Restricting feed to chickens

Discussion in 'Feeding & Watering Your Flock' started by FarmGirl-NC, Nov 13, 2013.

  1. FarmGirl-NC

    FarmGirl-NC Out Of The Brooder

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    Jan 16, 2012
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    I visited a friend yesterday and she said that she restricts the amount of food she gives her chickens.

    I said I give my chickens as much food as they want. If the container is low, I add more. They always have food.

    She said if she did that then they would eat all the food she gave them. She is trying to save money. Is she starving her chickens?

    Is giving chickens all they food they want the best way?
     
  2. Fred's Hens

    Fred's Hens Chicken Obsessed Premium Member

    Can't really answer that without some qualifying background information for context.

    Do they forage for their own feed? What is the quality of that forage area? Do the birds seek to forage and spend quality time foraging?

    Each situation is a bit different than the next.
     
  3. HEChicken

    HEChicken Overrun With Chickens

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    It depends how much you restrict them by. I used to do it as you do, keeping the feeder full. When I had a half dozen birds, no problem, but this year I grew to over 100 and was really going through the feed. As your friend says, if its there, they will eat it. Their crop can expand seemingly indefinitely and they are never really "full" - they are opportunistic eaters who will eat when there is food available, and process it all while they sleep at night.

    I have 10 acres for them to forage, but the more they are conditioned to hang around the feeder, the less they get out and take advantage of the forage available, so mid-summer I took your friend's approach, and it is working great. I now fill the feeder at night and that is all they get until I fill it again 24 hours later. Once its gone, its gone. Here it is month's later and the birds have NOT lost condition, proving, to me at least, that they really didn't need all that extra feed in the first place. As we go into winter there is less forage available - though there is always some unless there is snow sitting - but I also have fewer birds due to butchering some and selling some, so I am still doing the once a day feeding and they still seem to be doing fine on it.
     
  4. FarmGirl-NC

    FarmGirl-NC Out Of The Brooder

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    Jan 16, 2012
    Topton, North Carolina
    My friend has almost no forage area. It is a small area of grass..about 1500 square feet for about 20 ducks and chickens.

    So if I let my chickens eat all the time, are they wasting the food? Or the main reason you restrict is so they go out and forage. If they don't have any forage area, is feeding them constantly a waste?
     
  5. yyz0yyz0

    yyz0yyz0 Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Another thing to consider is, are the eating it or just wasting it by scattering it on the ground? Some feeder types work better than others at preventing waste, something to consider.

    Also do vermin have access to the feeder? That can also be another source of high consumption
     
  6. HEChicken

    HEChicken Overrun With Chickens

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    Quote: Good questions. A chicken can get fat so that would be one reason not to over-feed.

    However I primarily restrict feed because feeding constantly I go through a lot more feed and I found that restricting saves me money (when you're hauling multiple 50lb bags of feed to the coop on a daily basis, reducing the amount of feed consumed is a big deal).

    My secondary reason is to encourage foraging. I try to raise all of my animals as "naturally" as possible. I raise heritage birds and encourage good foraging since I believe a diet that includes greens and bugs is better for them than a purely commercial food. The eggs are healthier - after all, commercially raised chickens eat nothing but commercially prepared feed and the reason I got into this in the first place was to produce eggs that are better than those laid by hens who eat nothing but processed feed. I also butcher my birds, and foraging leads to healthier meat. The distances they range, the greens they eat, the natural protein in the bugs, all produce meat that is leaner than that produced by a bird kept in confined quarters with a feeder that is always full and nothing better to do than eat.
     
    Last edited: Nov 14, 2013
  7. donrae

    donrae Hopelessly Addicted Premium Member

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    I'd be interested to know what she considers "restricting". A layer hen really only needs like 1/4-1/3 cup of feed a day, that's really not much.

    If she's going lower than that, I'd wonder what her egg production is. That's the whole point for me, so I want to feed enough for good egg production.
     

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