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To Winter Feed or Not to Winter Feed?

Discussion in 'Feeding & Watering Your Flock' started by CityBredCountry, Oct 25, 2014.

  1. CityBredCountry

    CityBredCountry Out Of The Brooder

    Sep 1, 2014
    I have been told that some of the locals do not feed their chickens in the winter time.... weird to me. :-/ The ones that do not feed during the winter only lose a couple, but do not have good eggs come spring. The better you feed them in the winter the better they lay eggs in spring (or so I have been told). This is our first winter with Chickens. I live in Central TN and have mild to moderate winters. Although this winter, we are expecting a crazy one.

    I have 30ish chickens that are open range/ free range. I let them out of their coop every morning to roam freely in the yard and then lock them up at night.

    Right now I am going through about (1) 50lb bag of Chicken feed every 2 weeks. I only use it as a "treat" 2x a day, while the feed off our scraps, and the 2 acres they have to roam. They seem to be happy chickens.

    I know that this winter we are planning to let them roam as free as possible unless it is crazy cold, then we'll keep them in their coop. I plan to add a bunch of corn in their feed to help them digest slower (<---as told by our feed place) and stay warmer, and hunger less.

    How much should I be feeding them daily during the winter (30 chickens)?

    How many other people do not feed them during the winter and why?

    Thanks in Advance!
  2. cafarmgirl

    cafarmgirl Overrun With Chickens

    I'm sorry but that's the one of the craziest things I've ever heard. If for no other reason then that during the cold of winter is when chickens are most in need of nutritious food to maintain warmth and good body condition. Chickens that are well cared for and healthy through the winter are chickens that are going to lay well in the spring. Birds who have been starved over the winter when forage is poor are obviously not going to perform well until they regain their health as these locals who do this apparently have already noted. And why loose perfectly good birds just by not feeding over the winter?! For as much time as it takes to bring a pullet to point of lay and start getting eggs only to not feed during the winter and loose birds? To me that's some kind of crazy reasoning lol!

    I also would not add a bunch of extra corn to their diet. Layer feed is balanced nutrition and will see your birds through the winter just fine. I don't feed specific amounts per day, I just keep the feeder filled and let the hens eat what they need throughout the day. My birds also forage on pasture year around but there's not much out there for them during the middle of winter.
    1 person likes this.
  3. Roan

    Roan Chillin' With My Peeps

    Apr 8, 2013
    West Virginia, U.S.A.
    I agree that that is some crazy stuff not to mention it sounds like animal cruelty to me! Starving any animal should be a criminal offense!

    This will be the first year that we've switched to a full laying pellet diet for the winter months instead of scratch so I really can't comment on whether filling them up on corn instead of laying pellets is a good idea or not except to say that I've been reading from several sources (including Raising Chickens for Dummies) and several are saying that the modern laying breeds are bred to do well on laying pellets through winter and as long as they have adequate light (I believe 16 hours) per day, they should lay well also.

    But please, for the love of your flock, feed your birds well throughout the winter!!!
  4. CityBredCountry

    CityBredCountry Out Of The Brooder

    Sep 1, 2014
    I surely wanted to keep them fed through the winter, cause I like my chickens and want some good eggs come spring. We spoil them right now with a 14 grain mixture that my feed place custom makes for chickens called Rooster Booster, they absolutely love it. I mean they REALLY, REALLY LOVE IT. I have some barred rocks and black sexlinks, so I am pretty sure that they will not over eat, but was afraid to spend a fortune feeding them this winter. I planned on just leaving the custom 5 Gallon Feeders that i have for them full, but thought they may eat me out of house and home. We'll have to find out for sure and see how it goes.
  5. Roan

    Roan Chillin' With My Peeps

    Apr 8, 2013
    West Virginia, U.S.A.
    Remember that the longer the feeder is there, the more chances of feeding freeloaders such as wild birds, mice, rats, etc...

    Of course, I don't know how well secured your chicken house is but any opening that allows the chickens in and out will also allow pests in and out as well. Especially since you allow your kids to free range.
  6. chixmaidservice

    chixmaidservice Chillin' With My Peeps

    Oct 13, 2013
    I will add that my flock of 22 hens go thru 100 lbs of layer crumbles every 2 weeks. They also free range over 2 acres of yard and I give them scraps as well. Since u have more birds you will go thru way more than 50# / 2 weeks if you start feeding free choice. I plan on feeding my hens every day of their lives. I have beautiful glossy hens who lay huge eggs and molt easily.
  7. auntphibian

    auntphibian Out Of The Brooder

    Jul 20, 2014
    Ashland City, TN
    Feeding chickens keeps their weight and fat content up and helps to provide their natural insulation. By not feeding them, I agree, that's animal cruelty because there is not enough foraging food to survive on. And, I want decent eggs come spring!
  8. Roan

    Roan Chillin' With My Peeps

    Apr 8, 2013
    West Virginia, U.S.A.
    I was doing a feeding experiment with my birds where I was feeding them twice a day (4.4 kg at each feeding). What I noticed was that they were always acting as if they were starving at each feeding. But I just couldn't afford to go through so much feed in a month so I cut it back to 1 feeding per day at 4.4 kg. Now, in the late afternoons/early evenings, they all gather around my front door expecting me to feed them again (because that's when I would give them their second feeding before).

    Here's the kicker, after dark, when I lock them up, I have been checking their crawls and they've been completely full. The birds weren't hungry, they were acting on a simple instinct. I think we all know that chickens are scavengers. They'll eat anything they find or at least try to. Scavengers are opportunists which means that if the food is made available to them, they'll eat it whether they're hungry or not.

    The thinking behind this is that a scavenger in the wild does not have a steady access to food so when they find a feast they gorge on it to make it through to the next feast. Chickens, however, are blessed scavengers. They have a steady supply of feed but instincts are instincts, when they find food, they eat it just in case they can't find any later.

    I hope that makes sense and didn't just sound like aimless rambling. lol It's way early in the morning and I just woke up.
  9. barkinghills

    barkinghills Chillin' With My Peeps

    Dec 17, 2011

    I would never leave my flock without food, and they free-range on an acre also. I hate to say it but if it is costing you too much to feed your flock the proper amount of food, then you need to reduce your flock, not reduce how much you feed them. You can also take efficiency measures as mentioned above to make sure others besides your flock are not eating your feed.

    Grain mixes are usually deficient in vitamins and protein. They are given as a treat, not a ration. Your chickens will lay well in spring if you feed them an optimum, balanced diet all year-round.

    Please for your animals' sake, reduce your flock to fit your budget, then feed them an optimum diet all year.
  10. RichnSteph

    RichnSteph Chillin' With My Peeps

    Mar 25, 2014
    Adkins Texas
    I"m curious what your mix is. We've looked at getting a mixed grain feed done at our local feed store but there is so much information out there on what to feed and what not to feed that I've just about given up.

    As to the OPs topic- I can't see any reason to starve a bunch of animals during the time when they need the feed for extra body heat and mass. Just crazy. We're planning on feeding layer pellets through the winter along with scratch grains. Our small flock of 10 birds is allowed to free range our acre on the weekends when I can keep an eye on them.


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