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recommendations for breeds

Discussion in 'General breed discussions & FAQ' started by alangorkin0555, Dec 2, 2013.

  1. alangorkin0555

    alangorkin0555 New Egg

    Dec 2, 2013
    greenwich ct
    We are building a coop and run, and unfortunately there will be no fresh grass inside, mostly gravel and sand. I plan on growing trays of forage material for the birds (12).

    Can anyone recommend a breed or breed that is better suited to this lifestyle?

    Thanks. alan
  2. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner Chicken Obsessed

    Feb 2, 2009
    Northwest Arkansas
    What are your goals for your chickens? What do you want from them? It’s hard to recommend a breed if we don’t know why you want chickens and what you want them to do. What I suggest is that you go through Henderson’s Breed Chart and select breeds that might suit your goals, then go to Feathersite to look at photos. There are probably a tremendous number of different breeds that will suit you very well. One key to look at is “takes confinement well”.

    Henderson’s Breed Chart


    The “lifestyle” you are talking about is pretty close to what many people in suburbia that can’t free range their chicken have. If they are confined to a run they will pretty much destroy anything green in there. Growing trays of forage sounds like an exercise in futility though. Twelve chickens will destroy any tray you can carry pretty quickly. You’d have to have a whole lot of trays of forage.

    I’d suggest a different approach. If you can you might build a frame in the ground maybe 1’ to 2’ wide and a few feet long, then cover that with hardware cloth. The idea is to have it high enough they can peck at the green stuff but not scratch and pull it out. One problem you might have with this approach is that the green stuff would have to establish a good root system so they don’t pull it out of the ground. Grass works really well in something like this.

    Or just grow the stuff out of the run and toss it to them. A whole lot of people just dump grass from mowing in there. They love scratching in it and eating it. One potential problem is that you don’t want real long strands of grass. Those can get wrapped up in their crop or gizzard and cause serious problems. Can does not mean it happens all that much but it does happen often enough to be a concern. If you run over the same grass two or three times with your mower it should be in great shape for them. When they peck at grass with roots anchored in the ground, they normally get small bite-sized pieces, not long strands.

    Or grow certain plants for them and toss them the leaves or ripe fruit. In your climate I’d think chard or kale would be great. Just cut off some leaves and toss those to them. They will peck those leaves apart and the plants will continue growing new leaves all summer. You might even want to eat some yourself. It doesn’t take much of a garden for chard or kale to produce a lot of leaves. There are lots of other plants that could work for you too.

    Or just save your kitchen scraps for them. I don’t know how or what you cook, but they can eat practically anything you can eat. They can also eat almost anything you take off vegetables to prepare them for yourself, things like carrot peels, apple peeling and cores, any greens, anything you cut from tomatoes or peppers, even potato peels. (There is a myth on this forum that they should not eat potato peels. What they should not eat is GREEN potato peels, but then you should not eat the green potatoes either.) So just keep a special bowl in your kitchen and save that stuff for them instead of putting it down the garbage disposal or in the landfill.

    I applaud you for wanting to supplement their diet with something green. That adds nice vitamins and minerals for them. But I think those trays will be a lot of work and not real efficient. Hopefully you can get some ideas out of all this that helps.
  3. Bens-Hens

    Bens-Hens Chillin' With My Peeps

    Hi, Ridgerunner has some great advice. I feel the same about choosing a breed, many factors to consider, even down to appearance, some people could never own a naked neck or a Houdan, other love them. If you want a duel purpose bird there are other considerations to a meat bird. You may have a preference to egg colour, so there is that as well as the weather and temperament.

    I would like to contribute a little to the greens concept.

    We let our flock range the yard late in the afternoon, but they spend most of the day in a run. We have grown fodder for them in trays. I had some left over scratch grains (mostly wheat) and decided to try growing some., They loved it, but it was a long process, and I was very happy to see the bottom of that grain bin!

    I went on to make a run 'garden bed' as Ridge mentioned. We started with wheat grains, but I threw a slab of turf in there, now there is some weeds too. The mesh is high enough that they leave the roots alone, but anything green that is within beak reach get mown down. I water it once a week (we are a hot dry climate here)

    The fodder, 'grass' or sprouted grains are great for them, but the bed is far lower maintenance. I also throw all my garden weeds in there as well as most of my lawn clipping and table scraps. If we are low on scraps, we get a back of vegi trimming from the super market for free, mostly lettuce leaves but the girls don't complain.






    I would let it grow more than this but I don't have any pics!
    Last edited: Dec 2, 2013
  4. 3riverschick

    3riverschick Poultry Lit Chaser

    May 19, 2009
    western PA
    My Coop
    Sure. Sussex fowl ( or just about any heritage dual purpose fowl). My Light Sussex
    live in a dirt run too ( covered) . I have wood shavings in their raised coop.
    It's not necessary to grow fodder in dirt this time of year. You can just sprout oats
    for them instead. It's easy, nutritious, time-tested for excellence, and doesn't
    require dirt. The whys and whys are posted in pages 24 thru 29 of this BYC thread. https://www.backyardchickens.com/t/425134/anybody-raise-sprouts-to-feed-the-chickens/230
    Sprouted forage oats works with any poultry breed. Feed ( as green feed)
    1 cubic inch per day per adult bird of 4 thru 7 day old sprouts ( if the birds pass
    bowel tolerance, if bowels get soft, back off a it for a day till they firm up).
    Sprouted forage oats bring hens into lay and help the males create more robust
    sperm which helps create more robust chicks. Grain feed is sprouts that are
    1 thru 3 days old. They're fed as part of the daily ration. Green feed is sprouts
    that are 4 days old or older. They are fed as a supplement to the daily ration.
    On the 4th day, a nutritional change happens in the sprouts which changes its
    purpose from grain feed to green feed. Growing sprouts past seven days has
    no nutritional advantage and runs the risk of the sprouts going bad. Sprouts
    should always smell fresh and feel crisp. Foul smell or slimy feel means the sprouts
    have gone bad and do not feed them.
    Forage oats are the oats hunters and farmers plant for their animals to eat in
    pasture. Feed oats are the oats animal owners feed their animals in the barn.
    I noticed last time I was in Tractor Supply Company they had 25 lb. bags of
    Plotspike Forage Oats on sale at a good price. I use Plotspike. Their forage oats
    are not GMO, they were created in 2002 by line breeding at Louisiana State
    University. A 25 lb. bag lasts a very long time.Forage oats increase their
    volume 5x when sprouting.
    Waterford English Light Sussex
    in western PA, USA
    Last edited: Dec 3, 2013
  5. Bens-Hens

    Bens-Hens Chillin' With My Peeps

    I may not have been clear, I sprout in the drums and give that feed to the girls loose. In the garden bed is a permanent supply of 'wild' greens. Some loose seeds were thrown in there to begin with, but it's not used for the fodder or sprouts, those were grown in the laundry wash house.
  6. alangorkin0555

    alangorkin0555 New Egg

    Dec 2, 2013
    greenwich ct
    Thank you. wonderful info. we are a small urban farm, and the greenhouse is nearby so growing oats in wooden boxes is easy. mostly we would like eggs (if possible of different colors) and unusual birds to show kids that come by on tours.

    dual purpose birds are fine, i guess my m,win point was were there some that thrived better on non pasture situations. my other question, which is actually more important- should we just leave the floor of the run as soil, or would sand or grit be better?
  7. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner Chicken Obsessed

    Feb 2, 2009
    Northwest Arkansas
    What's on the floor doesn't really matter as long as it is dry and it absorbs the moisture from the poop. That's going to depend on your climate, how well you keep moisture (especially rain and rainwater run-off) out, how well it drains if it does get wet, how much ventilation you have to help get the moisture out, how crowded your chickens are, and how you manage the poop under the roosts. I don't know what you mean by grit, but dirt, wood shavings, sand, straw, hay, Spanish moss, or other things can work. What's best depends on your unique situation. For me, one of the concerns is the cost. If you have something free or easily available, that would enter into my thinking.

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