Winter feed

Discussion in 'Managing Your Flock' started by Chicken George2009, Dec 18, 2009.

  1. Chicken George2009

    Chicken George2009 New Egg

    Dec 13, 2009
    During the (warmer) summer months I like to feed my chickens layer pellets, During the winter I switch to a combination of layer pellets and Cracked Corn. Does this sound ok i'm a beginer, I also give them scratch grain daily on the floor of thier coop ????
  2. rhoda_bruce

    rhoda_bruce Chillin' With My Peeps

    Aug 19, 2009
    Cut Off, LA
    Well corn doesn't have much in the way of nutrition, but does have use for fattening, so it is high in calories and would support the extra energy needs for keep warm. I think its a plan.
  3. patandchickens

    patandchickens Flock Mistress

    Apr 20, 2007
    Ontario, Canada
    If you live somewhere it gets fairly cold, corn can be used to provide extra calories (as they burn through more keeping themselves warm in cold weather) so they don't lose weight trying to keep themselves warm

    I don't think it's generally relevant unless the birds are in poor condition to start with (i.e need all the help they can get) or temperatures inside the coop are really cold, like single digits F or lower, though. IMHO.

    And you don't want to feed them too much corn if you can avoid it (if your indoor coop temp is like -25 F, you probably *should* feed free choice corn [​IMG]) because it is seriously not a balanced all round source of nutrition for chickens and eating too much of it -- which they will, if given the opportunity, as chickens really like corn -- can throw their diet out of whack and make them less-healthy and less-resiliant than they should be, and can affect laying.

  4. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner True BYC Addict

    Feb 2, 2009
    Northwest Arkansas
    First I'll give the formal position. All treats should not make up more than 10% of the overall diet. This includes kitchen wastes, greens from the garden, insects, and scratch. The theory is that the layer ration is a balanced food and contains everything they need. If you feed too much other stuff, especially stuff they prefer to eat over their layer ration, their diet gets out of balance. One rule of thumb is that they should be able to clean up all treats in a 10 to 20 minute period.

    Another theory is that too much scratch will cause them to get fat, especially around their vent area and get fat on their internal organs. The extra fat around the vent can supposedly cause them to get egg bound or prolapse. The fat on their internal organs can cause something caused fatty liver syndrome. Fatty liver syndrome does kill chickens. You can google it to confirm if you don't believe it.

    I've also heard that if you feed scratch or just straight corn just before they roost, that it is high energy and will help keep them warm at night. I'm guessing that is why you want to feed yours scratch in the winter.

    I'm not a veterinarian and I have not spent my life studying chicken nutrition like some of the people at the Universiies associated with the extension services, usually the state land grant university. From my reading, both those first two theories (balanced nutrition and fatty liver syndrome) theories come from people who have studied chickens, usually in conjunction with the big commercial poultry operations. I'm not sure where the "keep them warm in winter" comes from but it could certainly be from a similar source. The theory makes sense to me. The commercial operations are the ones that bring tax revenue into the states, provide jobs, and provide funds to the universities to pay for the research, so I can certainly understand that emphasis. Thus you have to take whatever you read from the extension services or universities with that in mind, although some extension services do specifically comment on small hobby flocks like ours.

    I do not feed scratch at any time. Mine get layer plus whatever kitchen scraps, greens, and Japanese beetles in season that I feed them. I don't know where you are located or how cold it gets (you might want to modify your profile to show that information. It does sometimes help in the conversation on here), but I have experienced (+) 9 degrees Fahrenheit already this winter and mine had no ill effects without the extra energy from scratch. I do not provide heat either, just a well ventilated, draft-free coop.

    On the diet I mentioned, I have noticed when I process mine that they do have a heavy glob of fat in the vent area and they do have fat on their gizzard and liver. It seems to go by breed with the Australorp the ones with the most fat although they all have it. Maybe that is why Australorps are supposed to be better winter layers than some nother breeds. I really don't know about that. The ones with a lot of fat do not look fat while they are living and appear as active as the others. I have had one Australorp die with no apparent injuries and no apparent cause. I am not saying it was fatty liver syndrome, but I believe it is certainly possible. This is without a supposedly fattening diet.

    Many people feed a lot of scratch and have no apparent ill effects. Some people seem to do things by the theories and still have problems. I'm not going to try to tell you what to do, just try to provide some information from my perspective and let you make up your own mind.

    Good luck however you decide.
  5. patandchickens

    patandchickens Flock Mistress

    Apr 20, 2007
    Ontario, Canada
    Quote:It's pretty general practice to feed livestock more corn in the coldest weather, isn't it? Places I've lived, anyhow. Because of the oil content, corn is a reasonably calorie-rich feed, thus eating X amount of corn provides more calories than eating X amount of oats or whatever. This is only relevant when total caloric intake becomes a limiting factor, of course, i.e. in thin or *very* cold animals, but that DOES happen sometimes.

    FWIW, some Exciting Debates have been had on BYC on this subject, centering on whether corn warms chickens up. Readers Digest condensed version is, not directly, but it keeps them warmer than being in caloric deficit does [​IMG] I do not honestly know about chickens, but in normal livestock [​IMG] you feed them more high-fiber feed in winter to generate more body heat per kg of food consumed (thus, upping horses' hay rations not grain rations, in very cold weather); corn is not a high-fiber feed and does not generate as much body heat per kg consumed. Thus you have people saying corn is not a warming feed. OTOH if an animal is losing body weight by burning off more calories to stay warm than it's consuming, corn can be a useful concentrated source of caloric intake. Thus, you have people saying corn is useful when it's very cold out. In reality, both are right, just in different ways.

    Last edited: Dec 18, 2009

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