Will hens lay eggs on forage alone?

Discussion in 'Feeding & Watering Your Flock' started by chickenannie, May 25, 2008.

  1. chickenannie

    chickenannie Songster

    Nov 19, 2007
    This is continuing on another thread that touched on this.

    Does anyone know if hens are allowed to free range (on a farm) if they can get enough forage to continue producing eggs? I imagine they would lay MORE if they were fed more, but I'm guessing they wouldn't starve on their own either.
    An organic vegetable farmer I know wanted to have a couple of hens that lived in the barn and ranged freely.
  2. morelcabin

    morelcabin Songster

    Feb 8, 2007
    Ontario Canada
    Yes I believe they would be able to forage enough to survive and lay eggs. The problem would be predators and winter months (depending on where you live)
  3. chickenannie

    chickenannie Songster

    Nov 19, 2007
    Do you know if egg-laying goes down?
  4. ibpboo

    ibpboo Where Chickens Ride Horses

    Jul 9, 2007
    always changing
    I have a game hen that just started living in my yard/tree. She is free range at all times and she lays eggs everyday. She did go broody for a few weeks, but she got up now. She does get a little lay crumbles/scratch sometimes, but for the most part she is just eating forage and bugs.
  5. kees

    kees Songster

    Feb 5, 2008
    My hens are no longer broody and they are free-foraging and seem quite happy. I wonder too if egg-laying will decrease. From what I understand it takes about 5 weeks after being broody to start laying again. I do miss those fresh eggs!
  6. SillyChick

    SillyChick Songster

    Dec 15, 2007
    Yes I think they will lay on forage alone. I have a native chicken that lives on free-range and we only seldom give them food like leftovers. We found a nest she made in the bushes and it had 9 eggs(don't let the eggs collect in the nest or she will get broody!)!

    Hope it helps!
  7. kstaven

    kstaven Crowing

    Jan 26, 2007
    BC, Washington Border
    If they have the quantity and quality forage they need to maintain a balanced diet egg laying will not suffer at all. Soil is a major factor here also. If it is lacking the forage will be lacking also.
  8. chickenannie

    chickenannie Songster

    Nov 19, 2007
    It's hard to know what is "enough" nutritional forage... These chickens would free-range on a farm with one horse pasture and a 4-acre organic veg garden. I think it would have a lot of foraged food to choose from. I guess maybe we'll have to give it a go.

    Now I'm betting the problem is, if you don't feed them, how do you get them to roost back in a henhouse (since you want them to lay their eggs where you can find them)!
  9. greyfields

    greyfields Crowing

    Mar 15, 2007
    Washington State
    Yes they will continue to lay but won't be as prolific as if they were just grain fed continuously. It also depends on your circumstances. Someone in a residential area with a tiny backyard would have little luck since there just isn't enough space or gleanings. On a farm, where you are spilling feed for other animsl, moving hay, gardening, etc. the hens will do quite well.

    As an experiment, I would try putting out enough feed for roughly 50% their daily needs then monitor your egg rate. If you can live with it, then try going down to 1/3. Ultimately, they should hvae some kind of complete ration around, though, just so you don't develop problems with trace mineral deficiences.

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