1. Come check out hundreds of awesome coop pages (and a few that need suggestions) in our 2018 Coop Rating Project!

providing unmixed ingredients and letting hens choose a balanced diet?

Discussion in 'Feeding & Watering Your Flock' started by lenamasur, Apr 5, 2011.

  1. lenamasur

    lenamasur Hatching

    Mar 25, 2011
    I'm going to let a hen go broody and raise chicks for the first time. They'll be living with their momma among the rest of the hens (i've got a tight nit friendly little flock) so i'm looking into a feeding setup that will let everyone choose the right balance for their stage of development. I want to provide grains and supplements in a row of separate feeders (joel salatin style, though i hate to attribute every good idea in sustainable agriculture to just one guy) and trust the birds to choose the correct ratios of nutrients for themselves. the plan so far is one feeder each of:

    cracked corn
    roasted soybeans
    blood and bone meal OR fish meal
    kelp meal
    oyster shell and lime

    do you guys think this will work? am i missing any crucial nutrients? is anything redundant that could be removed from the list? the flock is completely free range from dawn till dusk on several acres of woods and pasture. i'd appreciate any suggestions.

  2. tay_boe

    tay_boe Songster

    Aug 27, 2010
    I don't know if this will help but whenever I give cracked corn my chickens gobble it right down and forget the actual scratch or whatever else i give them. Someone told me it's like giving a kid candy and veggies and expecting the kid to limit itself. I also heard that corn doesn't have a lot of nutritional vale so you might want to use it just as a treat.
    I'm sure there is someone on here who can better answer you though.
  3. ErinG

    ErinG Songster

    Sep 6, 2010
    They will not chose a balanced diet for themselves. They will fill up on corn and leave the other stuff.
  4. kwork

    kwork In the Brooder

    Mar 7, 2011
    I imagine it's just like sending me to an all-you-can-eat buffet. I'll load up on the goodies that I like and I probably won't put any broccoli or spinach on my plate. But if I sit down at grandma's table and SHE puts them on my plate, I'll eat them and be happy.
  5. Fred's Hens

    Fred's Hens Crowing Premium Member

    We've domesticated chickens for a 3000 years or longer. They will now behave badly. Abandon the plan. Sorry.
  6. Cindiloohoo

    Cindiloohoo Quiet as a Church Mouse

    Dec 19, 2009
    Southwest TN
    I agree it is not a great plan if you want healthy birds. They're junk food junkies [​IMG]
  7. Erica

    Erica Songster

    Dec 5, 2010
    You could probably do two mixes, one being the grain mix (with a broader range than you've shown: I'd add BOSS and probably wheat, cutting back on the corn); the other being a supplemented protein ration they can take from ad lib. But it's getting fiddly.

    The birds will certainly pick through the grain mix looking for treats, but if you only provide enough food for a day (minus the high protein component), they should get around to eating what they need. The mistake a lot make is to leave lots of food in a hopper; in that case the birds will always pick out what they like.

    But it seems to me the tricky part will be the protein — chickens don't like food that's very mealy. You could try an ad lib hopper of meat meal, yeast, alfalfa meal, soy meal, minerals (in the right proportions) and so forth, but it doesn't have a high change of being very appetising and they'll probably only eat it if they're desperate. On the other hand they will be desperate for protein if their bulk diet is light grains.

    What about a twice-day protein supplement mash? Chickens do like eating mashes better than dry feed, and tossing some high protein mash out morning and night might be better than hoping they nibble from the ad lib meal.

    Good luck, let me know how you go as this is a problem for me too.

  8. Downshifting

    Downshifting In the Brooder

    Mar 16, 2010
    Raleigh, NC
    In a similar, but different way...I'm contemplating doing a seed mixture supplemented with a protein mash.

    I recently switched to an organic grain-based diet that is custom mixed at the mill. It includes corn, oats, barley, wheat, flax, field peas, soy, and/or crab meal. What I've noticed is exactly what has been mentioned in this thread...the hens eat the yummy grains out and leave the dry ingredients...which includes the meal and other dry minerals that balance the nutrition of the feed. Consequently, I'm concerned that their diet it not entirely balanced. What I have been contemplating with my next feed order is seeing if the mill can mix the grain ingredients together, but bring me the dry/powder ingredients separately. I can make some sort of mash with these ingredients mixed in and be more confident that they are getting the nutrients they need.

    Does this sound like a workable plan...any other suggestions?

    This is a small backyard flock of 10 hens who free-range during the day.

  9. Quote:LOL The Lunatic Farmer doesn't know everything? He is my neighbor and is the reason I am back on a farmstead. Love the guy, but I listen to Pat Foreman (author of Chicken Tractor, City Chicks and Chicken Whisperer radio show) more than Joel when it comes to raising backyard chickens. Joel only raises pastured broilers by the thousands and pastured egg layers in the eggmobile in batches of 400. He has zero broody hens. It's been many years since he has had a backyard flock of birds. I am at Polyface frequently, and what you see there is a great model of sustainable living, but hard to apply to a backyard or small property operation.

    Pat would tell you to go back to chick starter feed when the chicks hatch. She puts the broody in a large dog kennel, with water and chick starter until the chicks are old enough to eat broiler feed. The chicks shouldn't eat oyster shell until they are laying eggs.

    On the other hand, Mama Hen has been showing chicks what to eat for eons, so this is just food for thought.
  10. BellevueOmlet

    BellevueOmlet Songster

    Jul 10, 2010
    It is similar to humans, who if deserted in the middle of the ocean with only fish to eat, will start to eat fish eyeballs and fish skin as a natural way to get the right nutrients and survive but put that same person in a town and they will scarf down Mcdonalds food until it kills them. If we cannot choose to eat the right things, I don't think you can expect chickens to.
    I think chickens will choose correctly if only faced with healthy options. The problem is when people see McDonalds and Chickens see styrofoam.

    I personally would not do it unless you took the corn out.

    If you do continue, please post the results.

BackYard Chickens is proudly sponsored by