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What do you feed your chickens in the winter?

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  • What do you feed your chickens in the winter?

    Due to our growing coyote problem around here, I no longer free range my chickens. It sure was nice on the wallet when they fee ranged since they found most of their daily diet. As the weather gets colder, they have less to forage for in their little fenced in area and I no longer have garden extras to throw them.

    I know some people don't feed layer mixes in the winter, so what do you feed them? I don't use lights in order to keep egg production up, so I'm fine giving them a break from laying. With the layer feed now over $15 a bag, they are producing some very expensive eggs. I realize I will need to spend more during the winter to keep them, but it would be nice to save a few dollars. Any ideas are appreciated.

  • #2
    I have the same problem as you re: freeranging
    I lost 3 of my 7 to a fox just this summer after 3 years of problem-free freeranging.
    I don't use lights either as I like to let my girls get some time off from laying.
    As someone once said to me: "They are not vending machines"

    I feed layer pellets year-round and don't mind the added expense when they are not laying as I like them having the added protein when it's cold out.
    I only have 4 hens now, but when I had 6 + rooster I still got nearly 2mos from a 50# bag of pellets.

    I supplement with cooked oatmeal, plain yogurt and whatever kitchen trimmings I have leftover.
    I buy kale since it's cheap and add that for greens when the grass in their yard is gone.
    For scratch feed I use BOSS and sometimes whole oats.

    A coworker who just got into juicing has provided me with some great veggie pulp left from her efforts - beet, kale, carrots, etc.
    You might try your local Jamba Juice (or equivalent) and see if they will part with some of this stuff.
    the hens LOVE it and it is a great source of nutrition.
    *friend of bar.ka*RIP all my lovely boys, gone too soon:
    Steppin' Out 1988-2004
    Hey Vern! 1982-2009, Cash's Bay Threat 1994-2009
    Sam(Jaybee Altair) 1994-2015

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    • #3
      Stake out the grocery stores several times a week - many of them will put up aging fruits and veggies in bags for quick sale at a reduced price - would be perfect for the birds.

      You could mix a layer and grower ration if the grower is cheaper. But if they do manage to keep laying, even if intermittently, you'll like having the layer ration. Keep oyster shells out too if you aren't already.

      You could keep generic oatmeal on hand and cook that up for them here and there. Canned pumpkin (pure stuff, not pie mix) is pretty cheap right now if it's still in stores.

      We were using BOSS as a big treat, but that's so $$ now so for the Winter I've switched to a scratch mix. It might even be cheaper to buy the grains separately and just toss out your own mix.

      Ditto the yogurt! Just avoid added sugars. I use plain Greek Yogurt - higher in protein too.
      ______________________________
      The CoTH CYA - please consult w/your veterinarian under any and all circumstances. - ET

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      • #4
        somebody posted it a while back (I remember, because it was of interest since I have budgies) about sprouting grains for the chickens.
        It was - unlike mine - a pretty sizable business, with 5 gallon buckets, while I don't even fill up a quart mason jar

        Gonna prowl to see if I can find it again.

        Voila:
        http://www.themodernhomestead.us/article/Sprouting.html
        Last edited by Alagirl; Nov. 28, 2012, 11:59 AM. Reason: link added
        Originally posted by BigMama1
        Facts don't have versions. If they do, they are opinions
        GNU Terry Prachett

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        • #5
          My chickens are on layer feed year round.

          I save all manner of table scraps for my chickens. Whenever I clean the fridge, anything that's too far gone for human consumption but still safe (wilted veggies, etc) goes in the chicken bucket.

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          • #6
            Layer ration is much lower in protein compared to meat bird feed, meat bird feed is much lower in calcium. If your hens are not laying and you want to plump them up or give more calories in a smaller amount, meat bird feed might work for you. Laying hens on meat bird ration need calcium supplementation.

            You can buy all sorts of bird feed and give it to your chickens, not sure if that is cheaper. Whole grains work too. I have never seen an undigested corn seed come through yet.

            Calcium supplementation idea: I save all the egg shells, bake them when the overn is on for another reason, crush the shells and add back to the feed. Eggs and hens are staying good and strong.
            Horses should be trained in such a way that they not only love their riders, but look forward to the time they are with them.
            ~ Xenophon, 350 B.C.

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            • #7
              Layer pellets year 'round for my ladies--can't free range either (don't really want to). I add "scratch grains" (corn, wheat, ?) as a breakfast treat. That stuff is like chicken crack! Anything that the dogs can't eat or doesn't belong in the compost, goes to the hens, too. I often toss them a handful of alfalfa hay once the grass dies (after the first hard freeze) to supply a bit of extra green matter.
              Proud member of the "Don't rush to kill wildlife" clique!

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              • #8
                I save all the egg shells too - they LOVE them We also have more eggs than we can eat or give to family, so every now and then I'll boil a dozen or so and mash them all up with the shells and feed that.
                ______________________________
                The CoTH CYA - please consult w/your veterinarian under any and all circumstances. - ET

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                • #9
                  I fed mine the same diet year-round - layer pellets, scratch grains, & the usual kitchen scraps. During the coldest months, I did up the amount of scratch grains, since those take longer to digest & are helpful in keeping in body heat. Would also sometimes feed a warm mash on the coldest evening. Probably did more to help me feel "cozy" than them, but whatever - they were my girls.

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                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Calvincrowe View Post
                    Layer pellets year 'round for my ladies--can't free range either (don't really want to). I add "scratch grains" (corn, wheat, ?) as a breakfast treat. That stuff is like chicken crack! Anything that the dogs can't eat or doesn't belong in the compost, goes to the hens, too. I often toss them a handful of alfalfa hay once the grass dies (after the first hard freeze) to supply a bit of extra green matter.
                    That is so not true. What do you think layer pellets are made of? Corn and wheat, with added vitamins and minerals, and calcium.

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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by halo View Post
                      That is so not true. What do you think layer pellets are made of? Corn and wheat, with added vitamins and minerals, and calcium.
                      And your point is? What exactly do you find "so not true"?

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                      • #12
                        That scratch grains, corn and wheat, are "chicken crack". Its what feed is made of.

                        I have seen so many posts on chicken forums from newbies, stating that corn is so bad for chickens, that its nothing but candy, that it has no nutritional value, thus the name "chicken crack". People read this and think its true, instead of checking out if its true or not.

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                        • #13
                          Umm...I get that pellets contain those ingredients. Perhaps you misunderstood my post. I feed layer pellets, then add scratch grains as a treat --whole grains to peck are, apparently, fun for hens...
                          Proud member of the "Don't rush to kill wildlife" clique!

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                          • #14
                            Originally posted by halo View Post
                            That scratch grains, corn and wheat, are "chicken crack". Its what feed is made of.
                            I have seen so many posts on chicken forums from newbies, stating that corn is so bad for chickens, that its nothing but candy, that it has no nutritional value, thus the name "chicken crack". People read this and think its true, instead of checking out if its true or not.
                            Still don't understand your logic.

                            Yes, obviously "layer pellets" & other extruded chicken feed products are made up of grains. But the HUGE difference in feeding scratch is that the grains are WHOLE. And in the winter especially, these WHOLE grains take longer to digest & are especially helpful/nutritious during the cold winter months. A chicken that goes to roost with a crop full of scratch grains is one happy chicken.

                            The point of this thread is WINTER FEEDING of chickens - not general nutrition.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              And, by crack, I was referring to the frantic "OOH! She's coming! She's got the "crack bucket"! Yay!!!" Kind of like a crack addict sighting his dealer....
                              Proud member of the "Don't rush to kill wildlife" clique!

                              Comment


                              • #16
                                I don't get halo's comments either, sorry

                                Whole/partial grains out there ARE chicken crack. The term "it's like crack to them" is not because it's something totally useless or harmful or non-nutritious. It's something that it loved and sought after and really, really cool. Totally unrelated to health value.

                                Most animals are as much about the form of their food as their are the enjoyment of hunting it down or picking it off something. You could grind up little field mice and serve it as a pate to kitties, but most would see a real mouse as "kitty crack".

                                chickens might like the pelleted layer feed, they don't know what's in it, it tastes good, but they LOVE scratching for and pecking at actual grains.
                                ______________________________
                                The CoTH CYA - please consult w/your veterinarian under any and all circumstances. - ET

                                Comment


                                • #17
                                  My chickens prefer scaps to any commercial feed. Fortunately, my sister-in-law owns a deli, so they routinely get scraps along with commercial feeds. Of all the commercial type feeds, I agree that mine prefer picking the grain out of Scratch and Grain feed. They leave the corn until they are really hungry.

                                  I also have some Saipan Jungle Fowl as they are supposed to withstand predation well. Researching them I read that you can provide additional protein by giving seafood based cat food. Now I will throw them some cat food in the winter as their aren't a lot of bugs out to pick at.

                                  Comment


                                  • #18
                                    I have mentioned before I sprout. Easy to do. They love it. Also feed scraps, cat food & BOSS.

                                    I do use a feeder, but I also toss BOSS, barley & dried split peas on the floor for them to scratch around for. I love how happy they sound scrathing around.
                                    "Police officers are public servants. Not James Bond with a license to kill."

                                    Comment


                                    • #19
                                      I keep mine on a layer ration year round. They are under lights as the demand for eggs goes on for my customers.

                                      I recently switched from feeding a Purina layer feed to a locally milled grain that is much less expensive...like $10 compared to $15+ for the Purina...and it has the actual ingredients listed! Not plant or grain by products and it doesn't stink. So much of the bagged feeds lately smell bad to me and the productivity of my hens had gotten very poor. I had already added some corn and whole small grains like barley and oats and managed to get production to double over the layer pellets alone. That was the first time I realized that the feed itself was no longer as good as it once was...and knowing Purina I suppose that should not surprise me given the drought and that they are likely substituting cheaper ingredients than they used before.

                                      Another local farmer put me onto this source of feed and his birds looked fantastic. So to save $5 on a bag of feed right now is well worth a bit more trouble getting it.

                                      I also feed some scratch to them more as a treat and a way to gather the birds up in the evenings as well as a nice carb boost at bedtime right before they hit the perches. Mine do free range all day and can forage as far as they wish also.

                                      Comment

                                      • Original Poster

                                        #20
                                        Thanks for all the ideas. Alagirl-I read that exact same article. I have been debating starting some sprouts. Lately, I've been digging up the grass that has been sprouting on the edge of the compost pile where the pile does not get hot enough.

                                        My chickens already get every scrap that I can find. There is very little waste in my household, but leftovers and compost material go to the girls. Right now, they are working on the leftover pumpkins from Halloween. They sure can skin the insides out.

                                        I will always provide them some layer feed, but they really enjoy finding their own stuff outside. They are so used to getting stuff that they run to the fence to greet me and run into the coup if I go inside to see what I have.

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