Supplemental feeding while free ranging

R3M1X

Chirping
May 14, 2019
105
136
96
Norlina, NC
I currently have 31 chickens (1 rooster, 5 hens, 6 cockerels, 19 pullets), 14 guineas, and 8 ducks (1 adult drake, and one confirmed month old drake). I let them free range for at least 8 hours per day as well as give them crumble feed and I am buying somewhere between 6-7 50 lbs bags of feed per month. They do waste a lot by scraping out the food onto the ground or trying to climb I to the feeder and tipping it over (seriously it's like I'm feeding wild dogs lol). But I have come to think. Am I feeding them too much crumble on the side of them free ranging? Or is it normal? I am thinking of trying out the pellets and hoping they dont waste it as much, but the feeders are always empty come night time (though like I said they scratch or spill a lot of it out). I give them 3-4 32 oz sized coffee containers a day and the four oldest ducks are always still asking for a midnight snack when I close the coop for the day. I know horses will constantly eat, if given feed, but do birds do the same? My quail doesn't seem to waste food or over eat so maybe it's a chicken and duck thing?
How much feed should I give my birds when they free range? Also what feeds do you recommend? My only feed store is Tractor Supply and I currently buy Dumor.
 

azygous

Enabler
11 Years
Dec 11, 2009
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Chickens will eat constantly if they happen to be particularly focused on it. Most eat around half a cup of feed per day, though. It's definitely important to offer commercial feed in addition to free ranging since the balance of nutrients is difficult to achieve by foraging alone.

As far as the waste, if you ferment the feed, you will save money by preventing waste, and as an important dividend, you will be providing natural probiotics and additional nutrients from the natural fermenting process.
 

FortCluck

Hatch-a-Long Queen
Sep 9, 2019
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I bought my free range chickens pellets this month because they were wasting a lot of their crumble. They waste a lot less with the pellets. They also don't kick it around as much as they did with the crumble.

I tried to do fermented feed with my chickens and they absolutely did not like it. I tried several different formulations to make fermented feed and nothing ever appealed to them.

My chicken seem to forage more than they eat chicken feed, but all chickens are different. We provide several logs, branches, trees, shrubs, and bushes for them to get bugs from.

We have 11 chickens and we do about a half cup per bird and usually there is leftovers every day. We have 4 very large breeds that seem to eat constantly. We have a scraps pale as well that we put food in from the day that we don't eat and give it to them at dinner time. It's usually veggies, fruits, rice, and pasta.

If you give them less feed they will live off the land more because they have no choice. Just make sure there is enough variety on the land for that many birds, which I'm sure there is. Chickens eat to just eat that's why some breeds have to be given so much food and that's it because they'll keep eating till they're obese.
 

gtaus

Free Ranging
Mar 29, 2019
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If you use the rule of thumb of .25 lb of commercial feed per bird per day, you are getting a somewhat higher usage of .38 lb/bird/day.

You might want to consider how much feed is being lost. I use a hanging 5 gallon bucket with the PVC elbows in it and I don't see much of any loss. I don't free range my birds, but they have been feeding off a grassy chicken run. Since I built the run, they use about 1/2 the commercial feed than before they had access to the grassy run. I calculated my commercial feed consumption is currently running .125 lb/bird/day. I suspect that will go up as the fresh grass will soon be gone as winter approaches.

I don't know all the issues on crumbles versus pellets. Our local farm stores only sell crumbles. The local mill makes only crumbles. I read on a Purina feed pamphlet that chickens convert a higher percentage of crumble feed versus pellet feed. But if your birds are scratching out the feed and it gets lost on the ground or bedding, then maybe you have to consider that loss. Also, are rodents eating the chicken feed? I keep my feed hanging in the chicken coop 24/7, and have never seen any signs of rodents in the feed.

Also, I wonder if having feed available 24/7 decreases the food intake. My birds can eat whenever they get hungry and it's not a big deal for them. If you only feed them once a day, they might be eating as much as possible as fast as possible.
 

gtaus

Free Ranging
Mar 29, 2019
2,768
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597
Northern Minnesota
My Coop
My Coop
I tried to do fermented feed with my chickens and they absolutely did not like it. I tried several different formulations to make fermented feed and nothing ever appealed to them.

I have grown barley fodder, and my chickens seem to like it. They prefer fresh, green grass which they are used to eating, but the fodder I give them is gone in a day or two. I suspect when winter comes around and there is no grass to be found, they will really enjoy the barley fodder. I am able to convert 1 lb of barley seeds into about 5 lbs of barley fodder in 6-8 days. My chickens also love the barley seeds which did not germinate, so nothing goes to waste.

Not only do you stretch out the feed by growing fodder, but I have read that chickens convert about 80% of the fodder whereas commercial feed is only converted at about 30%. Also, sprouting grains into fodder releases nutrients that are not readily available in the dry seed.

If you are interested, I posted an article on My $10 Inexpensive DIY Fodder Tower with Dollar Tree Dish Bins, which I used to grow my fodder. Since I live in northern Minnesota and our winters can be very long, this is one way I hope to provide fresh greens to my girls this coming winter.
 
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Folly's place

Enabler
9 Years
Sep 13, 2011
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Having feeders that control 'bill out' better is a big help. I use the yellow plastic Premier1supplies feeders, way better than the old style metal gravity feeders for that. Home made tube feeders work well for some flocks too.
'Free range' covers a lot of territory, from monoculture grass to very diverse and more nutritious environments, and then that changes monthly in what's actually available.
Keep their feed available, and limit waste out of the feeders.
Mary
 

R3M1X

Chirping
May 14, 2019
105
136
96
Norlina, NC
I believe we have a wide variety of grasses and weeds to choose from. We live in the middle of the country with native grass with tons of weeds that I dont even know the name of because I havent seen them before in the suburbs where I've lived before. They also are housed on the edge of a pecan and apple tree orchard and we have wooded areas on the perimeter of our land. There is also a patch of grass/hay area that we use to make hay bales for the cows. Dont get me started on the various bugs here :th... needless to say its ridiculous and having 53 birds seems to not make much of a difference in their population lol;;;
 

Folly's place

Enabler
9 Years
Sep 13, 2011
23,281
38,631
1,096
southern Michigan
Sounds good.
If it's not your orchard, ask what products they spray, and when, so your birds can avoid being out there exposed to 'stuff' that's not so good for them, or you. It's good to know what's going on, especially if sprays blow in your direction.
Mary
 

R3M1X

Chirping
May 14, 2019
105
136
96
Norlina, NC
Sounds good.
If it's not your orchard, ask what products they spray, and when, so your birds can avoid being out there exposed to 'stuff' that's not so good for them, or you. It's good to know what's going on, especially if sprays blow in your direction.
Mary

Our neighbors are family and we never treat our trees, which is why the bugs get to the goods before us half the time lol. The trees are older and most are near the end of their life, which could be due to bugs but every thing here is older than I am (25) so I don't know if they were treated previously or not. The only stuff I know is sprayed is once every couple months our neighbor (mom's husband's sister) spraying weed killer and bug repellent around the perimeter of her house. Which we have discussed about telling me when she is going to do it so I know not to let the birds out. Her house is on the other side of the orchard and the wind almost always blows towards her house so she is usually down wind of us.
 

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