How to strike a balance between healthy chickens and saving on feed?

Discussion in 'Feeding & Watering Your Flock' started by EMS2005, Dec 21, 2013.

  1. EMS2005

    EMS2005 Out Of The Brooder

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    I apologize if this topic is covered a lot. I'm a newbie just perusing the forums. It's sounding like the highest monthly chicken cost is feed. I would plan on free-ranging chickens as much of the day as possible. I am home a lot, but not always able to be vigilant of my yard. I also live in west-central Georgia. So with the climate here and the free-ranging...what could I get by with feeding half a dozen laying hens to help them stay healthy, but not break the bank? I'm looking to replace white grocery store eggs in our diet without increasing (preferably decreasing) our monthly egg-related costs. I know this is a tall order and I'm curious if it's even possible. For what it's worth, based on a very cursory glance ad a few charts, I'm looking at Austorlorpe or Plymouth Rock breeds (any comments on that are welcome as well).

    Thanks so much for any input. :)
     
  2. sourland

    sourland Broody Magician Premium Member

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    When everything is factored in, the cost of 'home raised' eggs is generally higher than 'store bought', but the flavor and satisfaction is so far superior. Understand that if you free range you will eventually lose chickens to predation. You might allow free ranging supplemented with some feeding in the AM, and ad lib feeding at night to assure that the chickens are receiving adequate nutrition.
     
  3. hallerlake

    hallerlake Chillin' With My Peeps

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    You should also understand that if you skimp on their nutrition, they will skimp on eggs. Less nutrition, fewer eggs. It will take a little trial and error, but they will demonstrate how much feed they need. Free ranging will help on costs.
     
  4. donrae

    donrae Hopelessly Addicted Premium Member

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    [​IMG]

    The answer varies a lot, depending on the quality of your range and what they can find to eat.

    6 hens, not ranging and producing, should eat around 1 1/2 cups of feed a day. That 50lb sack will last you quite a while!

    Most folks who range also let the hens eat free choice commercial feed. Many report the hens eat hardly any feed, especially during the late spring, summer and early fall. In the off season, your birds will need more feed to supplement the lack of forage.
     
  5. hallerlake

    hallerlake Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Look up fermented feed. It makes the nutrients more available. My chickens eat much less when I ferment their feed.
     
  6. chickengeorgeto

    chickengeorgeto Overrun With Chickens

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    Some one from upper New York this week posted that their Grand Daddy supplemented his chickens' winter feed with a skinned carcass, the species of the animal offered up was not mentioned.

    I use to hang whole road killed rabbets and possums on the poultry wire and then let the hens and their biddies take care of business. I would say that if the food is based on the carbon atom, the building block of all life on Earth, it is pretty safe to say that a chicken can and will eat it.

    Just make sure nothing is spoiled beyond use because there is a slight chance of botulism.

    The up side of all this is once your friends and neighbors observe you picking up road kill, the unsolicited calls from encyclopedia salesmen

    will fall off to nothing. [​IMG]
     
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  7. Cindy in PA

    Cindy in PA Overrun With Chickens

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    The conventional wisdom is 1/4 -1/3 of a pound per chicken per day. That would be 1.5-2 lbs. per day or 45 to 60 lbs. per month with no other feed, so you would use less.
     
  8. EMS2005

    EMS2005 Out Of The Brooder

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    Thank you! how much is 1 1/2 cups in weight? Or does the dry measurement matter more?

    Our ordinances are going to make it very improbabl[e] that we'll end up with chickens on this property. Very annoying. I'm going to keep learning in the meantime, though.
     
    Last edited: Dec 22, 2013
  9. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner Chicken Obsessed

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    I saw you mentioned your local ordinances in another post. Bummer! But since you said you wanted to keep researching….

    Like Sourland said, by the time you factor in your set-up costs plus your operating expenses very few of us can economically justify the eggs. Extremely few of us just can’t beat the cost of the mass-produced eggs. If you are keeping chickens it pretty much has to be for quality reasons, not economical.

    With that said, there is a model where people have kept chickens for thousands of years at practically no cost or really minimal costs. That hinges on a few things; quality of forage, climate, predator pressure, and probably some things I’m forgetting or haven’t thought about.

    Quality of forage means they have different grasses and weeds, grass and weed seeds, decaying vegetation to scratch in, and all kinds of creepy crawlies to eat. If all you have is a manicured back yard, the quality of forage is not going to be very high. It won’t work. But with enough area and enough variety, chickens can pretty much feed themselves. The hens may not pop out a double extra huge egg every day, but if the cost of feed is zero, so what?

    Climate obviously comes in because in winter you may have to supplement their feed a bit. Where you are they should be able to forage fairly well year-around, but some supplement in winter would probably be a good thing, especially if you ever see snow on the ground. Throwing out your kitchen scraps for them can be a good supplement, but a lot of those people supplemented with corn or other grains they grew themselves. I grew up on a farm like that. In the winter we shelled corn we grew ourselves for them. We did not worry about micromanaging their diet.

    Predator pressure really varies for us for different reasons. My parents totally free ranged their chickens. They would go years between predator attacks but occasionally a fox or dog would show up that had to be dealt with. At that time fence rows were kept cleared out, pastureland was not overgrown. People did a lot of hunting (mainly squirrels and rabbits) and if they ever got a safe shot at a fox or raccoon, they took it and were usually good enough to hit it. Most people kept farm dogs that were good about keeping certain wild animals away, either from the garden or the livestock.

    I can’t free range here. My predator pressure is just too high. My big problem is people dumping dogs out in the country, not the wild animals. So that predator pressure is going to vary for each of us.

    Very few of those farmers kept “breeds”. They generally had a barnyard mix that might include some Barred Rock, Dominique, or Rhode Island Red genetics, but it often included Game genetics as well. Usually they were based on chickens that had been in the family for generations. They were generally a lot smaller than the “breeds” people are so hung up on now. They had a few advantages over the “breeds”. By them being smaller, they were more nimble about getting away from certain dangerous situations. They were pretty good at foraging, partly because with their smaller bodies they did not need to eat as much food to maintain a big body. They would go broody and raise replacements plus some extras for the table.

    I know this won’t help you in your current situation, but maybe it will give you a few things to think about. One thing to think about is to clarify your goals. Know what you want the chickens to do for you. If you don’t know what you want it’s real hard to get it. Your singling out the feed costs is a good example of this.
     
    2 people like this.
  10. donrae

    donrae Hopelessly Addicted Premium Member

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    I think chicken feed follows the "a pint's a pound the world around" , so 1 1/2 cups would be around 1 1/2 lbs. Cindy did the math there, so a 50 lb bag of feed, which is around $13 here, would last you right around a month, give or take. If that's going to break your bank, it would be better to wait to get birds until you're in a better financial place.
     

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