Winter food

lazy gardener

Crossing the Road
7 Years
Nov 7, 2012
27,610
26,710
907
CENTRAL MAINE zone 4B
Flock blocks are very high in fat. I choose not to use them. As for corn or oats and the theory that they will keep the birds warmer in the winter, many threads have gone around and around about this topic, causing (pardon my pun) heated debates! A calorie is a calorie is a calorie. As long as the birds have good nutrition, they will be fine in the winter. Chicken feed is high in corn and other grains, so the assumption that giving them extra grains, either whole or cracked will make them warmer in the winter just does not make sense to me. And for that matter, when a body digests a large meal, a lot of peripheral blood gets diverted to the digestive system to distribute the digested nutrients, resulting in a temporary feeling of "being cold". Corn is also high in fat. While extra fat in the body might be a good thing during the winter, too much visceral fat can cause egg laying issues. Some hens when processed carry an incredible amount of deep yellow visceral fat from a diet too high in treats, scratch grains with the large amount of corn being the chief offender.
 

pamonarch

Songster
Aug 19, 2017
135
171
126
Wellsboro, PA
Flock blocks are very high in fat. I choose not to use them. As for corn or oats and the theory that they will keep the birds warmer in the winter, many threads have gone around and around about this topic, causing (pardon my pun) heated debates! A calorie is a calorie is a calorie. As long as the birds have good nutrition, they will be fine in the winter. Chicken feed is high in corn and other grains, so the assumption that giving them extra grains, either whole or cracked will make them warmer in the winter just does not make sense to me. And for that matter, when a body digests a large meal, a lot of peripheral blood gets diverted to the digestive system to distribute the digested nutrients, resulting in a temporary feeling of "being cold". Corn is also high in fat. While extra fat in the body might be a good thing during the winter, too much visceral fat can cause egg laying issues. Some hens when processed carry an incredible amount of deep yellow visceral fat from a diet too high in treats, scratch grains with the large amount of corn being the chief offender.
How much of the oats and cracked corn mixture should I be giving my 15 girls? I have been throwing about 4 or 5 cups throughout the run in the late afternoon (5pm) ,it's getting dark here in PA by 7 now. Is that too much? I try to put enough so all of them get some.
 

pamonarch

Songster
Aug 19, 2017
135
171
126
Wellsboro, PA
They'll love it - not certain it's necessary. The cabbage or flock block is a great idea to combat boredom.
Thank you, maybe just oats in the evening and not cracked corn or 5 grain scratch? I'm thinking once or twice a week adding in the cracked corn, and still have to cabbage ball hanging...i am getting 13 to 15 eggs a day now, but the nights are coming earlier and it's getting colder so I know that will slow down...its getting confusing on what to feed them..lol..i try to get them out to free range everyday for 2 hours in the late afternoon..if I can't let them out I give them the mixture and sometimes mealworms mixed in. They look great and seem happy!
 

centrarchid

Free Ranging
10 Years
Sep 19, 2009
23,771
13,109
696
Holts Summit, Missouri
During winter months I offer a base diet that is in the range of 19 to 20% crude protein. The amount offered is roughly that they will consume in its entirety when temperature is about 50 degrees F. As temperatures drop, the birds need more energy to keep warm. I could respond by simply adding more feed with the 19 to 20% crude protein, but that is expensive. The approach I take is to provide, in addition to the conserved level of basal diet, a mixture of grains I consider to be an energy source. The mixture is made up of whole grains that approximates scratch mixes you can by. When it get cold I try to feed birds twice a day where first feeding is dominated by the basal diet and second is the grain mix. The whole grain nature ensures birds can see grains even in low light levels typical of winter. Generally, all feed offered in morning is consumed before that second allotment of feed is offered. When the chickens are really hungry they will come down from roost to eat if light level sufficient, especially when snow is on the ground.

My birds have it tougher than most, even when compared to chickens kept much further north. Most of mine sleep effectively under stars during the winter with minimal protection from wind. This sets the stage where the birds and I develop a rapport I know when they need more of energy dense supplement / scratch.

Care is taken not to dilute intake of the basal diet as intake of the whole grains increases. When it get really cold, feed intake of the chickens can more than double. Since we have decent weather predictions, you can anticipate needs and add a little more or less of the energy dense fraction to carry birds through night and into next morning.
 

igorsMistress

In the middle
Premium member
6 Years
Apr 9, 2013
12,966
60,427
1,322
My Coop
My Coop
I give my birds Scratch & Peck in the morning, about 1 to 1.5 cups, and often a cup of pigeon feed with dry oats and mealworms added in late afternoon. These are instead of scratch but the s&p has corn in it. I haven't noticed anyone panting more usual in the heat when they get corn so am unconvinced by the corn warms the birds up theory.

I do buy pigeon lite so no corn there. Corn is just a filler imo, not much nutritional value.
 

doubleleft

Songster
6 Years
Dec 20, 2013
499
281
206
Whole corn and soaked oats, chickens love them both. I feed soaked oats or any soaked feed in rubber bowls(any type bowl, pan or solid surface, wood or block will work). I keep straw or hay in my pens about ankle deep (if not more) and throw grains in it ..... gives them much needed exercise.
 

pamonarch

Songster
Aug 19, 2017
135
171
126
Wellsboro, PA
Whole corn and soaked oats, chickens love them both. I feed soaked oats or any soaked feed in rubber bowls(any type bowl, pan or solid surface, wood or block will work). I keep straw or hay in my pens about ankle deep (if not more) and throw grains in it ..... gives them much needed exercise.
thank you..i have read about the deep bedding and how the chickens work it into a compost throughout the winter months..i plan on doing that..and putting scratch throughout the coop to give them something to scratch for...i read it also helps work the pooh through the bedding making it less apt for amonia buildup..the floor of my coop is dirt, and i read that that helps with the compost mix..i also read that gathering leaves from your yard and putting them in the coop and runs will help keep birds busy, and add to compost building..do you agree?
 

lazy gardener

Crossing the Road
7 Years
Nov 7, 2012
27,610
26,710
907
CENTRAL MAINE zone 4B
How much of the oats and cracked corn mixture should I be giving my 15 girls? I have been throwing about 4 or 5 cups throughout the run in the late afternoon (5pm) ,it's getting dark here in PA by 7 now. Is that too much? I try to put enough so all of them get some.
That seems like quite a bit. Even at only 4 cups, each bird would be eating 1/4 C. each. More than I'd want to give. As long as they have free choice of their layer or MF, I'd cut that amount of grain in half.

thank you..i have read about the deep bedding and how the chickens work it into a compost throughout the winter months..i plan on doing that..and putting scratch throughout the coop to give them something to scratch for...i read it also helps work the pooh through the bedding making it less apt for amonia buildup..the floor of my coop is dirt, and i read that that helps with the compost mix..i also read that gathering leaves from your yard and putting them in the coop and runs will help keep birds busy, and add to compost building..do you agree?
I use DL in coop and run, only buy shavings when I run out of dry leaves. Current coop bedding is leaves, grass clippings, and some shavings, with it being almost 12" deep under the perches. Will clean a lot of that out as fresh dry leaves become available next month. Hope to have about 25 bags of dry leaves stock piled to get through the winter.
 
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