Successful 100% forage diet experiment (long post)

linguini

Songster
Jan 8, 2021
156
254
118
Bridgewater NJ (Central NJ)
Technically yes, it's been long enough for them to have hatched chicks, but none of them have been inclined to do so yet.
They've been out there for something like 5 months now.
Perhaps this is not the season for birds to hatch their eggs yet. It'll be interesting to see if they try to make a nest for eggs and hatch in spring. Perhaps starting in March-April in your area?
 
Jan 2, 2021
24
116
53
not exactly...what I meant was getting all the forage only flock to lay consistently in the provided coop. Otherwise, you are kinda foraging for wild eggs yourself even though you have a fairly good idea of where you might find these eggs. I think you did mention that some of the nests you found and took eggs from, the hens just moved to a new nest sight as a result.

I think part of the concept of domesticated animals is that they are harvested in a planned and controlled manner...whether that means daily milking in a planned/designated area, centralized egg collection, controlled breeding, planned slaughter, etc to make the process reliable and consistent to improve efficiency. It's easier and more reliable to breed and slaughter meat than to go hunt it. Easier to collect eggs from a coop than to climb trees and raid bird nests everyday.

I know you are not personally interested in the eggs but that is the interest of probably the other 99% here. I mean they are just cool to look at in themselves but most will expect some return on their investment as well.
I'm trying to replicate this on a smaller scale (1/4 acre) where our chickens still lay in their nesting boxes, but get as much free range plant material as possible, so far I have Mexican Sunflower, Banana Leaves, Moringa, Cranberry Hibiscus, Bananas, working on Tree Kale and Tree Collards and many other species here in Florida. Rooster Hens and Organic Gardening
 

AccidentalFarm

Crowing
13 Years
Mar 29, 2007
1,310
682
314
Texas
Perhaps this is not the season for birds to hatch their eggs yet. It'll be interesting to see if they try to make a nest for eggs and hatch in spring. Perhaps starting in March-April in your area?
Yes, I think that would be the correct time to expect them to try hatching chicks in my area.
 

AccidentalFarm

Crowing
13 Years
Mar 29, 2007
1,310
682
314
Texas
So, It's been crazy busy around here for the last week or so. We got about 3 inches of snow, which is really rare here, and it stayed on the ground for a couple of days. The chickens did not go out foraging in it. I had to supplement feed until the snow started melting.

Egg production is still good. I'm getting at least a dozen a day. Shells are thick, membrane is thick, and yolks continue to be very dark orange. There is a noticeable lightening of yolk color for a day or two after supplementing with feed. They seem to have chosen 3 primary egg laying spots and are returning to them daily, even when I remove all of the eggs. I am not finding eggs in the wooded areas lately.

We culled 7 of the 9 roosters yesterday. They were not meaty birds, that's for sure. :lol:
Visually, the carcasses were on par or slightly under the weight of average dual purpose breeds. One went into the pressure cooker right away and turned out some really great bone broth. I honestly feel like they wouldn't be worth the effort to process if you are interested in meat only. They may have been a little meatier if it hadn't been winter time.

So, update in a nutshell:
-feed is supplemented with 2 or more days of rain/snow,
-egg production isn't affected, yolk color IS affected with 2 or more days of rain/snow,
-chickens don't like to walk in snow,
-chickens don't like to forage in snow or heavy rain,
-8 month(ish) old forage roosters are almost equal to dual-purpose breed weights.
 

AccidentalFarm

Crowing
13 Years
Mar 29, 2007
1,310
682
314
Texas
not exactly...what I meant was getting all the forage only flock to lay consistently in the provided coop. Otherwise, you are kinda foraging for wild eggs yourself even though you have a fairly good idea of where you might find these eggs. I think you did mention that some of the nests you found and took eggs from, the hens just moved to a new nest sight as a result.

I think part of the concept of domesticated animals is that they are harvested in a planned and controlled manner...whether that means daily milking in a planned/designated area, centralized egg collection, controlled breeding, planned slaughter, etc to make the process reliable and consistent to improve efficiency. It's easier and more reliable to breed and slaughter meat than to go hunt it. Easier to collect eggs from a coop than to climb trees and raid bird nests everyday.

I know you are not personally interested in the eggs but that is the interest of probably the other 99% here. I mean they are just cool to look at in themselves but most will expect some return on their investment as well.
For now it seems the hens are content to return to 4 areas to lay, one of which being their coop and the other 3 on the front and side deck of my house. They are not abandoning these nest sights even when I take all of the eggs (as they do with the nests in the woods).

I'm going to set up 4 nest boxes in the same general area of the current sights they use and see if I can coax them into using those instead. I haven't been finding any nests in the wooded areas lately. Hopefully I will be able to train them to a centralized egg collection situation like you are talking about.
 

AccidentalFarm

Crowing
13 Years
Mar 29, 2007
1,310
682
314
Texas
I'm trying to replicate this on a smaller scale (1/4 acre) where our chickens still lay in their nesting boxes, but get as much free range plant material as possible, so far I have Mexican Sunflower, Banana Leaves, Moringa, Cranberry Hibiscus, Bananas, working on Tree Kale and Tree Collards and many other species here in Florida. Rooster Hens and Organic Gardening
I am very interested in tree kale and tree collards. I'd love to hear how it goes with those.
 

Pencilled Palm

Songster
Oct 23, 2020
666
1,250
206
North central, WA
It might be, maybe plant some kind of winter cover crop would work. Although it might not if it’s buried in snow😂
It would be fine some years and only for a while other years. But when it gets like the pic below, even the deer head south where there is less snow! (And they don't have to paw thru a foot or more of snow to get to the winter wheat. (OR they stand around all day eating on the hay stacks.)
snow 2017.jpg
 

Pencilled Palm

Songster
Oct 23, 2020
666
1,250
206
North central, WA
-chickens don't like to walk in snow,
-chickens don't like to forage in snow or heavy rain,
I wonder if that is because they aren't what are considered "cold/winter hardy breeds" (That and snow isn't exactly common there. Though even if it were, this is their first winter.) I've been talking to a breeder in my area and she said her Russian Orloffs LOVE the snow. (while the other breeds don't want to step in it. LOL) She has had Orloffs for at least 15 years, and they get snow every year.
 

AccidentalFarm

Crowing
13 Years
Mar 29, 2007
1,310
682
314
Texas
It would be fine some years and only for a while other years. But when it gets like the pic below, even the deer head south where there is less snow! (And they don't have to paw thru a foot or more of snow to get to the winter wheat. (OR they stand around all day eating on the hay stacks.) View attachment 2498859
YIKES! That's a lotta snow!!!
 

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