Percent protein in feed if free range ?

kyron4

Chirping
Apr 9, 2019
72
60
73
Northern Indiana
My ducks and chickens are allowed to free our 2 acres all day. I put out bowls of All Flock pellets that are 18% protein to supplement their diet. They also enjoy whole corn as a treat. I found an "off brand" of layer pellets that is 16% protein , but cost $4 less a bag when it'd on sale. Will dropping down to 16% protein ,in addition to the free ranging ,affect egg laying ? -Thanks
 

TooCheep

Crowing
Feb 23, 2019
817
5,561
294
Indiana
16% is the minimum recommended protein percentage for both, not necessarily the ideal level. Corn is almost pure carbs and lowers the net protein eaten. Foraging is variable, but likely is on the low side. I'd stick with the 18% feed (and do).
 

centrarchid

Crossing the Road
11 Years
12 Years
Sep 19, 2009
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Holts Summit, Missouri
My ducks and chickens are allowed to free our 2 acres all day. I put out bowls of All Flock pellets that are 18% protein to supplement their diet. They also enjoy whole corn as a treat. I found an "off brand" of layer pellets that is 16% protein , but cost $4 less a bag when it'd on sale. Will dropping down to 16% protein ,in addition to the free ranging ,affect egg laying ? -Thanks
I assume you have birds that actually get out there and consume forages and are otherwise frugal. The concept of free-ranging does not mean much unless the quantity and quality of what is consumed represents what the chickens need to maintain themselves and lay eggs. As soon as you indicated 2 acres, I began to think about limited quantity and then lower quality once they consume the good stuff, especially if you are talking about more than one or two birds. This really applies with tightly mowed lawns which are not a lot better than carpeting when it comes to supplying nutrition. Even better foraging areas have their limits and those limits vary with season.

If your birds are layers and have free-choice access to the 16% layer feed, assuming it is of good quality, then they should be able to sustain egg laying without a problem. There are times where the more expensive 18% all-flock may be a problem even though it is more likely to meet protein needs, and that is when hens cannot get enough calcium from ingested plant and animal forages. Some plants are pretty good calcium sources but the birds will need to eat a lot of those and the chicken digestive tract can process only so much feed per day. The layer feeds are what I use with free-range layer hens much of the year when the forage is not limiting. When molt sets in then I switch to a higher protein formulation that has less calcium as egg production drops when feather replacement gets into full swing.

Here is a kicker with my birds that have quality forages and the ability to go as far as they want to get more. No fences, just choice limits how far and where they go. I often put out feeding bowls with different items in them available at or nearly free-choice. One bowl can have a layer feed, another an all flock, another with a flock raiser 20 to 24% crude protein, and yet another could have scratch grains. It varies with season which the birds consume the most of. When free-range forages are really good like in spring, the birds eat very little from the feed bowls. As season progresses and the plant forage quality goes down, they start getting partial to the scratch grains. Once molt gets heavy they start preferring the all-flock or flock-raiser. During late fall and early winter the birds shift interest back to the scratch grains and flock raiser until egg production ramps up, then hens start going after the layer feed until spring forages become available.

It is a seasonally variable thing to me that is proving to be fascinating. During the growing season, most of my free-range birds are juvenile and not in lay. They have different preferences than the adults. And then there is the issue of breed.

I suggest you keep out three feed bowls; one with all-flock, another with corn, and yet another with oyster shell mixed with a little grit. Track which they consume the most of and watch for changes in egg production and ranging behavior. The birds can give you insight into what they really need.

I spent 30 years in southern Indiana and pattern held there as well although ground was generally more productive than what I have here. Rain here often not enough late in season more often. Great production this year.
 

Folly's place

Enabler
10 Years
Sep 13, 2011
23,492
39,347
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southern Michigan
I think that it's easier and better generally to feed an 18% to 20% all-flock feed, with separate oyster shell, all year, and then the birds can free range for whatever's out there. My site has various plants and foraging opportunities, and seasonal variations, and I don't count on it making up for trying a less quality base diet, ever.
We offer a very small amount of scratch grains as a treat, and some kitchen scraps, but with forty birds and a small kitchen, it's about treats only.
Mary
 

centrarchid

Crossing the Road
11 Years
12 Years
Sep 19, 2009
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Holts Summit, Missouri
I am firmly in the camp that is pays to understand the behavior of your chickens, understand chicken nutritional requirements, and be able to read signs that guide you a poultry keeper in making adjustments. Locking into only commercially sourced feeds developed for commercial production flocks is making the general chicken keeper less smart. And it is boring for all.
 

Folly's place

Enabler
10 Years
Sep 13, 2011
23,492
39,347
1,106
southern Michigan
C, that's very true, but everyone has to start somewhere, and learning at the expense of the health of the current birds, maybe not. A new chicken owner may not have any real idea how to evaluate the bird's health, until it's really not so good.
You have experience, varied environments, and different breed types, all managed.
I have experience, sometimes good forages (not in winter!) and one mixed flock, where individuals have different needs, so offering an all-flock feed makes sense.
I think it's best to start out 'boring' and branch out later!
Mary
 

sunrise.superman

Songster
Sep 24, 2018
172
481
132
Loveland, CO
I have a background in whole food nutrition as it applies to veterinary medicine, which is mostly dogs, cats and horses, but trying to apply that to my hens as well.

I feed 18-20% organic no corn/soy starter or grower feed fermented for a.m., then have a self feeder with dry of the same with some kelp and BSS added, oyster shell left out, they free range on my yard but it's not acreage so limited value there other than some good bugs so they get some fresh produce and protein a few times per week. Some meal worms on the nights they are reluctant to all get in the coop in a timely manner. I'm finishing a new coop and will be planting herbs, calendula, borage, etc. in chicken wire domed beds around the coop for them to graze on when in the run. I get lovely color to the eggs, nice firm whites and good shells. My little d'Uccle lays eggs that are nearly impossible to crack. :) Right now I have probably half going into, in the middle of, or coming out of moult so egg production is less than usual and food and oyster shell consumption is up.
 

MANNA-PRO

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