The science behind what chickens eat.

Discussion in 'Feeding & Watering Your Flock' started by From the North, Jan 27, 2013.

  1. From the North

    From the North Out Of The Brooder

    Jan 22, 2013
    Could someone provide some info regarding what would make up the majority of the diet for a wild chicken? I understand that they are omnivores, but I would like to compare what they would eat in the wild vs what people feed them.

    I like to have a good understanding of the biology and science of my animals, and don't put a lot of stock in "we've done it this way for 100 years so it must be good". I've done the same research while mapping out a feed plan for my horses.

    Thanks in advice for any advice or resources.
  2. Fred's Hens

    Fred's Hens Chicken Obsessed Premium Member

    Chickens we know today have been bred for domesticated situations. The reason they lay 10 times the eggs of the ancestors from long ago is selective breeding, husbandry and diet. A chicken or bird from which the chicken descended would likely lay only enough egg for species reproduction. Perhaps 30 eggs would suffice.

    Feral chickens now roam a few tropical places, but the chicken is a domesticated bird. Has been for thousands of years. The concept of a truly wild chicken is doubtful, quite honestly. I appreciate your aspirations, but here? (While your ecosystem may be quite different), in northern Michigan? A domesticated chicken, no matter how active a forager, wouldn't thrive and even survival would be quite doubtful. Our domesticated goats are not mountain goats, our Guernsey cows wouldn't have a chance either. Just sayin'.
    Last edited: Jan 27, 2013
  3. From the North

    From the North Out Of The Brooder

    Jan 22, 2013
    I understand what you're saying (and I live even further north than you!) that they rely on us completely. I get it.

    'm mostly looking into whether the grain-based diet (which it seems all domestic creatures are fed) is the most beneficial for the chicken, or if it just what we feed because price/availability/tradition.

    For example, grain and horses. Horses aren't really meant to eat grain but people have been feeding it to them for centuries because it's cheap and available and can put weight on faster than forages. Grain is useful to feed to some individual horses, but generally speaking horses don't need grain.

    People are not evolved to eat grains, but it makes up a large chunk of people-diet.

    Most dog and cat foods have lots of grain in them.

    I have no aspirations of keeping "wild" chickens. I'm not a worshipper of "organic" or "all natural". Just looking into the science and biology.

    That being said, have chickens simply been so bred to meet the needs of humans, that they can't meet their nutritional needs without humans providing nutrient-dense feed as the majority of their diet?
  4. Chris09

    Chris09 Circle (M) Ranch

    Jun 1, 2009
    First things first, there are no wild chickens (Gallus gallus domesticus)
    The chicken is "man made" and is a subspecies bred form true junglefowl (Gallus)

    Now as for comparing the diet.
    Like with of most of today's livestock there nutritional need is very much different than there "wild" counterpart do to man breeding these animals to our wants and needs. A good example of this would be in egg production of the chicken today compared to it's wild ancestor the junglefowl, a average chicken will lay form 200 to 280 eggs a year where the junglefowl only produces 60 eggs a year at best and in turn this gain in egg production requires a gain in nutrition.

  5. All4MrD8a

    All4MrD8a Out Of The Brooder

    Dec 29, 2012

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