Grass fed chickens. Do they get only grass or is this supplemented?

Discussion in 'Feeding & Watering Your Flock' started by rmchickenyard, Aug 4, 2009.

  1. rmchickenyard

    rmchickenyard Out Of The Brooder

    Jul 21, 2008
    Let me preference this question with I am asking for someone else I keep laying crumbles and water at all times in my pens and supplement with organic vegetables. However, I have a person that wants to raise grass fed chickens.

    So, when people are raising grass fed chickens are they only fed grass or is this supplemented with laying rations still? Is it possible to keep chickens in a tractor and move them over grass pasture supplementing with kitchen scraps? Would this be enough food? Would it be balanced enough?

    Thanks Rhonda
  2. Luvin Life

    Luvin Life Chillin' With My Peeps

    Apr 21, 2009
    Brownsburg, Indiana
    I'm not totally sure about that. IMO I wouldn't think that would be enough. I always keep feed and water available at all times. I do free range them which will cut down on the feed ration as they eat the bugs and grass to supplement but they always eat the feed.
  3. wombat

    wombat Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jun 23, 2009
    Unless you have a very foraging area and a small number of birds, you'll still need to feed. Domestic chickens are far removed from their original wild kin. They've been bred over centuries to produce as much as an egg a day. They can't do that off of a grass diet. Grass and other greens should be only about 20% of their feed. They eat insects and worms for other nutrition, but they'll not likely find enough to meet their needs unless you have a lot of pasture area per bird, so you'll probably need to supplement their natural feeding ... moreso during the winter months in most climates.

    It would also depend on the breed and what you/your friend are raising them for. Layers need enough nutrition to produce their eggs, and laying breeds are bred to lay often. Meat birds are bred to gain weight fast. They might be healthier with grass and free ranging (there are plenty of threads about thier weight gain related health issues), but they are still bred to convert food to body weight, and grass with what little insect protein they could find being tractored would probably not meet their needs.

    btw - I sometimes see reference to "vegetarian chickens" ... and there's no such thing, unless you force it to be one by keeping it in a cage and controlling it's diet. Left to its own devices, a chicken will eat just about anything it can find or catch, including worms, grubs, insects, and small nuts and bolts.
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  4. digitS'

    digitS' Chillin' With My Peeps

    Dec 12, 2007
    ID/WA border
    Pick up a book by Joel Salatin on pastured poultry. If I remember correctly, he says that he can reduce feed consumption 30% by putting his chickens on pasture in tractors.

    Ag researchers are more inclined to say that chickens can gain about 10% of their diet from grass and legume forage. Chickens don't have 4 stomachs and are not ruminants. Their ability to digest and make good use of pasturing is limited. Having their higher-nutrient feed available to them free-choice is a good idea.

    My chickens eat grass every day that they can get at it. They seem to prefer it to a lot of other foods but for them to grow and be productive layers, they must have other food, as well.

    . . . my 2ยข

  5. mamaKate

    mamaKate Chillin' With My Peeps

    Sep 9, 2008
    SE MO
    My 2 chickens are in the fenced part of my yard (about 50x150 ft) 13 hrs each day. I have food available at all times but they only nibble at it. I doubt they eat more than a tablespoon per bird.
  6. daryl

    daryl Out Of The Brooder

    Nov 8, 2008
    It depends on what type of grass. I plan on growing a mixtuer of "forage mix" in my run. I would say you can reduse the cost of feed but would not do well on only grass. Im planting commom flax,ladinc clover,Birdsfoot Trefoil, non-dormant alfalfa, Red cowpeas, Buckwheat. Also going to plant a siberian pea shrub..
  7. MichiganGoatGirl

    MichiganGoatGirl New Egg

    May 24, 2008
    Oxford, Michigan
    No way can grass alone supply all of a chickens metabolic needs. They need protein from somewhere ( bugs, worms, or combined grains in feed), starch (corn, grain), in addition to grass. You'd have some very unhealthy and unbalanced birds. Especially if you are trying to raise meat chickens. They need a lot of protien and they burn a lot of calories foraging around so a good portion of what they gain from grass is lost through the action of moving around. It would be kind of like a human child trying to grow up eating only spinach. Even vegetarians need a wide variety of legumes and grains and fruit to make a well balance and life sustaining diet. As another poster stated, if they had a large area to forage in they could find enough bugs and worms, grubs, etc to do OK. I think people misunderstand the term "grass fed". They should read a good book on basic chicken care and nutrition before trying to jump on the latest bandwagon.
  8. txchickie

    txchickie Chillin' With My Peeps

    Nov 15, 2008
    Grass-fed cattle, sure..........grass-fed chickens, no. Grass and bugs alone are not enough for them, at least for mine anyway.

    Our chickens free-range their entire lives, and while they do eat a lot of grass and bugs, I still have to feed them. They eat like little pigs when I toss out feed in the mornings and evenings.

    I **might** could get away without feeding my guineas, but it wouldn't be good.
  9. chicken coop scoop

    chicken coop scoop Out Of The Brooder

    Aug 5, 2009
  10. Mahonri

    Mahonri Urban Desert Chicken Enthusiast Premium Member

    May 14, 2008
    North Phoenix
    My Coop
    From the link in the post above...

    Pastured Poultry:

    Thousands of small farms in the US and worldwide produce what is called "pastured poultry". To these farmers, pastured poultry means chickens and other poultry raised right on top of living grasses. This is accomplished by keeping the birds in low, wide, bottomless cages called "chicken tractors" that are moved to a new spot of fresh pasture once or more often each day.

    This enables the birds to eat all the varied, living grasses, other plants, insects, etc., that they can find. 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!!

    A few purists say that "pastured poultry" cannot be raised in cages, that pastured poultry means poultry that is free to roam over pasture without physical restrictions. These folks include the addition of grain-based feeds for their "pastured" birds.

    But in general usage around the world, "pastured poultry" means chickens raised in chicken tractors that are moved over fresh grass very often, with grain feeders available.

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