natural diet

Discussion in 'Nutrition - Sponsored by Purina Poultry' started by faunadocpam, Sep 16, 2015.

  1. faunadocpam

    faunadocpam Out Of The Brooder

    May 28, 2014
    SW Washington
    I understand that there is a place for commercially prepared chicken rations and Purina is certainly the "go to" brand... but I would like to feed my small flock of older chickens a more natural diet. They free range during the day on acreage - unimproved pasture, vegetable gardens after the produce is picked, weeds and reeds growing around the pond. They have an electric fence and farm dogs to protect them and at night they put themselves to bed in the coop. I supplement their diet with table scraps mixed with egg shells and, since it gets cold here in WA state, I offer them a late afternoon bowl of grain mix as a high calorie treat. I would like an expert's opinion on what the grain mix should consist of or whether these "retired" hens have other nutritional needs. I realize the nutritional needs of 4-5 yr old chickens have probably not been well characterized...
  2. EllieW

    EllieW Out Of The Brooder

    Oct 28, 2014
    And I would like to add to this question. Since my chickens free range and frankly they much prefer food of animal type, i.e. bugs and worms, flying things and jumping things, why not add more "meat" to their diet. Mine will come when called for hamburger or meat/fish scraps, but can hardly be bothered with grain based feed. In addition, I am interested in more Omega 3's rather than 6's in my own diet. Seems to me that they do best on green vegetable matter and meat--pretty much as mother nature designed them--few seeds. And they lay exceptionally well now into their third year. They do have commercial food as well, but it lasts a long, long time around here. So I guess my question is what's wrong with more animal based feed, less grains?
  3. duckitup

    duckitup Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jun 10, 2015
    I really would like to hear the answer to this question.
  4. fishermanroly

    fishermanroly Out Of The Brooder

    Apr 22, 2014
    No takers?
  5. shortgrass

    shortgrass Overrun With Chickens

    Mar 14, 2015
    Northern Colorado
    Lol I'll talk ;)

    I don't feed commercial feed. I mix my own.

    How much do you want to know? Lol I can give a "Feeds and Feeding" rundown, or just paste links lol...

    Protein, fat, fiber, energy, essential nutrients. In that order.

    I can give my recipe and answer any questions :)

    Corn, 25#
    Wheat, 50#
    Millet, 50#
    BOSS, 40#
    Alfalfa/ sorgum pellets, 50# (its a 80/20 mix)
    Oats, 25#
    Molasses, 10#
    Oyster shell, 10#

    This makes a month of feed for me. Other herbs and things added for immunity, etc, worm control... Treats they get are mealworms and pretty much every scrap from kitchen or garden.

    They free range as well, so bugs, grit, minerals from the soil etc.. Happy chooks :)

    Edit* the meat...mine eat meat, sure, frogs, mice, I've even cooked raccoons for them lol, but beyond insects, IMO meat is meant for the carnivores lol.. "Meat" in a livestock diet would be more from the legume/ bean family than a furry critter, but mealworms are a great side "meat" dish. ;)
    Last edited: Sep 19, 2015
  6. EllieW

    EllieW Out Of The Brooder

    Oct 28, 2014
    I apologize for the difficulty in translating the below information...I was comparing charts from different websites with different formats--makes the comparisons hard to track...but, here goes

    The columns are in order, protein, fat, calcium and phos. No numbers for carbohydrates. And these are dry weight








    Frog, Green




    Mouse, whole adult




    Beef sirloin, raw




    (in grams per 45 grams, not %) protein, lipid, carb, calcium, phos. In the interest of brevity I left out fiber and other minerals. Dry grain measured.

    Red wheat
    If you do the math, grains are about 68% sugar or more, at best 14% protein, VERY low fat and that would be much more omega 6 rather than omega 3—perhaps entirely.

    The eggs they make (according to by dry weight are 35% fat, 47% protein, and only a half percent sugar-- couldn’t find info for minerals.

    I’m pretty amazed they make eggs at all on grains and frankly I do not see any advantage to molasses in chicken feed. Some bags I open smell strongly of molasses.

    Yes, any animal has energy needs over and above what they put into their produce. All the above info doe not include grass or green stuff—the project to gather info thus far has taken too much time already. It does satisfy me that a diet of all grains is not the natural choice for chicken food and that their instincts for meat --of any kind--are biologically based and make perfect sense.
  7. shortgrass

    shortgrass Overrun With Chickens

    Mar 14, 2015
    Northern Colorado
    Well, I can start with this: watch what your chickens focus on when free ranging... Are they eating 100% insects, ..meat? Or do they eat grass, seeds, dig for roots, munch berries off bushes, then grab a bug?

    Do you follow? ;)

    Here's a feed PDF. They don't need more than 20% protein, in fact, it will literally kill them.

    Edit* sugar, is carbs. Carbs=energy. Energy needed to catch bugs for more protein ;)

    Molasses...vitamins and essential minerals... and palatability, tastes good. Do you put syrup on your pancakes?
    Last edited: Sep 19, 2015
  8. EllieW

    EllieW Out Of The Brooder

    Oct 28, 2014
    In my diet??? I do not eat grains so no pancakes and no sugar or syrup. I have a big box of syrups and jams I'm looking to give away if anyone can come get them. So I'm the wrong person to ask about palatability. I don't like to mask food with sugar. There is both a biologic and philosophical component to the above tho I can report much improved wellness, function and outlook since making those dietary changes for myself at age 71.

    Vitamins and minerals are available for pastured birds from many if not all sources, not sure why molasses would be necessary unless to mask the taste of the ration.

    Of course energy needs must be factored in--didn't I already agree with you on that? I just think the question is "how much" and "what source?" Of course thy eat seeds. Mine have recently been into tomatoes, previously thought borage was especially good, including the seeds.

    I trust the bird more than I trust an corporation who's first concern is shareholders. If you start with the assumption that nature tells the birds what to eat, and a corporation tells you differently, I think I'll go with the birds as long as they're healthy, happy, productive and not falling over dead.

    So Shortgrass, I'm not in disagreement with you, nor arguing for no grain or molasses, but I do think it's wise to question assumptions sometimes and always to question authority. The pdf you referenced is about mixing rations, couldn't find anything about protein needs so I do want to know why you think more than 20% protein will kill the birds. References would be appreciated. I'm a biologist and I need evidence for something like that. Not sure, left on their own with free choice if they would even eat more than 20% protein, but if nature made them that way, why would it be harmful?
  9. shortgrass

    shortgrass Overrun With Chickens

    Mar 14, 2015
    Northern Colorado
    Well, lol I can see what the problem is... They are birds. We are human. That's why I stated to watch what they eat "naturally"... It's bugs, seeds, grasses, berries, dirt, everything under the sun. A whole plethora of different nutrients not found in high protein bugs and worms. You say you use no sugar, but I bet you eat fruit. No bread? I bet you eat beans. Guess what's in those? SUGAR. ;)

    I'm not a biologist, I'm a rancher. I went to one of the top animal schools in the US, though, and I took 3 semesters if Feeds and Feeding and animal nutrition.. So I guess I don't understand where you are not understanding the concept if nutritional values and balanced diet.

    Sorry about the PDF, I guess I tho ght you could use it. Maybe this one would be better :)
  10. beginnergirl

    beginnergirl Chillin' With My Peeps

    May 25, 2015
    Pacific Nortwest
    Interesting. I understand most people eat too much processed sugar and grains. Added sugar in one form or another is in most packaged foods. Even avoiding grains, many vegetables have carbs that are converted to sugar (glucose) in people. From what I understand, protein can be converted to glucose. But different species need different foods.
    I am new to chickens and love learning. My chickens are crazy about seeds in the garden as well as bugs and berries and greens. They will come running for squash seeds, tomatoes, raisins, fruit and oatmeal. What I see them eating looks like plants, seeds and a small amount of insects.

    It seems like from what I have read that people feed chickens protein between about 17% and 22% +/-. I wonder how extra protein would affect a chicken? There must be a reason layer feed has lower protein that the starter.

    The old food pyramid for people has been changed because it can cause health problems. So conventional wisdom isn't always correct.
    Last edited: Sep 22, 2015

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