When is it okay to restrict access to feed?

Discussion in 'Feeding & Watering Your Flock' started by brandywine, Aug 13, 2008.

  1. brandywine

    brandywine Songster

    Jul 9, 2008
    Western PA
    I have fifteen pullets (knock wood) and a bonus roo hatched 7/5. Just started letting them out into a small run last week -- later they will free range. The run is small by necessity (otherwise it would jut out into a traffic area in front of my barn). I may also start tossing a few of them into my seldom-used dog run, so I don't have to weed whack it.

    They are eating tons of grass and weeds in the run, and I'm throwing stuff in as I weed, trying to see what they will go for. (So far: tomatoes, sorrel, clover are a big YES, lambs quarters, burdock, quack grass, and wheat, of all things, notsomuch.)

    They also get a big serving of Japanese beetles when I empty the traps every day, so lots of protein in that. A little bit of scratch as a treat and inducement to go in to bed at night.

    I've been reading about restricting chickens' access to their feeders in order to encourage foraging and cut the feed bill. There will be epic quantities of forage available to them here (we are on a remote 26 acres of pasture, hayfield, scrub and woodland).

    At what age would it be reasonable to start closing away their feeder for part of the day? For how long?

    I don't want to stunt their growth or delay laying, but I'm all about being cheap and getting the girls to pick up the tab for their own lunches.

    I'm already quite sure that their feed consumption is much less than it would be otherwise.
  2. Alaskan

    Alaskan The Frosted Flake

    My Grandma free ranged her chickens, but didn't let them out of the run (which was bare dirt even though it was very big) until after lunch.

    They hated their layer pellets, and ate very little of them even though they were fed free choice.

    I think that when they free range, everything else tastes so much better that they will only eat as much layer as they *need* to eat. In other words, I wouldn't restrict it.

    Can't believe they didn't like the wheat! Sheesh!

    And the quack grass too, I think that stuff looks like good chicken food....

    Mine love fireweed but haven't eaten the seed heads on the grass! [​IMG]
  3. bkreugar

    bkreugar Songster

    Jun 18, 2008
    Asheboro NC
    Once again I think I have weird hens.We open up the coop put down the feed and open the door to the run so they can free range,They aren't hardly interested in the feed at all.MUCH more interested in free ranging.I go through a 50lb bag with 5 chickens about 6 weeks.They look fat and happy so I don't worry.
  4. Julie08

    Julie08 Songster

    May 19, 2008
    Ontario, Canada
    Just letting them free range will cut the feed bill, I don't think you have to restrict access to the food. In my opinion that would be like hiding peas away from your child when they have candy!! Okay but not necessary! hope this helps.
  5. chiknlittle

    chiknlittle In the Brooder

    Jun 12, 2008
    Eastern Panhandle, WV
    My daddy raised chickens for years and he said that if you feed them too much they will get too fat to lay. It can also lead to medical problems like heart attacks. He suggested only feeding them what they will eat during the daytime, and then taking up the feed when you put them up at night. This is what I do now, and my chickens are healthy and at a good weight. I don't think it's the worst of ideas to feed weeds, bugs etc. to the chickens. Mine have regular chicken feed available, but they prefer to scratch for bugs. I think it's a good source of protein for them. They've cleaned out all the weeds, so I'm planning to toss in some from around the yard. Just be careful with the extras you feed since some things might change the flavor of the eggs (onions, garlic, etc.), and other things might make them sick (poison ivy, poke berries, etc.). Oh and my 3 week old brooder chicks go crazy for grubs and crickets.
  6. Julie08

    Julie08 Songster

    May 19, 2008
    Ontario, Canada
    If your birds are meat birds then yes thats correct but for layers or duel purpose that free range weight should not be a problem since they get lots of exercise when they free range.
  7. Alaskan

    Alaskan The Frosted Flake

    Quote:I really think that is only a problem if you feed something like scratch. Layer pellets just aren't that tasty. Can't imagine a chicken eating so much that they would get fat on them.
  8. silkiechicken

    silkiechicken Staff PhD

    Then them range and eat all the layer they want. Ever see their faces eating layer pellet vs greens? They'll eat all kind of stuff running around but just kind of peck through and swallow a pellet when really hungry. I wouldn't restrict them since they'll need to eat the pellets to get a few trace vits and minerals that might be lacking in your free range area. Free range sun up to sun down = about 1/2 of feed eaten.
  9. Heather J

    Heather J Songster

    May 29, 2008
    The only time I restrict the complete feed to my chickens is when my geese and ducks have access to it during the chicken's free range time because the waterbirds each eat about a cup apiece (or it seems that way) in about five minutes. When I finally figure out how to put a pop hole and ramp to the coop, I'll leave it out all the time. I always fill the feed container at bedtime, and again first thing in the morning when I let them into their run (which can often be a couple of hours after sunrise). I can't wait until we get my second coop up and running so I can move a dozen cockerels into a different run--that's next week's project. [​IMG]

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