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Need as much advice as possible - Feeding Free Range and Feed

Discussion in 'Feeding & Watering Your Flock' started by alienkitties, Dec 21, 2012.

  1. alienkitties

    alienkitties Hatching

    Jan 7, 2012
    Hey y'all!! Looking for all kinds of opinion, as fast as I can get it! My husband is getting frustrated at the amount, and cost of feed we are using for our flock. We need some ideas:

    Here's our situation, then I will post my questions:

    We have about 30 chickens of various breeds (Easter Egger, Brahma, Buff Orpington, etc. - all regular to large breed birds) - we use them mostly for egg laying. We also have a flock of ducks, and 1 pair of Toulouse Geese. The girls are allowed to free range during the day on our fenced 5 acre property. We live in rural SE Kansas, where it is windy and mostly DRY. While we do have some grass, I can't vouch for the quality or type. It used to be pasture land. It is NOT the lovely thick green grass of lawns - it is various weeds/grasses of prairie. We do allow it to grow as much as possible, but do have to cut it several times a year. We had flying insects till about a week ago with the warm weather, but now, we are going to have bitter cold and winds coming, so the insects will be sparse.

    My questions are these:

    My husband wants me to get advice on how much and what kind of feed we should be using - especially since they free range ALL YEAR round. We bought a HUGE batch of feed when it was on sale and he expected it to last a year, it lasted 4 months... BUT I have seen the wild ducks bring all their flock buddies in to feast too... So we need an idea of what a free range chicken should be supplemented in feed (regardless of the duckies... )


    2. WHAT KIND of feed... (layers)

    3. What should the duckies be getting regardless of the chickens?

    Thanks for ANY and ALL advice!!

  2. ChickensAreSweet

    ChickensAreSweet Heavenly Grains for Hens

    I don't know about ducks but you can buy some Flock Raiser and cut it with some scratch grains/wheat/oats/barley (FR is 20% protein and scratch maybe 10% so then you end up with 15% if half and half). Since they free range they are getting some vitamins from the pasture I'd assume. But for winter when the quality is poor (pasture) you might think about other sources of greens for them (2-3 inch lengths of alfalfa hay or soaked alfalfa cubes - I have tried alfalfa meal with my chickens and they didn't eat it at all but LOVED the hay). I chop grass with my yard scissors (clippers).

    Grass clippings from a watered lawn are good too but not your cup of tea right now. If you don't make sure the vitamin intake is sufficient with greens when you cut the commercial feed with whole grains you might end up with a vitamin deficiency- because they add vitamins to the feed.

    If your laying slows down go up on the FR since eggs are protein but I like cutting my feed with grains and seeds (always making sure they have greens every day) to save a little money and give them variety. I give rolled barley, rolled oats, wheat, organic cracked corn, millet, black oil sun seeds, and split peas.
    Commercial (cracked grain or crumbles/pellets) feed shouldn't be stored more than 3-4 months under optimal conditions. It spoils very quickly. Whole grains and seeds store much longer if kept dry/cool.

    Feed mills are the cheapest- a lot of times the feed will be very powdery from what I have read and you can make a mash with water - they love it. I wouldn't cut layer feed (16% protein) in the manner I mentioned above due to the protein level being too low after grains added. You can also use unmedicated chick starter, as I do.
    Last edited: Dec 21, 2012
  3. ChickensAreSweet

    ChickensAreSweet Heavenly Grains for Hens

    Also - my 16 large fowl Orpingtons eat about 1 1/2 horse scoops of feed per day. My 23 bantams eat about 1/2 scoop per day. They all are in large grassy pens. (The brightly colored scoops they sell at the feed store- very large scoops.)

    A lighter weight hen should eat about 4 oz. of feed per day.
  4. OkChickens

    OkChickens Orpingtons Are Us

    Dec 1, 2010
    Owasso, Oklahoma
    Do you feed them outside? I have used 2 30lb galvanized feeders in the coop and they work great! I feed my 100 RSL free ranging hens with them. They work great! I give them free choice laying pellets and I also feed them veggie scraps and some kitchen scraps. You can feed the ducks the laying pellets as well. Not sure about the geese.

  5. ChickensRDinos

    ChickensRDinos Songster

    Aug 19, 2012
    Los Angeles
    I would also make sure to assess your waste. Rodents and wild birds could be a problem and you don't want to be feeding any extra mouths. Also if the birds are spilling and wasting or you have a lot of dust there are ways to combat that.

    Some people seem to be having a lot of success reducing the amount of feed they buy by fermenting some of their feed or grains, or even just soaking or sprouting. There are several good threads on here about that. You could also look into growing indoor fodder during the winter.
  6. Cindy in PA

    Cindy in PA Crowing

    Jul 8, 2008
    Fleetwood, PA
    30 chickens could eat up to 10 lbs. of feed a day. Free ranging & scraps will help, but chickens do eat more than some people think.
  7. centrarchid

    centrarchid Free Ranging

    Sep 19, 2009
    Holts Summit, Missouri
    I need to know some things.

    How many acres are available for free-ranging and how many used?

  8. alienkitties

    alienkitties Hatching

    Jan 7, 2012
    Currently we are using 1-2 acres for forage. We are in the process of fencing in 4 of our 5 for them. BUT - some fly the fence daily, some don't. It is hard to count. We have 5 acres total.
  9. WestVermont

    WestVermont In the Brooder

    Dec 27, 2012
    Bennington, Vermont
    Reduce your cost try these...
    For bugs meal worms are supper easy to breed but require time to get going and is a good source of protein.
    You can feed them their own egg shells but crush them finely so they do not figure out what they are eating and this will help them produce more eggs with quality shells.
    Be resourceful.... check with soup kitchens or places that give food to those in need and see what they do with donated fruits and veggies that are pass a certain point. Grocery stores and restaurant scraps may also be an option.
    Sell some eggs and use the cash to cover the cost of feed.... I recently had a talk with someone I know who has raised chickens for a while and discovered that a larger flock can be the way to go as the more eggs you have the more you can sell here in VT I can sell to a restaurant everyday and cover the cost of feed completely by taking over with her blessing her client as she has reduced her flock of 100 to just 32. Without knowing your needs more it is hard to tell you exactly what to do however, I hope that one of these can help you or fit your needs.
  10. centrarchid

    centrarchid Free Ranging

    Sep 19, 2009
    Holts Summit, Missouri
    Now it will get down to quality of forage which is impacted by plant type, season, rainfall and nutrient availability in soil. When pasture is good I can get by with as little as 50 grams of feed per bird per day. This I apply as a layer pellet. Problem is that is likely too rich in some nutrients part of year. During spring and early summer when forage quality is highest I get by simply using scratch grains since forage meets needs for protein and vitamins very well. You will need to experiment and birds can tell you when they need more based upon foraging behavior. With good foraging breeds the birds tend to disperse in radius around feeders. Ideally they will still consume a lot of plant material (plus insects) but still clean up what feeder is filled with. I constantly monitor feeder and add enough each morning so they have feed in it until sometime between noon and dark. The birds make up the difference quickly by foraging if forage quality and abundance is adequate. I also periodically check crops shortly after dark to ensure they are largely full. It takes a little practice and contant monitoring to keep birds in sweet spot with respect to feed applied. When birds are under fed they will range further if they can, eat all feed in morning hours, and got to roost with crops less than full. Under feeding can also result int birds dispersing their roosting sites which is bad. Over fed and they will leave feed in feeders bringing in all sorts of feed stealing baddies (rodents, oppossums, and raccoons) some of which can direct attention to birds. Another issue for me is how far birds range and its impact upon dog's ability to protect them.

    I also move my feeding stations around to ensure balanced pressure on forage as production season progresses.

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