How to get a free range diet in a coop/run

Andyup1

In the Brooder
Jul 6, 2018
7
32
36
Southwest MO
I don't have real chickens yet, just "hypothetical chickens." I'm very close to finally starting to build a coop and run. I live on a small property in the city. I have done the research on chickens and local rules.

That being said, I want to give them a free range diet, but I have to keep them in a chicken run. My wife does in-home daycare, and letting them run around is out of the question, I can't let the yard get full of chicken poo. I have a section of the yard fenced off, and behind it will be the chicken domain.

So, what'w the best way of letting them scrounge around for natural dinner in a small area? I understand that a diet of grains isn't the best for nutritious eggs, and they're supposed to go find beetles, worms, the like.

I was thinking about buying maybe nightcrawlers and tossing those in the run occasionally. I've also heard about growing maggots in a bit of soil suspended above the run (the maggots fall over the edge to the waiting chickens). Duckweed is something else I want to do.

Are there any other ideas to get some protein to them that I don't know about? I figure I'll have to have some grain, or standard chicken feed, that's fine, I'm just wondering if there are any good other ideas for attracting some extra protein.
 

mixedbreeds

Crowing
Aug 10, 2016
1,318
2,098
256
Washington State, Coulee City
20224661-8E72-4A31-BBE4-6C9F06D56A41.jpeg
If you are looking for good egg quality I woul suggest fodder. I do 2 cups black oil sunflower seeds, 2 cups red wheat and half cup lentils. Soak overnight in water drain and put in 10”x 20” flat with drain holes and that one inside one without drain holes put something under the top tray to hold it up a little to drain. Put in front of a window and water and rinse twice a day. Or you could use glass jars. My eggs have dark orange yolks and are excellent eating. I’m feeding 85 grams fodder per chicken per day, I also chop it up for them. I grow it for 7 days and don’t forget the grit.
 

sylviethecochin

Free Ranging
Jun 14, 2017
5,207
10,607
691
Central PA
Pelleted feed is fine for nutritious eggs. It has protein and other vitamins added for a complete diet.

Nightcrawlers are intermediate hosts for some parasites.

Maggots generally do best in poop or rotten flesh, which is a recipe for botulism. They don't grow in dirt unless it has a lot of other stuff in it, such as roots and vegetables.

My chickens like leafy greens, so duckweed would be great. They're also fans of Japanese beetles, so if you use beetle traps (no pesticide) maybe the chickens would enjoy. They like old fruit (mushy bananas, apples, and such.)

Sprout fodder, as said above, is good. However, I would like to point out that yellow yolks are more due to how much pigment chickens eat than they are anything else. Some people use feed with marigold petals added to get very yellow yolks.
 

centrarchid

Free Ranging
10 Years
Sep 19, 2009
23,741
13,060
696
Holts Summit, Missouri
You will have seasonal issues for sure but you can get a good approximation by cheating here and there. A UV light on after dark can bring in eats on warm nights. I would make so attracted insects fall into water to keep them in place until birds eat them in the morning. You can employ a Japanese Beetle attractor to help for about 45 to 60 days. See links below.
https://www.backyardchickens.com/threads/supplemental-feeding-of-japanese-beetles-using-a-low-cost-bio-attractor.1258075/#post-20185033
https://www.backyardchickens.com/threads/try-this-attracting-japanese-beetles-to-pens-of-chickens.1256756/#post-20164846

Be careful not to bring beetles in after plants you value.

Black Soldier Flies are also something I would look into as a sound maggot option.

Table waste can be source of all sorts of greens and fruits.
 

WindingRoad

Songster
Nov 21, 2018
1,007
1,963
213
Maine
I don't have real chickens yet, just "hypothetical chickens." I'm very close to finally starting to build a coop and run. I live on a small property in the city. I have done the research on chickens and local rules.

That being said, I want to give them a free range diet, but I have to keep them in a chicken run. My wife does in-home daycare, and letting them run around is out of the question, I can't let the yard get full of chicken poo. I have a section of the yard fenced off, and behind it will be the chicken domain.

So, what'w the best way of letting them scrounge around for natural dinner in a small area? I understand that a diet of grains isn't the best for nutritious eggs, and they're supposed to go find beetles, worms, the like.

I was thinking about buying maybe nightcrawlers and tossing those in the run occasionally. I've also heard about growing maggots in a bit of soil suspended above the run (the maggots fall over the edge to the waiting chickens). Duckweed is something else I want to do.

Are there any other ideas to get some protein to them that I don't know about? I figure I'll have to have some grain, or standard chicken feed, that's fine, I'm just wondering if there are any good other ideas for attracting some extra protein.
Start a mealworm farm. They are high protein. You could move your run every so often because chickens will forage your run bare in a short time. If you don't want to grow worms buy the dried ones. Chubby Mealworms have started buying American mealworms as opposed to those from China. BTW I don't see anything wrong with the mealworms I bought from them that come from China. As for commercial feed not producing nutritious eggs who told you that baloney?
 

WindingRoad

Songster
Nov 21, 2018
1,007
1,963
213
Maine
You will have seasonal issues for sure but you can get a good approximation by cheating here and there. A UV light on after dark can bring in eats on warm nights. I would make so attracted insects fall into water to keep them in place until birds eat them in the morning. You can employ a Japanese Beetle attractor to help for about 45 to 60 days. See links below.
https://www.backyardchickens.com/threads/supplemental-feeding-of-japanese-beetles-using-a-low-cost-bio-attractor.1258075/#post-20185033
https://www.backyardchickens.com/threads/try-this-attracting-japanese-beetles-to-pens-of-chickens.1256756/#post-20164846

Be careful not to bring beetles in after plants you value.

Black Soldier Flies are also something I would look into as a sound maggot option.

Table waste can be source of all sorts of greens and fruits.
Funny my birds wouldn't eat the Japanese beetles. They do love slugs, grasshoppers, fishing worms, and earwigs. I hate earwigs. They looks so fierce and they do bite with their pinchers. But I love my birds for eating them.
 

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