scatter feeding in bad weather


In the Brooder
6 Years
Sep 12, 2013
Hello! I'm new here, though my husband & I have been reading your forums religiously since we decided to take the plunge and get chickens. We're getting a small flock in the spring and we can't wait. I finally have a question that my searching through the archives hasn't answered (probably I'm just not using the right keywords - I swear, everything else is in the archives! :).

We plan to scatter feed twice a day instead of free-feeding from a feeder. (Yes, I know this means I have to get up with the dawn and be home before dusk every day. We are going to have feeders to hand for days where I won't be home on time and/or if we're ever away for a day or two. It was a decision that may get reversed after the first couple weeks of actually having to do it, but we'll see!) The scatter feeding, as I understand it, will encourage them to scratch the ground and help to get them truly free-ranging, which we'd like them to do. (Planning on only using the feed in the summer as a morning/evening ritual and increase to feed being the primary nutrition as forage becomes scarce in the winter.)

So, to the actual question. What do you do when it rains or snows? I don't want the feed to get spoiled because I toss it on soaking wet ground, or if I put it out and then there's a rainstorm. I also don't want it washing away. Am I being too neurotic about this? Is there some special way I should feed in inclement weather?

Welcome Wellie!

We scatter feed, as it keeps the girls busy and cuts down on them pushing each other around. When it is pouring rain or snowing hard, we use feeders in a protected area of their run (under the eaves). We just make sure to use two or more feeders so that the gals on the bottom of the pecking order get to eat too.
Any time.

What kind of chickens are you thinking of getting?
I personally think it is not a very good idea to just scatter feed on the ground. The little bit of scraps they leave is the best way in the world to attract burrowing rodents to move into your run and coop and mice, rats and moles are nasty things to have around your chickens. Really all you have to do to accomplish what you want to do is keep their main feed in a traditional hanging feeder inside out of the weather and when its nice out just scatter a couple hands full of scratch feed out on the ground once a day and they will get plenty of practice scratching in the ground.

You really don't have to teach them to scratch the ground and eat the things that grow or come up out of the dirt. This is something they do naturally with no training what so ever. They love to dig little pits and scratch all the dirt into dust and lay in the pit and toss that dust all up in the air and on to their feathers. When they get the hole dug just right and plenty of dust scattered on them they will take a nap and darn near look like they are trying to bury themselves alive, something that freaks out first time chicken owners nearly every time.

You might want to get a book like Storey's guide to Raising Chickens or Chickens in Your Backyard and read up on it in those. Both should be available from Amazon. Maybe the reason you couldn't find anything about it in the archives here is because hardly anyone does it that way so no one is talking about it or asking questions.
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Thanks for the reply, LO. I have read both books and have decided free-feeding isn't for me. I definitely want to scatter-feed. Good to see the other side of that.

MrC - We're planning on starting out with a wide variety so we can see what we like, what survives well since we're planning primarily free-range, especially in the summer. Right now we're planning on two each of Ameraucana, Australorp, Delaware, Faverolle, Orpington, Plymouth Rock & Rhode Island Red. I'm thinking an Orpington roo since they're not supposed to be too grouchy. :) We're also planning on raising a couple batches of broilers each year, and at least the first year until our hens start laying we'll probably order some Cornish giants for our first couple batches of broilers.I know that it's a lot to start with, but we're ambitious!
Thanks for the reply, LO. I have read both books and have decided free-feeding isn't for me. I definitely want to scatter-feed. Good to see the other side of that.
I'm sorry but I do believe that is a bad idea and you will be doing what nearly everyone else does before to long. Scattering feed on the ground just isn't the proper way to do it. Let us know when you change your mind. I will shut up for now, that all I have to say on the subject.
Scattering feed was the way to do it years ago, although that was scratch feed mainly. I'm not sure there is a right way to feed, just lots of opinions. The weather would be a concern, as wet food is not good. As long as the OP throws out just enough feed for them to clean up in a short period of time, I don't see a problem. It may be difficult to make sure they are all getting enough feed without having it lay around awhile. The OP should be able to see if their method works in a short period of time.

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