Too many chicken problems - HELP! Long post sorry

RubyLady

Chirping
Jun 21, 2021
85
265
93
I ony have four chickens...well...now I have two, but after all the money we've spent and all the work I've gone through, I'm not sure this is a good idea.

Four lovely chickens about a season old came to us in April, Easter Egger having been bullied in the larger flock they came from but the sweet, calm other three were always so good to her and they were doing great.

We built the coop out of all scraps and cabinets doors but spent some money on 2x4s to add a secure pen. Then I managed to build a chicken tractor from 1" PVC pipe which was only ridiculously expensive because of the connecting pieces. The tractor was so they could be out of the pen in the yard safely.

They had to be moved constantly so we decided to use it to take them to a fenced in side yard they love but found out they could scale a 4 foot fence anyway. So it was money somewhat wasted because they run around anyway and we just hope a dog won't get them.

Meanwhile, we can't afford layer pellets (we live on a very low income as seniors) after that first bag and I don't think highly processed food is food anyway (used to work for the USDA and I know labels are based on the raw food) so switched to fermented wheat, millet, and black sunflower seeds adding eggshells for calcium and other stuff and they ended up free-foraging most of their food anyway. And they loved foraging and were laying well.

But they hated the wheat and left it behind, which is most of the fermented food so I just switched to sprouting it into fodder, which they also don't like. I have two 50# bags of wheat now which was only $20 and they hate it. I'm screwed. I can't find barley in this town and I can't afford to keep trying different things for them. PLUS - my fodder system I started this week now has FRUIT FLIES all over this second batch. HELP!!! So, I have no feed for them? Um.....

That's the feed problem. Here's the behaviors problem:

The Barred Rock started molting massively so the Easter Egger who had been hen-pecked in their other flock decided to become a bully to the mainly the Australorp and a bit to the Speckled Sussex and try to move up the pecking order. I separated EE - into the tractor so Yay! some use for it after all - for four days so they could reesablish their pecking order and when we let them out together that last afternoon, all was well and the Australorp had fully come back to herself and was outgoing again and seemed fine. We let the EE go back in the coop that night with the others.

The next day, I fed them, then we had to be out all day and at 2 pm when I went to let them out to forage, the Australorp was lying on the ground unable to get up with the Speckled Sussex and Barred Rock trying to protect the A from the EE. I let them all out and the A hobbled over to one of the pieces of watermelon I had left earler so she could eat. She ate a bit and I carried her around and checked her completely but I think she was chased and injured her leg. She wouldn't eat since but had a little water.

I put the A in the chicken tractor to get well and in the evening the other three went back in the pen but the EE wouldn't let the Speckled Sussex in the coop to sleep and she also wouldn't let her eat! So back she went into the tractor and the A into the coop.

Now we're up to yesterday: I gave the EE away to a flock that has roosters to keep her in line.

The Australorp died last night. So we're down to two chickens, one not laying as she's molting and the other not laying because of the stress.
We've spent about half a month's income for us over the first few months getting them settled, finding food we could afford, etc. We have food they don't want to eat and fruit flies all over the food I am sprouting into fodder.

I'm feeling defeated. We got chickens for eggs. We cannot afford to keep chickens as pets. I don't want to bring in new chickens while my sweet barred rock is molting and they've been through so much. So I suspect we'll have to wait until spring now to try to rebuild the flock. BUT I still have the food issue to deal with. All of this "they love fermented food and fodder" is out the window, although I'm still feeding them this week's fodder because it's what we have (It's in the fridge). But if they don't eat enough, they'll die, too.

Help. I'm about to cremate one lovely sweet chicken and dump a load of gnat-filled fodder in the compost and will run out of the fodder in the fridge in about two days. I can't afford to try something else that won't work. We are literally doing this because we have to become somewhat self-suffcient. I'm 62 and hubby is sick and I can't make enough money in this town to do more than barely pay the utilities, taxes and food. We don't have TV or cell phones or extras. Internet is our concession because his kids live in Australia and mine in another state so we do need a communication tool. We're okay and no debt, but I can't do more than I already am. I'm stuck between needing the eggs for food and wondering if I can afford to keep them for the food. Especially if they don't eat their own food.

Can you hear the slight hysteria? I'm exhausted trying to solve these problems. I don't remember my grandparents having these issues. That's for sure, but I can't remember them doing anything other than free-foraging and throwing cracked corn at them. Have we made chicken keeping just too complicated or am I doing everything I can and it's just not working?
 

Marie2020

Enabler
Premium Feather Member
May 12, 2020
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I feel your pain, you have been trying so hard. I'm afraid I don't have answers but I'm sure people here will try to come up with some ideas soon.

As for myself I have used one feed since having my 3 girls, it's an organic feed called "marriages" I don't know if you can get this where you live. Sometimes I give them this dry and then ferment it at other times. I found sunflower seeds helped, they are not expensive here. I give them a chunk of banana each morning which I believe really helps with the nutrients being absorbed.
At times a dampen this feed and add banana and yogurt, they really enjoyed this, I found just tweaking their food a little makes them a bit more interested.

If you have any natural yogurt which i've been told is a good probiotic for them plus the protein. Sadly I can't get the good goat yogurt I used to be able too get but found a store yogurtwith great reviews.

Keeping them fed and happy is the best you can you can do. I really hope their problems will resolve now you have removed the troublesome one. In time they may well heal and settle again. It's surprising how they can adjust

One more thing, I have used a good mixed mineral for my girls, it didn't cost an awful lot and it's helping my princess through her molt right now, you only need a little, so it goes a long way.

I'll cheke back on you soon. :)
Here are the ingredients for these minerals

20210913_190953.jpg

20210913_191008.jpg
 
Last edited:

BY Bob

Proprietor, Fluffy Butt Acres
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Let's start with feed. You say the following:

I have two 50# bags of wheat now which was only $20 and they hate it

A 50lb bag of cracked corn at Tractor Supply is only $11.49. That they will eat, it's almost the same price, and it will keep them alive. I would get a bag and start with using that to supplement what they get free range. Understand that the corn will keep them alive and they will gladly eat it but it is not complete nutrition.

https://www.tractorsupply.com/tsc/product/producers-pride-cracked-corn-50-lb

I have some other questions now. I need to determine what might work as a protein source.

How much land do they free range over? How cold are your winters? Is there snow cover all winter or can they continue to free range?

If you are only providing grains they have to find protein somewhere. Fortunately grass is an excellent source of nutrition for chickens including protein. Remember eggs and feathers are mostly protein. Your flock will need a reliable source if it is not going to be in your feed.
 

The Moonshiner

Legendary Leghorns
Premium Feather Member
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I would not go to TSC if you're on a budget.
We have a smaller TSC kind of store in town. Their cracked corn is $9.99
We have a hardware store in town that sells some feeds. Theirs is $9.00
I go to a mill. Theirs is $7.50
There's an individual that sells it outside of town for $6.75
Moral of the post. TSC is about the most expensive place to shop feed, Any feed.
 

RubyLady

Chirping
Jun 21, 2021
85
265
93
I feel your pain, you have been trying so hard. I'm afraid I don't have answers but I'm sure people here will try to come up with some ideas soon.

As for myself I have used one feed since having my 3 girls, it's an organic feed called "marriages" I don't know if you can get this where you live. Sometimes I give them this dry and then ferment it at other times. I found sunflower seeds helped, they are not expensive here. I give them a chunk of banana each morning which I believe really helps with the nutrients being absorbed.
At times a dampen this feed and add banana and yogurt, they really enjoyed this, I found just tweaking their food a little makes them a bit more interested.

If you have any natural yogurt which i've been told is a good probiotic for them plus the protein. Sadly I can't get the good goat yogurt I used to be able too get but found a store yogurtwith great reviews.

Keeping them fed and happy is the best you can you can do. I really hope their problems will resolve now you have removed the troublesome one. In time they may well heal and settle again. It's surprising how they can adjust

One more thing, I have used a good mixed mineral for my girls, it didn't cost an awful lot and it's helping my princess through her molt right now, you only need a little, so it goes a long way.

I'll cheke back on you soon. :)
Here are the ingredients for these minerals

View attachment 2832302
View attachment 2832298
Oh, thank you so much. I think I've just been overwhelmed this past two days and it all came to a head when Golly died in the next room where we were keeping her safe and comfortable. I also had terrible allergies that day and an intestinal issue that crops up now and then so it was like - Seriously? What next? LOL

Just a bad couple of days.
Let's start with feed. You say the following:



A 50lb bag of cracked corn at Tractor Supply is only $11.49. That they will eat, it's almost the same price, and it will keep them alive. I would get a bag and start with using that to supplement what they get free range. Understand that the corn will keep them alive and they will gladly eat it but it is not complete nutrition.

https://www.tractorsupply.com/tsc/product/producers-pride-cracked-corn-50-lb

I have some other questions now. I need to determine what might work as a protein source.

How much land do they free range over? How cold are your winters? Is there snow cover all winter or can they continue to free range?

If you are only providing grains they have to find protein somewhere. Fortunately grass is an excellent source of nutrition for chickens including protein. Remember eggs and feathers are mostly protein. Your flock will need a reliable source if it is not going to be in your feed.
They range over 3/4 of an acre, a lot of trees and shade, a huge bug and worm filled pile of leaves that we turn for them a couple of times a week so they can get to them, a yard we hardly mow so they can have the chickweed, wood sorrel, dandelion, clover, henbit, grass and grass seeds depending on what’s in season, although now and then we mow it a bit shorter to get the bugs more available to them. There are a coupe of sunny areas and they scratch there among the weeds and around the berry bushes and a small garden patch.

II also give them black sunflower seeds, egg, and cooked liver more than usual since one is molting.

Honestly, I would think they are getting lots of food normally just in the yard and maybe I’m more worried that they are not eating the feed than I should be because for at least 4 hours every day, more when I’m not working, they get to forage and maybe they are simply getting what they need out in the yard and just don’t need as much feed as I am giving them. But when it was raining like crazy for a few days, that’s when I noticed they weren’t eating the wheat - specifically. They do love cracked corn though. But I was always told it wasn’t all that good for them.

I also give them their eggshells, dried nettle leaf which is high in protein as well as vitamins, and periodically berries and banana.

Do you think that's sufficient? Thanks so much for asking.
 

RubyLady

Chirping
Jun 21, 2021
85
265
93
I would not go to TSC if you're on a budget.
We have a smaller TSC kind of store in town. Their cracked corn is $9.99
We have a hardware store in town that sells some feeds. Theirs is $9.00
I go to a mill. Theirs is $7.50
There's an individual that sells it outside of town for $6.75
Moral of the post. TSC is about the most expensive place to shop feed, Any feed.
My local feed store sold me cracked corn scratch for $10 but the next time I went in it was $14 and it turned out to be a mix of crn, milo, and oats.

They are not very consistent there though I know the owners and they are wonderful people. Part of it is what they can get. They haven't seen straw since last year and they don't always get what they order.
 

RubyLady

Chirping
Jun 21, 2021
85
265
93
I am so sorry that you're having this experience. My local feed mill has $9 50lb bags of feed. Ultimately, though, the price of a few backyard hens over grocery store eggs will never MAKE you money or allow you to save money. It's a labor of love and hobby. If you are truly doing this to save money, then I suggest to sell the birds.
Well, I did at first emotionally write off the start-up expenses, knowing it was just what it was, but then I realized I couldn't spend $50 every couple of months to feed them and researched how to cut feed costs and still make sure they were getting their needs met.

Composting feed system, fermenting grain, fodder. It all seemed worth it; I don't mind the work involved and cut the costs from 50cents a day to pennies and made the eggs no more than organic eggs at the store BUT much healthier anyway.

A lot of people, especially permaculture folks, have cut the feed costs to basically nothing, but we don't have a set up like they do so maybe I was reaching unrealistically....sigh....
 

RubyLady

Chirping
Jun 21, 2021
85
265
93
I feel your pain, you have been trying so hard. I'm afraid I don't have answers but I'm sure people here will try to come up with some ideas soon.

As for myself I have used one feed since having my 3 girls, it's an organic feed called "marriages" I don't know if you can get this where you live. Sometimes I give them this dry and then ferment it at other times. I found sunflower seeds helped, they are not expensive here. I give them a chunk of banana each morning which I believe really helps with the nutrients being absorbed.
At times a dampen this feed and add banana and yogurt, they really enjoyed this, I found just tweaking their food a little makes them a bit more interested.

If you have any natural yogurt which i've been told is a good probiotic for them plus the protein. Sadly I can't get the good goat yogurt I used to be able too get but found a store yogurtwith great reviews.

Keeping them fed and happy is the best you can you can do. I really hope their problems will resolve now you have removed the troublesome one. In time they may well heal and settle again. It's surprising how they can adjust

One more thing, I have used a good mixed mineral for my girls, it didn't cost an awful lot and it's helping my princess through her molt right now, you only need a little, so it goes a long way.

I'll cheke back on you soon. :)
Here are the ingredients for these minerals

View attachment 2832302
View attachment 2832298
You know, what you are doing sounds a lot like what I started doing with a bit of banana and such and then I was told not to do that. I think there are an awful lot of ways and they all work for someone. :)
 

rosemarythyme

Scarborough Fair
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Jul 3, 2016
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If cost of eggs is your main criteria, then no, raising chickens in your yard is not the way to go. The reality nowadays is for most folks, you can't raise chickens for eggs to save money, you raise them because you enjoy it, or because you want to control what goes into your diet, etc.

It's impossible to beat the prices that a commercial egg laying company can sell a dozen for, because you can't buy feed in bulk, you can't produce eggs in the thousands, you're not subsidized.

Unfortunately in order to save costs you're also not feeding a nutritionally complete diet (which you mentioned you don't trust commercial feed) however the lack of nutritionally balanced feed can affect egg production, behavior (low protein can lead to feather picking) and overall health (i.e. sunflower seeds are very high in fat, and fat can lead to fatty liver disease). Can chickens survive off a diet that's not optimal? Yes, for a while, but it can also be a contributing factor to some of the issues you're mentioning.
 

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