How Often to Feed?

ilexxx

Chirping
12 Years
Apr 29, 2009
22
19
99
My chickens free range on my farm. I have been feeding them twice a day but would like to go to once a day. They are fat and healthy and scratch lots of bugs. How often does everyone else feed their free range chickens?
 

Kayla's Lunch

Songster
Jun 9, 2018
493
736
227
Maryland
My flock usually free ranges 2-5 hours a day. I ferment their feed and feed them in the morning. There is usually a little bit still there the next morning. I try to gauge it that way. They also have alfalfa available and I also grow barley fodder. They don't eat as much of their feed when they find lots outside. I usually give them some treat when they come in for the night, millet/BOSS birdseed, mealworms, scrambled eggs, peas, etc. I wouldn't want to have to guess how much they will find outside, so I want to make sure I feed them what they need. Don't want them to go to bed hungry!
 

Ridgerunner

Crossing the Road
12 Years
Feb 2, 2009
27,862
22,036
907
Southeast Louisiana
In the middle of the previous century I grew up on a small farm with a flock of free range chickens in East Tennessee. The only time those chickens were fed was when there was snow on the ground. Otherwise they were expected to feed themselves, and they did. They would never win a ribbon or trophy at a show, that would require a special diet so they could grow big. We did not feed them special so they could reach butcher size really early. They laid a lot of eggs, hatched and raised chicks, and provided meat for the table. They met Mom and Dad's goals and cost us practically nothing.

One issue with this is the quality of your forage. Do they have access to grass and weeds, grass and weed seeds, and lots of creepy crawlies and flying insects? In winter ours could forage for seeds from the hay fed to the cows and horses. They could scratch through cow and horse poop, getting partially digested bits of food and maybe even creepy crawlies. This is quite a bit different from them foraging on a manicured lawn that is never allowed to go to seed, let alone grow weeds.

I cannot free range mine because of predator pressure. I lost too many too often because of people abandoning dogs in the country. So I have feed available for them whenever they want it. It's not what I want but what I have to live with.
 

Folly's place

Enabler
10 Years
Sep 13, 2011
23,598
39,724
1,106
southern Michigan
Game type birds, or a similar smaller very active breed type or landrace, given the right environment, can do pretty well on a farm where there's feed spread around for the other farm critters, and never snow or cold.
Bigger higher producing modern birds, in a much less rich environment, not so much.
Over generations of 'survival of the fittest' breeding, chickens will revert to that landrace type.
Mary
 

ChickenWaterer

Songster
7 Years
Aug 20, 2012
87
74
116
Palo Alto, CA
In the middle of the previous century I grew up on a small farm with a flock of free range chickens in East Tennessee. The only time those chickens were fed was when there was snow on the ground. Otherwise they were expected to feed themselves, and they did. They would never win a ribbon or trophy at a show, that would require a special diet so they could grow big. We did not feed them special so they could reach butcher size really early. They laid a lot of eggs, hatched and raised chicks, and provided meat for the table. They met Mom and Dad's goals and cost us practically nothing.

One issue with this is the quality of your forage. Do they have access to grass and weeds, grass and weed seeds, and lots of creepy crawlies and flying insects? In winter ours could forage for seeds from the hay fed to the cows and horses. They could scratch through cow and horse poop, getting partially digested bits of food and maybe even creepy crawlies. This is quite a bit different from them foraging on a manicured lawn that is never allowed to go to seed, let alone grow weeds.

I cannot free range mine because of predator pressure. I lost too many too often because of people abandoning dogs in the country. So I have feed available for them whenever they want it. It's not what I want but what I have to live with.
Thanks for sharing this. Many of us have chickens in suburban areas and don't have enough property to allow foraging -- at least not total foraging. It's interesting to learn about those that have because feed is pretty expensive nowadays. Thanks for the post.
 

sunrise.superman

Songster
Sep 24, 2018
172
481
132
Loveland, CO
I have a large urban yard and since the house is a fixer upper and I'm focusing on the neglected front yard at the moment, I leave the girls to free range in the back for now while I'm building a large run. There is ankle high grass in patches that I let go to seed, some dandelions, a stubborn weed patch by the compost pile, some landscaping rock that hides good bugs. I was leaving dry food out free feeding, but the ladies seemed still thinish. I now put out fermented feed to last them the morning through at least to lunch, some greens and scraps to find, they graze in late afternoon, and then a handful or 2 of meal worms across 15 chickens to roost on. They keep their weight much better this way and the feed bill is less as a bonus.
 

BigBlueHen53

We will get through this... together!
Mar 5, 2019
18,396
68,187
1,167
SE Missouri, USA
All-flock feed, 16% protein available 24/7 along with grit and oyster shell. They are in about a football-field sized area with lots of grass, forbs and weeds to forage in most of the day. About 3:30 pm, after most of them have laid for the day, they get a small feeding of scratch grains as I look them over, then turn them loose to free range on three acres or so in the midst of a wilderness- forest- pasture area for the rest of the day.
 

FortCluck

Hatch-a-Long Queen
Sep 9, 2019
21,411
93,374
1,317
Central Virginia
My chickens have a free range fenced in area that is about 3,000 ft. I give them a certain amount of food every day (5-6 cups) and they peck around on the ground most of the time. There is usually food left over every single day so I know that they are getting enough. They all lay healthy eggs and have nice feathers.

I also place all our scraps in a bowl or bucket then after dinner I throw it out to them.
 

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