What do pastured chickens need in addition to what they forage?

Discussion in 'Feeding & Watering Your Flock' started by Mrs. Mucket, May 18, 2011.

  1. Mrs. Mucket

    Mrs. Mucket Songster

    May 3, 2010
    Pacific Northwest
    We have acres of good mixed pasture and our chickens are out and about most of the day. They range free and will be moved with their night shelter throughout the summer to fresh grazing areas. No pesticides are used, so there's a natural amount of bugs and worms around. There is also commercial feed available at all times. They haven't been eating nearly as much commercial feed lately, which isn't surprising, and I know they should instinctively eat as much of it as they need.

    I keep reading that chickens can't remain healthy by foraging alone, but have not found any concrete information (like a recent scientific study) on what it is they need as a supplement. Does anyone know what it is exactly that free-ranging pastured chickens should be getting from commercial feed or from farm produce, grains, seeds, etc.?
  2. WoodlandWoman

    WoodlandWoman Crowing

    May 8, 2007
    If you're also providing commercial feed, that is what they need, in addition to foraging. Some foraging areas are short on particular nutrients, but most are just short on the total volume of food needed for the number of chickens being ranged on them. Especially in the times of the year when insects aren't at their peak.
  3. If they eat before going out, or eat after they return, chances are they supplement themselves quite nicely. Foraging in a rich pasture, saves mucho food costs. I wouldn't worry too much. What they are doing is what chickens did for centuries before Purina became a company. [​IMG][​IMG]
  4. AlienChick

    AlienChick Songster

    Apr 9, 2010
    Glasgow, KY
    My chickens free range all day as well.

    Since I have no idea of what the bug population is in my yard,
    I also provide commercial feed that is available to them at all times inside the coop.

    It's the easiest way to "know" they're getting all their nutrients for optimal egg-laying and health.

  5. jason_mazzy

    jason_mazzy Songster

    Jan 7, 2011
    It also gives em a reason to return to the coop [​IMG]
  6. AlienChick

    AlienChick Songster

    Apr 9, 2010
    Glasgow, KY
    [​IMG] Yep!
  7. mdbokc

    mdbokc Songster

    Jun 22, 2009
    Oklahoma County, OK
    That's what to do!
  8. JoAnn_WI_4-H_Mom

    JoAnn_WI_4-H_Mom Songster

    Jun 17, 2009
    West Central WI
    Your birds could probably survive on forage alone, especially if it is good quality, diverse, animal-populated land such as you describe. But to put meat on and produce eggs, there may be more needed than what they can find. It is a question of "Thrive" over "Survive".

    Exactly what they need would require a more scientific examination of your situation. Are your soils low in calcium or other minerals/grit that the birds might need? Is there plenty of vegetation but relatively few bugs/animals to eat? Is it the right kind of vegetation (what do you see them preferring when feeding?) Are there carbohydrate sources like mature grass seeds? Are their fruit sources and how long are those seasons? As you can see the nutritional value of your forage grounds will change over the course of the seasons.

    We pasture in electronet, and offer a higher protein feed during the summer to offset the much higher consumption of vegetation. The birds have a large area that seems to be alfalfa, foxtail, timothy, plantain, mustard, dandelion, brome, clover, white cockle and creeping charlie. Their poop is shocking GREEN and their feed consumtion if very low. It is so tall now that you cannot see the birds, and when you call them for treats the plants ripple like Jurrasic Park. They appreciate the shade provided on these hot days.

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