. Maybe take pest infested/bad fire wood (far away from any wood structures) and make a pile to slowly decompose while providing an insect hunting ground? There's always ye olde compost pile to scratch in too.

    Another consideration is how you will handle low forage food months (not sure where you are or how your winter is, but it may be unreasonable to expect them to find their food all year round). Whether this is saving up false-grains and seeds along with food scraps and leftover meat, raising bugs for chicken feed, growing fodder for greens, or something else.

    Anyway, those are my thoughts of things to look at or consider.
  8. Mac in Wisco

    Mac in Wisco Antagonist

    May 25, 2007
    SW Wisconsin
    I'd consider what you listed to be grains, they are seeds. I guess you mean seeds that aren't cereal grains, from grass.

    The ancestors of chickens used to live off the land, in the jungle. Domesticated chickens never really "lived off the land" except in more tropical areas. Most were free range in a farm setting where they gleaned grain from corn cribs, livestock feeders, rooted through manure for extras, ate kitchen scraps.

    Modern meat birds and hens take a lot of energy. You can research the calories per pound, levels of crude protein, specific amino acids, vitamins, and minerals recommended for poultry and should be able to put a decent ration together out of your preferred feedstocks.

    You can try to throw something together, but you will likely be short on some essential nutrients and they will do poorly. For example, you won't be able to feed them a vegetarian diet without including synthetic methionine.
  9. I believe the op has a great idea. I also think it can be done.
    On that same token, I believe @Mac in Wiscomade a very valid point. Yes, at one time all domestic animals lived off the land. However; the animals we have now have been selected for very different traits that now make them unable to live off the land w/o some supplementation.

    Please understand that by supplementation I dont mean "frankenfoods" It could be as simple as hay for cattle in the winter months or planting feedstuffs such as peas and berries for the chickens or creating a bug habitat as mac mentioned.

    Best of luck!

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