What to feed free-rangers

Discussion in 'Feeding & Watering Your Flock' started by UrbanEnthusiast, May 2, 2016.

  1. QueenMisha

    QueenMisha Queen of the Coop

    In this case I don't have any set study. This is based on my own experience and acquaintances' experiences with free ranging and feeding free range birds.

    And yes, you make a good point - while any breed besides perhaps a gamefowl won't likely obtain more than 20% of their diet via free ranging, how close they get to that number is going to depend somewhat on where they are located. I'd be willing to bet areas with good heavy foliage and tropical areas will have a lot more to offer than, say, a desert.
  2. QueenMisha

    QueenMisha Queen of the Coop

    Ha, love the way you put that. I'm totally using that in the future!
  3. kamiren

    kamiren New Egg

    May 1, 2016
    So what should I be feeding my free-rangers as a primary feed? There are so many options. Is there a proper cheap diet?
  4. AllynTal

    AllynTal Chillin' With My Peeps

    Aug 22, 2014
    Mississippi Gulf Coast

    I absolutely agree that hatchery birds are skewed for egg production at the expense of everything else. What about a bonafide dual-purpose breed that has been bred to SoP by a proper breeder, meaning it still has the frame to carry the meat to be a meat bird and lays the number of eggs appropriate for its breed -- not the modern version but the APA standard set down a century ago? Would they be less dependent on commercial feed? I don't intend to remove commercial food entirely, but I do expect consumption to significantly decline once my flock is free-ranging during the day.
    1 person likes this.
  5. Folly's place

    Folly's place Chicken Obsessed

    Sep 13, 2011
    southern Michigan
    I feed an all- flock feed, in my case Purina Flock Raiser, because it's good for birds of all ages, 20% protein, and very fresh at the local feed stores. I have oyster shell available free choice also for the laying hens. Again, wild type chickens may weigh in at four pounds and lay 30 to 60 eggs per year. They aren't what we want for either eggs or meat any more! The APA standard has never been geared toward producing birds that didn't need to be fed a balanced ration. Mary
  6. epatullo

    epatullo Just Hatched

    Feb 26, 2013
    I go to my local farm supply store who mixed their own "layer mash". I would have to look at it to see the protein percent but I think it's around 16-18%. If ive learned one thing raising chickens it's that feed matters, and that these feed stores, or Purina, or "fill in your major brand name here", mix it to exact specifications with various nutrients and what not. I highly recommend going to a feed store if you have one locally. Prices are guaranteed to be cheaper and I think better quality and fresher.
    Referencing free ranging; I try to get my flock of 24 outside of the run daily where they absolutely love foraging for bugs/grass whatever. And yes, my feed consumption drops considerably during the spring, summer and early fall when they're "free ranging". I the other hand, a guy at the feed store says he doesn't let his chickens out to forage because he claims they eat too much grass and they're protein consumption isn't as high as when he only allows them to eat the feed and therefore less egg production. I don't know, maybe that makes sense.
  7. QueenMisha

    QueenMisha Queen of the Coop

    Layer feed or grower feed supplemented by oyster shells. 16-18% protein and 3-5% calcium is ideal. I personally use Bar Ale brand but this is only available in select states. I personally suggest avoiding Purina... their quality control is terrible and their feed is usually pretty old by the time feed stores sell all of it. As far as large companies go Nutrena is OK. In my experience the best feed will come from a local small company, as quality control is usually much higher when it has been milled in small batches.

    I think (and have seen) that they likely have the same free ranging ability as a modern breed - and indeed with that meaty frame and those old genetics, they will consume more food in general. However, I think that the diet of such a bird need not be so finely balanced as that of a modern breed. They would probably do fine with up to 30-40% of their diet coming from scraps and free ranging. Because there is far less strain and demand put on their bodies, they don't require such an exact science to keep in good shape.

    The best thing to do is to offer free choice commercial ration and then let them free range if you wish and offer scraps as you see fit for the breed you work with. Keep a close eye on their weights and the thickness of the fat pad on the hen's abdomens; I've found it's a good rule that if you have a hard time finding the gizzard, the bird is too fat.
    1 person likes this.
  8. mimsy

    mimsy Chillin' With My Peeps

    Mar 9, 2012
    You got lots of great advice and I agree with pretty much all of it. There is no one perfect way to raise them, so I'll give you advice on what we do here.

    If just chickens free feed Layer food, since adding other poultry, I feed All flock and free feed Oyster shell as well. Diet doesn't change because I'm free ranging. You will probably save on feed though, since they will be eating a lot through foraging. During spring through fall here I probably go through half the food I do compared to winter. Mine are major foragers, plus I supplement with veg and such from our own left overs, treats like yogurt, dried bugs, hard boiled eggs, stuff from our garden ect. The girls are pretty hard workers and lay eggs like machines, they need a bit of help I believe, to keep fit and healthy.
  9. Folly's place

    Folly's place Chicken Obsessed

    Sep 13, 2011
    southern Michigan
    I wonder where QM gets his data on the Purina feeds? The poultry feed has been fine here, bags dated and fresh, and support from the company. My experience with feed from two local feed mills has been less than stellar! Your local mill might be great, but not everyone's will be. Trashing a company needs to have actual data to support such claims, IMO. Mary
    Last edited: May 3, 2016
  10. QueenMisha

    QueenMisha Queen of the Coop

    I have no "official" data. I have my own experiences feeding my birds Purina for about 6 years and seeing the difference after having switched to a local brand. I've seen people bring in chicks raised on Purina and they are nowhere near the size of the chicks raised on a high quality brand like Bar Ale... that's happened multiple times. The adults eat less of the Bar Ale feed than they used to Purina because it's actually better for them.

BackYard Chickens is proudly sponsored by