Pasture vs. Feed

Discussion in 'Feeding & Watering Your Flock' started by dlaciv12, Apr 9, 2009.

  1. dlaciv12

    dlaciv12 Out Of The Brooder

    Nov 12, 2008
    Brockton, MA
    I am still trying to find a solid answer so I am hoping the combined experience here will help. We are looking to start a backyard flock for eggs - about 10 or 12 birds (we eat a LOT of eggs, at least 3 per person per day and there are 3 of us now). We will be new city chicken keepers with a house lot that is about 1/3 of an acre. Most of the open space is in the back yard and I would estimate there is well over 5000 sq ft for the birds.

    I plan on letting them out as much as possible to forage the lawn. I am wondering how much will they eat? Will they enjoy my lawn grass and lawn weeds? How much feed will I need to supplement them? Or is the "pasture" the supplement to their regular feed? Will they actually range over the whole backyard?

    Ive read a few books but I would rather use the collective wisdom of the experience here. And the books weren't all that helpful anyhow:he.

  2. bayouchica

    bayouchica Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jan 23, 2007
    N.E. Louisiana

    My chickens love to eat certain weeds & just about any type of grass.They really enjoy grass seeds, I leave a few rows uncut when I mow so the grass can seed for them.
    Our family has 10 acres for the 100 chickens to range on. We have short winters here & usually go thru a 50 lb bag in a week. But I tell ya as soon as the weather changes, a 50 lbs bag will last a little over 2 weeks.Our summers are never ending here ,lol.
    I think that they would be fine with 5000 sq ft yard.Just make sure that they have cover from flying predators. I would have feed out for them & let them have free choice. The more you let them range, the lower your feed bill will be. [​IMG]

    Good luck, Miriam [​IMG]
  3. Davaroo

    Davaroo Poultry Crank

    Feb 4, 2007
    Leesville, SC
    Let me give you this rule of thumb. Make of it what you will.

    Chickens eat 4 oz of feed a day. DO NOT stint them on this. It is false economy to do so.

    A dozen chickens will mow through a 1/3 acre lot pretty quick.
    Bugs, worms, seeds and so on will be hard pressed to replenish under their onslaught.

    One of the worst things you can do for your chickens is succumb to the romantic notion of 'free ranging' them. Few people grasp the concept fully and well, and the ones which suffer are the birds.

    Give them their feed, suitable table scraps and let them supplement this with what they can find in the yard.
    Last edited: Apr 9, 2009
  4. Wifezilla

    Wifezilla Positively Ducky

    Oct 2, 2008
    I free range my ducks, but they ALWAYS have access to feed too.
  5. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner True BYC Addict

    Feb 2, 2009
    Northwest Arkansas
    As I am sure you have noticed, you just might get differing opinions here. I'll put in mine.

    The laying formulas are designed to be the most efficient balance for laying hens. They have everything in them the hens need for laying. If you want to maximize egg production, just feed the layer ration. It's what the big commercial boys do. They have it down to a very tight margin. If you have 5000 laying hens in a house and ten houses, one tenth of one percent is a lot of eggs.

    With that said, you can cut your feed bill by a bunch by letting them eat green stuff and creepy crawly stuff. They will get a balanced enough diet to remain healthy as long as they don't eat it down to a muddy area. Egg production may or may not drop. If you get 8 eggs instead of 9 and cut your feed bill 20%, you are probably coming out ahead.

    Remember this is only my opinion. I'm not saying it is a scientifically proven fact. My recommendation is to provide them as much free-choice food as they will eat but let them range as much as you can. Your food bill will drop and you will probably not lose many eggs. With this, you could possibly afford to add a chicken or two.
  6. gritsar

    gritsar Cows, Chooks & Impys - OH MY!

    Nov 9, 2007
    SW Arkansas
    My chickens have 80 acres to forage on. I still keep feed available to them at all times.
  7. HennyOTurkey

    HennyOTurkey New Egg

    Apr 9, 2009
    HOLA! I am new to this, but I have been keeping chickens since I was 20 (two years ago) lol... they Love to free range, compared to most of the others I've seen here, my lot is small.. about 5500 Square Feet. They eat grass like crazy, they murdered my back lawn, and all of my vegetables last summer, However, when they free ranged, they had the deepest Orange yolks I've ever seen, and thick! Those yolks were hard raw, Of course, I've learned that the more orange they yolk, the more mineral content! This spring I am keeping them enclosed, and I feed them corn/wheat/milo mix, BUT I only give them that as a supplement! I give them more freshly cut blue grass, Lots of cabbage and collard greens ( left overs of course, Occasionally I'll give them a whole one from the garden) and any other veggies! They LOVE cabbage.. and for good reason, cabbage is higly nutritious! I occasionally give them left over meat, cause, I believe that in the wild, they'd naturally eat what meat they could, and boy, you should see them go insane over left over chicken! even steak! Bugs, especially snails, are good too, I haven't seen a snail in my back yard in two years!
    Anyways, I am running on! I hope that my information may have helped you! ^_^
  8. HennyOTurkey

    HennyOTurkey New Egg

    Apr 9, 2009
    I also have to agree with Davaroo... even 6 or 7 chickens could depelete 1/3 acre lot quite fast, they are very forage savvy.. and they will eat everything, and I do mean everything.. (even agapanthus/ Lilly of the nile) !Lol.. even though my hens used to free range, I'd throw them scratch every day!
    Last edited: Apr 9, 2009
  9. digitS'

    digitS' Chillin' With My Peeps

    Dec 12, 2007
    ID/WA border
    Welcome to BYC, dlaciv12 [​IMG].

    I think Davaroo's idea that many people over-estimate the forage capacity of their backyards is true. The weather is just turning warm here and the lawns are beginning to grow. Honestly, even tho' the hens are out 2 or 3 hours every day, their feed consumption hasn't dropped much and what decrease there is could probably be attributed to warmer temperatures.

    In Southeast Asia, you can sometimes find the village chickens foraging a half mile from home. A lawn of one-third acre will make a contribution, but it will be very limited, especially with a dozen birds.

    I'm always surprised to see how much of the lawn grass that my hens are eating (Kentucky bluegrass & fescue). There's a fair amount of clover out there and they eat that also but obviously the grass is real tasty to the hens. However, they don't have the digestion of ruminants and their metabolism runs at a fairly high speed.

    Joel Salatin, of pastured poultry fame, said that chickens can get 30% of what they need from good quality grass and legume pasture but most poultry scientists use a lower number. Highly productive chickens need nutrient-rich feed.

  10. HennyOTurkey

    HennyOTurkey New Egg

    Apr 9, 2009
    They definitely love grass, They ate my blue grass to the roots... I didn't think it would recover, and it probably wouldn't have if I hadn't of locked them up! Lol as it is, it took over 3 months before it even began looking decent! They had agapanthus in their coop, and that could be described as a very large, and hardy grass looking perennial.. they ate it to the roots as well... and In just a matter of maybe a week.. at the most! Whenever I got out, I cut them grass, and they eat it like candy! Also I find it interesting to think that they would roam 1/2 mile away from home, I bet they even go farther then that as well? They sure are fun, when mines were free range, they wander into my pit bull's dog house to look for spiders and such.. lol
    Last edited: Apr 9, 2009

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