What did people feed chichens before there was a feed store?

Discussion in 'Feeding & Watering Your Flock' started by dorkings, Apr 2, 2012.

  1. suzeqf

    suzeqf Chillin' With My Peeps

    Mar 17, 2011
    When I was little my great grandmother raised chickens and ducks and I don't remember her ever having "store bought feed" my family row cropped and had a corn crib and she always had a feed barrel and they got scraps and any veggies that were too big to can and in the winter they weren't near as active but she would give them the scraps and crack corn and any other little tibbits she had and they seemed to do pretty well.
  2. bucky52

    bucky52 Chillin' With My Peeps

    Apr 26, 2011
    wow.i never thought about that.i remember as a child that we did have chickens roaming around the house.they free ranged and found what ever scraps was toss out.mom always bought eggs at the store.i do remember when ever she wanted chicken dinner.she would go out grab one up and take them to the chopping block and cut their heads off.and that was dinner.that question sure bought some long ago memories back.so no the chickens were never fed store bought food.
  3. GAHillbillies

    GAHillbillies Out Of The Brooder

    Mar 24, 2012
    GA/NC Border
    I am old, but when I was growing up, my grandmother had chickens. They weren't fed anything but the scraps from the kitchen every mornin and the sweepings from the wheat, oats and corn bins. When my uncle would have the corn stalks and cobs ground into silage, they would get some of that and they cleaned up around and in the barn during the winter. The cows gave them lots to eat. They were healthy chickens because when grandma wanted chicken for the dinner she sent one of us kids out to get the chicken and then she would chop the head off and we all would help pluck it.
  4. terryg

    terryg Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jun 5, 2007
    New England
    Commercial feeds started appearing in the 1920s. Before then chickens were fed rather like pigs - whatever the farmer had leftover. Although those chickens laid eggs, they did not lay eggs at the rate that we see now, nor did they lay year round. Chickens went from laying 90 eggs a year to upwards of 300. I'm not just talking about hybrid, commercial hens, either. At the turn of the last century farms went from having a few utility hens to having purebreds. Many of the breeds that we consider "heritage" were developed in the 1920s - at the same time that the quality of feed was improved (as far as protein and mineral content.) So, the nutritive content of the feed improved at the same time that chickens were being bred to produce far more eggs. These two changes happened together. So, yes, your hens can forage and they'll survive. But you have to really pay attention to the quality of the feed they're getting. You can't expect a healthy hen to lay 200 eggs on a sparse diet. Pastured poultry producers and some of the serious sustainable folks know how to feed their hens without commercial feeds - but it's a lot of work, and it's not like what the farm wife of 1890 tossed to the hens outside her back door!
    2 people like this.
  5. SIMPleChick

    SIMPleChick Chillin' With My Peeps

    Mar 10, 2011
    Yes, they free ranged and had "scratch". grains like wheat, corn and oats and table scraps went to the hogs and chickens. Or whatever they had to give....A lot of hens during the winter time were not very plump, they often got really skinny.
  6. Eddy Chicken

    Eddy Chicken Chillin' With My Peeps

    Oct 23, 2011
    Southern New Jersey
    I think they survived the same way robins, cardinals, sparrows, blue jays, finches, starlings, etc...survive....even in the cold winters.
  7. dorkings

    dorkings Out Of The Brooder

    Jul 21, 2011
    New Hampshire
    Thanks everyone for your input. Although we have no problem buying feed for our chickens, I'm just a bit more concerned about what would happen if the feed stores were gone one day. Growing up the only store bought food was chick starter.
  8. GAHillbillies

    GAHillbillies Out Of The Brooder

    Mar 24, 2012
    GA/NC Border
    I don't understand why you think the chickens got skinny in the winter if they weren't feed store bought food. I grew up in Illinios, we had rough winters. My grandparents didn't buy store bought food for their stock. They raised hogs, cows and chickens. They grew their feed in the summer, chopped up the corn stocks and cobs, stored that, stored their wheat, corn, soybean and oats in the silos. Our egg production never went down much during the winter and the chickens would forage in the barns instead of out in the fields during the wintery days. Cow manure, pig manure were the favorite things to go forage around in. My uncle would get so mad because he mucked out the barns first thing, put all the manure in the bins for composting and when he would come out from having breakfast, there would be all the chickens just making a mess!! That was farm life. When I started raising my own flocks in the 60's we bought bulk grains for our chickens. We started getting mixed feeds in the late 60's early 70's because we were then breeding for eggs for the hatchery. Chickens can survive and be productive without all the junk everyone want to put into their feeds if allowed to forage. If penned, yes they need a good diet. don't be afraid to feed your chickens meat scraps and bones, they love them and it is good protien.
  9. AmyLM

    AmyLM Chillin' With My Peeps

    Dec 28, 2011
    Buckley washington
    My grandmother grew up on a farm. She said they had a hand crank that would crack dried corn for them and they were free on the farm during the day and most were put in a coop at night... but some refused to come in so they were on their own. She also said that they were given stale bread crumbled up though the corn grinder, vegetable trimmings and also they seemed to like to steal food from the other animals like the horses grain. Gramma always loved the chickens but she hated the turkeys because they used to chase her and her sisters to the outhouse and trap them there... sometimes all night! ;) lol

    Gramma thinks its great that so many people are getting back into chickens. Shes coming for a visit this summer... and I wouldn't be surprised if she gets a few chickens when she gets home ;)
  10. Davaroo

    Davaroo Poultry Crank

    Feb 4, 2007
    Leesville, SC

    I'm pretty partial to rolled oats and all the bugs, worms and grass they want.

    Most of my old books, going back well over a century, have recipes for feed. It was known even back then that you could not produce good meat or eggs on middlings and scraps. Sure, chickens could keep the Reaper away on such meager rations, but real benefit came from a controlled diet.
    Last edited: Apr 21, 2012

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