what is the "natural" diet for chickens?

Discussion in 'Feeding & Watering Your Flock' started by MyFirstFarm, Feb 4, 2010.

  1. MyFirstFarm

    MyFirstFarm Out Of The Brooder

    Jan 31, 2010
    I'm intrigued by the threads on making/growing your own feed. I wish I didn't have to use any commercial feed - I don't even feed my dog commercial food (she's on a raw, prey-model diet). Anyways, being that I'm a total newbie to chickens and will have enough on my plate I'm going to start off using commercial feed until I feel confident enough (and have our land ready) to start growing and providing more of our own food to the chickens. This leads me to my question:

    What would chickens normally eat "in the wild"? Heck, I'm not even sure if there is such a thing as a wild chicken. And if so, if such a creature could live in my region/climate. But hearing that chickens love meat (including chicken!) makes me wonder what a "wild" chicken will eat. Where would they get their protein and what do they do over the winter?
  2. Teach97

    Teach97 Bantam Addict

    Nov 12, 2008
    Hooker, OK
    yup there are wild chickens...more feral chickens than folks really want to admit...as far as what a chicken would eat in the wild...whatever it can catch and overpower...plus grains and green things...mice, snakes, bugs, worms, roadkill, new sprouts...whatever

    what do they do in the winter...same thing or die
  3. Mahonri

    Mahonri Urban Desert Chicken Enthusiast Premium Member

    May 14, 2008
    North Phoenix
    My Coop
    My chickens LOVE chasing down insects, scratching for small seeds, eating grass and leaves and petals. I guess that's what they would do in the "wild". We have an entire neighborhood to the south of me with feral chickens. They sleep in the trees, bushes, on peoples houses etc...
  4. chickenwhisperer123

    chickenwhisperer123 Whispers Loudly

    Mar 7, 2009
    Lincoln, Nebraska
    Chickens are thought to be direct descendants from Red Junglefowl (Gallus gallus), So I guess that they are "wild chickens"

    "They are omnivorous and feed on insects, seeds and fruits"

    Of course, since they have been domesticated, this diet isnt necissarily sufficient now, and even if it was, their foraging insticts have been reduced. (through time.)

    ETA: [​IMG]
    Last edited: Feb 4, 2010
  5. DIMBY

    DIMBY Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jun 14, 2009
    Western Colorado
    Don't forget, we've been domesticating these critters for the last 15,000 years or so, to produce an egg a day (or about 300 a year). That means they needs lots of calcium. "Wild" birds don't need as much calcium because they only lay a few eggs a year, once a year.
    2 people like this.
  6. they'reHISchickens

    they'reHISchickens Chillin' With My Peeps

    Oct 31, 2008
    My first job on the farm was feeding the chickens. They were housed in the big chicken houses of yesteryear. We would call them cageless now:) The chooks got all the whole oats, wheat, and cob corn they could eat- from the granary storage. in addition, they also got the feed mixture that was ground up on the farm as the dairy cow grain. To my recollection, it consisted of mainly corn with oats, soybeans, maybe some brewers grains, purchased bagged minerals, barely moistened with black molasses to keep the dust down. Everything but the molasses, brewers grains and minerals were homegrown on the farm. The local brewery provided the brewers grains. I think there was a feeder for oystershells too, but it was not necessary to fill that too often.
    For those who are counting, it was 4 trips daily ( plus one for water)to various spots on the farm to replenish the large chicken feeders.
    Any leftovers of the garden or table went to the chickens too. Meat went to the farm cat population ,but vegetables galore were tossed to the henhouse floor and devoured.
    IMHO they had as natural a diet as non-free range chickens could have since all our food was homegrown too.
    My parents had a small commercial laying flock in the 40s and 50s so I am sure they used the accepted feeding practices of the day. The local egg cooperative picked up flats of eggs weekly.
    1 person likes this.
  7. chookchick

    chookchick Chillin' With My Peeps

    Aug 18, 2008
    Olympia WA
    Quote:Good point--they would also need more protein, as eggs are high protein, and more water, as eggs have a lot of water in them.
  8. Akane

    Akane Overrun With Chickens

    Jun 15, 2008
    You name it a chicken will eat it. They are some of the most omnivorous critters out there. That doesn't mean they get a balanced diet. Keep in mind wild animals tend to live much shorter lives, suffer far more diseases, starve to death, end up with nutrient deficiencies, and are far less productive than our domesticated versions. I've fed a lot of animals on non commercial diets and balancing the diet of an omnivore is actually the hardest to do reliably. True carnivores are easy. Feed the proper ratios of body parts with enough variety and you are good. They are designed to extract all the nutrients they need from a very limited food source. Herbivores aren't too difficult either. They tend to need fresher foods (drying or freezing vegetation destroys a lot of useful nutrients real quick) and a good variety but otherwise you can't go wrong unless you include too many carb or fat sources (most herbivores do not actually eat grains or many seeds). Omnivores have such a range and get their nutrients from so many different sources. They often seem like the least efficient animals at using their food sources and they often can't manufacturer much of anything they need from other sources. You need a little of everything, in the right amounts, with an extreme amount of variety to actually cover everything they require. There's a reason many resort to powdered supplements. Even zoos feeding omnivorous animals often resort to mixes with powdered supplements to get the right ratios. It really is a better idea to supplement a balanced poultry feed unless you have a wide range of scrap foods on your property already. There are some recipes online for mixing your own feeds from bulk sources but make sure they are quality recipes not something someone inexperienced made up. They also often lack the animal protein part.
    1 person likes this.
  9. geebs

    geebs Lovin' the Lowriders!

    Sep 28, 2008
    The expert on this is Resolution. He has made a diet specifically for chickens based on years of research. He has made a forage for them that is marketed and available to the public. It consist of lots of things I wouldn't have thought of.. You could ask him....
  10. ivan3

    ivan3 spurredon Premium Member

    Jan 27, 2007
    geebs wrote: The expert on this is Resolution.

    Hope he's O.K. Called to their office last month and the fellow there said that res (kermit) had been sick. The cost of the feed, at present, is prohibitive.
    Still waiting for him to post his `research'. That said, one can glean a lot of good info. from his observations.


    What does the `natural' chicken want? Just range them and watch:


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