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Organic Free Range Advice Needed

Discussion in 'Feeding & Watering Your Flock' started by INDovey, Mar 17, 2013.

  1. INDovey

    INDovey Out Of The Brooder

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    Mar 13, 2013
    I am new to raising chickens and would like to raise my laying hens strictly Organic Free Range. We have a 36 acre farm with about 20 acres that will be open for free ranging and a 2000 sq. ft barn. I plan to have about 8 hens to start and wondered how you know if they are getting enough to eat. We will be using a protected run field rotation method that will include pasture, as well as areas of the barn that need to have horse manure processed for compost. We will also set up a garden run cage system so that they can forage between the garden plants.

    I also plan to plant a garden that will be used completely for feeding the chickens fresh veggies, but not sure how much of what I should be planting just for the hens. I can plant grain corn in open rows around the fences if needed to provide enough food for the hens, but need advice on what to plant for a balance diet and how to know if they are getting enough to eat. We are also considering setting up a meal worm box to make sure they are getting enough protein. Although these will not be family pets, I will not own an animal that is not provided with a happy lifestyle, so just want to make sure I am doing all that I can for them.
     
  2. AccidentalFarm

    AccidentalFarm Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Hi INDovey! Welcome to BYC!

    It sounds like you've got plenty of space for 8 hens to live quite happily in. I don't know if there is any specific method of 'knowing' that they are getting enough to eat other than monitoring their feed rations and general appearance, vigor, health, and laying frequency. Once you have your hens for a little bit, you'll get used to their personalities and habits and you'll be able to tell when something is 'off' with one of them. I'm not clear on whether you're planning to provide feed for them, or have them completely forage for food. If you want them to rely on forage alone, and have ample space for planting, I'd suggest you plant a wide variety of vegetables and fruits and let them eat what they like. I'm sure there'll be someone along to give you suggestions on grains and such. Without researching it, I don't really know what to suggest. For some reason, I'm thinking too much corn isn't advisable, but I can't really recall WHY i think that. LOL.
    My birds are true free rangers, refusing even to sleep in their coop. They make their rounds everyday to the horse pastures, hog pens, goat pastures, garden and compost pile and apparently find plenty to eat on their own. I still put out feed for them, but they rarely eat it.
    Honestly, I'd suggest you always provide a good organic feed, just in case. If your birds are like mine, you'll find that they don't eat much of it at all. Bugs and horse poo and veggies and whatever else they find out there apparently taste far better than bagged feed.
     
    Last edited: Mar 17, 2013
  3. INDovey

    INDovey Out Of The Brooder

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    Thanks for the advice, and if possible I would like to free range and provide organic homegrown feed. I had heard that too much corn will decrease the color and flavor of the yolks, at least I think that is what I had read, but not sure what else to grow. I will still have the grain corn planted around the fence rows, but that is for the deer population around the farm. I was just going to plant extra if it was needed for the chicken feed also. We plant heritage crops, so having seed is not a problem after we have purchased the first of whatever we might need for our self or the animals. I just figure that if I'm willing to plant in order to protect the game population (we believe in giving back for what we take away), then it is really no big deal if I do the same for our livestock.
     
  4. AccidentalFarm

    AccidentalFarm Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I've been switching over to heritage crops, too and I agree with your philosophy of giving back. Kudos to you on both! Letting my chickens free range pretty well falls into the same line of thinking. It's just better in my opinion to let chickens be chickens-free to do whatever chicken things they want all day long! I guess I'm more laid back now than when I started raising chickens. I totally stressed over every little thing and micro-managed their entire lives. Poor birds. LOL. I mean, don't get me wrong, I had healthy birds, just probably not the happiest birds. Now, I provide safe shelter and good food and let them choose to utilize it if they want and we're all less stressed over the whole deal. Yeah, sometimes they irritate me, like when they devour ALL the tomatoes, but ...whatever. It's no big deal. I just put a little cage around things they can't have and problem solved. Besides, more will grow and we all stay pretty happy with the arrangement.
    There's something to be said for letting nature do it's thing.
    All that said, I was going to look up some information for you regarding what to plant, and I happened across a post right here on BYC that has a handy dandy chart you can check out: https://www.backyardchickens.com/a/chicken-treat-chart-the-best-treats-for-backyard-chickens
    Maybe it'll help you choose. Hope so.

    I don't remember if you said what type chickens you'll be getting? Do you know yet?
     
  5. JennT

    JennT Out Of The Brooder

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    Mar 14, 2013
    We are also doing something similar, on 8 acres in PA. Right now I plan on experimenting with food from my garden, supplementing with organic feed, and taking notes as to how to adjust for next growing season. We are new to this as well. We will be getting our chicks in about a week. Best of luck! I'd love to know what more you find out!
     
  6. TheStewarts

    TheStewarts Out Of The Brooder

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    We are just starting out. Our 9 week olds (there are 9 of them) have been out of the coop more and more and are eating less and less feed. We keep putting it out but they just aren't eating it. They are really cute when they chase bugs though!
     
  7. INDovey

    INDovey Out Of The Brooder

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    Well, I guess I'd better figure it out fast... stopped by the Tractor Supply today and ended up coming home with 9 chicks. It was a little sooner than expected, but when the man at the store offered to let me have the chicks for just 75 cents each, if I'd take the older ones... I could not pass up taking the little Black Star sex-link chicks home with me. I think I have 8 hens and a Roo, but not sure. The 8 larger ones are about 3 weeks old and I could see the red bars on those, but the other little one is black and white, and I'm guessing it at about 5 days old. I'd heard that the Roo would be black and white, but I'm not even sure this is the same type of chick since it looks so different. The belly, under neck and face all the way up to the eyes is defined pure white and the rest of the chick is coal black... guess I'll find out in time what I have... what ever it is, I hope it's a boy. It was the only one in the bunch that had any white, so figured I'd take a chance.
     
  8. INDovey

    INDovey Out Of The Brooder

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    Wow... thanks for the great link to the crops and the do's and don't of feeding the chickens... that should really help out a LOT
     
  9. AccidentalFarm

    AccidentalFarm Chillin' With My Peeps

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    No problem!
     

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