Pasturing Chickens

Discussion in 'Feeding & Watering Your Flock' started by rmonge00, Jan 30, 2011.

  1. rmonge00

    rmonge00 Chillin' With My Peeps

    Does anyone know if chickens can get all of their food by being put out to pasture? I have a 2 acre parcel that is mostly grass with a bit of woods and a small orchard. Also, can they be put out to pasture year round? I live in Western Washington State (Zone 8)

    Thanks for your help!!

  2. oldchickenlady

    oldchickenlady Chillin' With My Peeps

    May 9, 2010
    Cabot, AR
    In summer time chickens can get most of their needs from free ranging if given enough space and vegetation. During the winter...probably not, especially in Washington state. They can free range all year but it would depend on how much snow you get in your area. If it gets cold with lots of snow they will need a coop and run to stay in...which means you would have to feed them. Also would depend on how many chickens you had in the area they will be free ranging.
    Last edited: Jan 30, 2011
  3. rmonge00

    rmonge00 Chillin' With My Peeps

    Hello Oldchickenlady,

    Western Washington is pretty mild - almost no snow and in Zone 8. I am planning on getting somewhere between 20-40 chickens.

    Thanks for the advice,

  4. Beekissed

    Beekissed Flock Master

    It really depends on your expectations for your flock and how many you have. You can range on pasture during the warmer months without feeding them supplemental feed and they may do well and adapt nutritionally to what they can forage. They may not produce eggs optimally on just foraged foods but then, one could start culling for those who do not and only keep those who thrive on pasture alone and see what kind of self-sustaining flock you can develop.

    If you run a very large flock and they are competing for food on just the two acres, with time they may deplete most of the available insect life from your acreage and have to subsist mostly on foraged grasses. Unless you have some exceptional pasture, you may want to watch for overstocking.

    I free range on an acre all year long but I supplement feeding with whole grains and some laying mash. Not continuous or free choice, just feeding in the evening in the warm months and in the morning in the cold.
  5. al6517

    al6517 Real Men can Cook

    May 13, 2008
    Are you not even going to think about preditors in this equasion ??, how many losses are you prepared to have ??, How do you or even if you plan at all to deal with them ??. Is your plan to just let them out, sort of like a set & forget type plan. Tell us more about what if any other idea's you have.

  6. WoodlandWoman

    WoodlandWoman Overrun With Chickens

    May 8, 2007
    With that density, I wouldn't plan on them getting more than a third of their nutritional needs met by pasture. That's what other people commercially pasturing chickens in high densities have found. It's different if you only have a few chickens on that much acreage and they can have a lot of insects, plus steal from the feed of other livestock.

    Chickens are much healthier on pasture and they do eat a lot of grass and dark leafy greens. It's a natural part of their diet. They aren't ruminants, though. They do need other foods besides grass.
  7. centrarchid

    centrarchid Chicken Obsessed

    Sep 19, 2009
    Holts Summit, Missouri
    I have kept chickens free range where all nutrition was acquired by foraging. In my systems, an acre could support one, sometimes two birds during winter months. In reality, the birds used about one acre of edge (i.e. brushy fence row, edge between woods abd pasture, hedgerows) per bird. Too many birds and they started to range a lot with foraging activities concentrated on formentioned edge microhabitats.

    During growing season more birds can be supported although young birds may have trouble getting protein needed so you need to be considering supplementation of forage.
  8. BarredBuff

    BarredBuff Chillin' With My Peeps

    Dec 6, 2009
    Quote:I agree. Now in the colder monthes they have to be fed some supplemental feed for egg production. Especially where you have lots of snow and cold
  9. Organics North

    Organics North Chillin' With My Peeps

    Dec 30, 2009
    Wisconsin Northwoods
    Quote:Agreed. Maybe with some goats or other livestock.

    IMO two acres is not much ground. Maybe a dozen chickens, with a little help during lean times..

  10. donrae

    donrae Hopelessly Addicted Premium Member

    Jun 18, 2010
    Southern Oregon
    My flock runs in the mid to high teens and I have an acre of mostly grass in west southern Oregon, so I'm guessing same type climate. My birds are out all the time, I have an old greenhouse for them to sleep in and they like to lay in the hay barn. I was blessed to have a dog who hated intruders in his territory (coons, skunks, etc) and couldn't care less about the chickens. Sadly, no more, so I'm more alert to predators now. Anyway.........I do supplement feed them and see my production fall if I don't supplement them. I'm in the chickens mostly for the eggs, so I'm willing to feed them.

    If you're wanting to give it a try, I'd start with ten or twelve. A good roo to look over them and make sure they have cover and a good place to sleep. Another thought is, are you gonna want to egg hunt over two acres? Hens lay where they want, and will frequently move their preferred spot.

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