Prairie Hay bales... or even bermuda a problem?

Discussion in 'Feeding & Watering Your Flock' started by ND, Dec 2, 2010.

  1. ND

    ND Songster

    Jul 20, 2010
    Since everything is pretty dead and frozen, there's not much for the chickens to entertain themselves with and scratch around in, especially when contained in their run.

    I have some of my horse hay that's questionable for the horses... well, they're just not going to eat it. It's out of a mixed grass field and several bales are heavy in Johnson grass stalks. The horses just won't touch this anyway, so I thought I'd take some of those bales and give them to the chickens to dig through and kick around. I could toss them a bale of last year Bermuda hay, too. That one particular batch has a lot of sage grass in it that the horses discard and have problems with the sage grass seeds.

    BUT, I believe I've read that giving them access to hay can lead to crop issues because they can suck down a long, tougher strand of hay that gets balled up and can cause an impaction... where when eating grasses, they rip and bite off pieces small enough to not cause any problems. They do have plenty of access to grit and sand/stones of various sizes in their run and when they free range.

    SO, is it a bad idea to give them some hay bales to dig through and play with, which they'll surely attempt to eat on, too? I know they'll try to pick at it and eat it, but I was mostly thinking of giving it to them for entertainment purposes-- give them something more to dig and scratch through!

  2. thebirdguy

    thebirdguy Songster

    Nov 22, 2010
    Idaho Falls
    As long as you have plenty of grit available, I don't see a problem with your idea.. You can always "seed" the hay with some grain to give them something to scratch for. I've personally never had a chicken get an impacted crop....
  3. fiberart57

    fiberart57 Songster

    May 31, 2009
    Is it moldy? Because if so, you may be inviting some respiratory illness, or worse; poisoning from the toxins, in your chickens. They may not eat it anyway, chickens are pretty fussy about what kind of dry greens they'll eat. I use pasture grass hay in my nest boxes and they don't eat any of it.

    You are correct to be concerned about crop binding because long grass is a major cause and if they did eat some of this hay it sounds like the kind of grass that might give them trouble.

    Giving the chickens greens during the winter is a great idea: I get left over lettuce and other greens from the grocery store when they're cleaning out. Or when I buy myself some kale or other greens, I'll take a couple of leaves out to them. Some people sprout wheat for them during the winter.

    One thing I do is buy a bale of top quality alfalfa hay from the feed store. It's expensive; $7.50 for a two-wire bale but I give my six chickens a small flake a week and they pick out the good leaves and leave the stems - or rather they fling them around and then leave them alone.


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