I let mine out at 4 weeks old and let them have the run of the yard for the next 4-6 weeks. I have 2 acres planted to pasture grasses, alfalfa, clover, etc, while they could forage off of the 100 acres we live on they stay pretty close to the house and the two large dogs that gaurd the property. I ffed them a mix of free choice medicated gamebird crumbles 22% protein and a mixture of 22% and 28% fermented mash from the local co-op. I raise about 30 at a time but 60 are coming this fall. These meaties run with the egg layers and the turkeys I have coming friday. They do pretty good and I kill them at about 8-9 pounds. They are much healthier and tastier than store chickens. I like my chickens big, bigger and biggest. last fall I lost 3 to a hawk but I also didnt have dogs then. So I dont expect to lose any this spring except maybe 1 or two to unforseen events.
My meaties (Cornish X) don't seem to pay much attention when I let them range. They never seem to want to be out of sight of he feeder. They pick here and there but don't seem to really like anything. It might be different with other breeds of meat birds.
This is my 3rd year with Freedom Rangers. This years group has shown a lot of interest in foraging through the existing weeds and herbs. They seem to like the small,drier, finer types of grass better than the wider bladed, lusher looking stuff. I broadcast their pellet feed out in the pasture area (50% of it has the existing weeds, the rest is covered in composted sheep manure) this has probably encouraged them to 'look' for food. My goal is to provide them (future birds) with some real 'feed' out there. I've been reading a lot about pasturing poultry but they mostly talk about managing the birds in tractors, etc. So far nothing about what to plant.
Anyone growing pasture in the dry areas of the country? We are in Utah, desert on rocky soil. I have not had a lot of luck with even vegetable gardening without raised beds, etc. Right now the land is covered in green grasses and such that the chicks are loving (I snip them up and sprinkle on their feed and bedding). By July it will be a dried up tinderbox. I can irrigate a small area, but can't do the whole acre.
I've been searching and searching for what to plant. I too live in a dry area; juniper trees, sage brush, yarrow and jack rabbits all thrive here. I found some pretty helpful information on our county's cooperative extension site and the UC Davis animal science site. Both gave good suggestions for forage for my area. Although it wasn't specifically for chickens, I was able to make some decissions based on info gathered from other sources. I have choosen; alfalfa (medicago sativa), alsike clover (trifolium hybridum) and birds foot trefoil (lotus corniculatus). I still need to find a grass - I am thinking an orchard grass.
I also plan to add a bunch of other 'goodies' such as - sunflower, corn, milo, millet, pumpkin, squash, comfrey and stinging nettle.
I am planning on making wire boxes and planting a mix of grains for my meaties when I get some next month. It will be the feed mix that I have available, so will have barely, alfalfa, oats and wheat. That stuff grows pretty quickly and if you cover it with a wire box, they wont be able to tear up the roots. Our last batch of meaties foraged really well, I had put them outside at like 2 weeks of age, since it was summer and warm enough.
That looks like a great set up! I often have to cage some of the herbs to keep the girls from demolishing them. I just ordered some omega3 forage blend - building a frame in their protected run would be a great way to offer them greens on the days I'm not able to let them out into the pasture Thanks for sharing the link!