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Feed chickens "free choice" or twice-daily rations?

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  • Feed chickens "free choice" or twice-daily rations?

    My chicks will be 8 weeks old this week and are past (I think) the freakishly rapid stage of growth. They're big and healthy and certainly not fat, but I wonder what all you chicken experts do to manage feeding of pullets and layers--just give them free choice mash/pellets all the time and add scratch/treats? Or do you feed them a set amount once, twice a day, more often?

    I sort of think they'd be easier to train if they only got fed when they saw the human coming. Dumb chickies still can't figure out that the nightly roundup/put away in the hen-house routine isn't THE END OF THE WORLD!!! I also don't want them to get fat or waste feed--wondering what the majority of people do with routine feeding. Thanks.
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  • #2
    Free choice here. They go back in the house just before dark on their own anyway.
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    • #3
      Mine are/will be free choice. They are only 3 weeks old

      It might take a couple days of you hearding them back into the coop to learn to put themselves to bed. Or maybe try throwing them some treats into the coop every night when you want them to go in. Still might take a few days for them to catch on.

      If you are going to have them free ranging, you probably won't have to worry about them getting fat. The majority of what they eat will go toward egg production. I would worry about them not getting enough feed rather than too much.

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      • #4
        Free choice as well. I use those heavy, black rubber feed pans you use for horses, I now have 2, with layer crumble and a touch of scratch grains for my amusement.

        My local produce store provides me with a box every time I go in, of scraps from lettuces to melons that are "past their prime" (although I gleaned some lovely radishes out of there last week, but don't tell them that!!). My ladies are loving that.

        I haven't "free ranged" my little girls (9 weeks) just yet, and my old Blonde Bombshells are getting irritated that they are locked in. I'm waiting for a weekend, when I have more time to play chicken herder...
        Proud member of the "Don't rush to kill wildlife" clique!

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        • #5
          Free choice.

          If you are having trouble herding them - try sitting down with them in an enclosed area and feed them tidbits. Something red - like strawberries. Or bread or something - but they go nuts over strawberries - just cut them up in little pieces and toss them - they will start to come closer to you and eventually start running up to you when you call them.

          Mine jump on my arms and like to sit on my head. They are just a couple of weeks younger than yours.

          Last year my flock spent their day under a little grove of pokeweed in my back yard. When I tossed out fruit and vegetable trimmings from canning - I'd call to them and the entire flock would come waddling/running up - flapping their wings to go faster. It was quite a sight.

          I have two pie cherry trees in my front yard - and as usual "something" ate the cherries before I could pick them. Yesterday am I noticed Chucky had jumped the fence and was jumping up to get the ones left on the lower branches. They make a beeline for anything red.
          Brothers and sisters, I bid you beware
          Of giving your heart to a dog to tear.
          -Rudyard Kipling

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          • #6
            Originally posted by JSwan View Post
            Mine jump on my arms and like to sit on my head.
            Ok J. You can't just post that statement and NOT provide a picture.
            <>< Sorrow Looks Back. Worry Looks Around. Faith Looks Up! -- Being negative only makes a difficult journey more difficult. You may be given a cactus, but you don't have to sit on it.

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            • #7
              Originally posted by Calvincrowe View Post
              Free choice as well. I use those heavy, black rubber feed pans you use for horses, I now have 2, with layer crumble and a touch of scratch grains for my amusement.

              My local produce store provides me with a box every time I go in, of scraps from lettuces to melons that are "past their prime" (although I gleaned some lovely radishes out of there last week, but don't tell them that!!). My ladies are loving that.

              I haven't "free ranged" my little girls (9 weeks) just yet, and my old Blonde Bombshells are getting irritated that they are locked in. I'm waiting for a weekend, when I have more time to play chicken herder...
              We also free choice feed them, used those chicken feeders with holes in them, not open pans.
              That keeps them from getting in the feed and they seemed to eat more if they had to "hunt" for it thru the holes.
              Now, the oyster shells we put on the floor of the chicken house or outside and they loved to scratch and peck thru that.

              We fed some cheap horse feed for treats and they would come running for it when you called.

              Interesting about them liking red things.

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              • Original Poster

                #8
                We have a consensus! Alert the media! Thanks. They are freaks for bread and strawberries, so I just have to bribe them to come in for bedtime, I guess.
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                • #9
                  Wow, a COTH consensus. It would be about chickens huh?

                  Now, if you were talking about Cornish X chicks, that would be a whole nuther story. Those buggers will literally eat until they kill themselves. Much like horses that way.
                  Life is what happens while you are busy making other plans

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                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Calvincrowe View Post
                    My local produce store provides me with a box every time I go in, of scraps from lettuces to melons that are "past their prime"
                    My mother recently came up with an arrangement I think bears mentioning. She takes her extra eggs to the soup kitchen, and in return they give her their produce scraps.
                    Life is what happens while you are busy making other plans

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                    • Original Poster

                      #11
                      Got home late tonight--9:30, just as the sun was going down--and found all five chicks in the coop, ready for bed! They're not (all that) stupid, I guess--just not ready for bedtime when I do my evening chores!
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                      • #12
                        Chickens are funny that way, Deltawave. It is so cute to see them, as tiny little yellow or black puff balls, dust bathing away in the eensy bit of dirt attached to grass I toss in the box. Such instincts!! My ladies all head for bed when the sun goes down. Conveniently, about the time I do night check on the horses, so I can turn out their light in their house.

                        DH and I were out tonight, admiring our little flock. My Delawares are such big, bold birds. The Australorps are more shy, and reactive.

                        I like the idea of giving eggs to a food bank! Hmmm... our school does a food drive several times a year for our local one. I'll check into it. Although, I vowed my hens would be self-sustaining: eggs would pay for their grain. It would be nice to have ONE thing on this farmette that doesn't put us in debt!
                        Proud member of the "Don't rush to kill wildlife" clique!

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by ChocoMare View Post
                          Ok J. You can't just post that statement and NOT provide a picture.
                          I'll try and get Mr JSwan to take one. He was looking for me the other day and noticed my dog Homer sitting patiently outside of the grower house door. Which meant I was inside (Homer is my shadow)

                          He looked into the house and saw me sitting there with my arms out - covered in birds - and one roosting on my head.

                          I admit it's a little..... odd.


                          Deltawave - if you're around when they decide to go to bed you might hear one issue a call to the others and they'll start heading back to the coop all at once. Glad they figured out how to put themselves to bed.
                          Brothers and sisters, I bid you beware
                          Of giving your heart to a dog to tear.
                          -Rudyard Kipling

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                          • Original Poster

                            #14
                            I do think there is one dominant hen, but can't for the life of me tell which one it is on any given day as they are all identical.
                            Click here before you buy.

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                            • #15
                              Hay

                              We have ducks and geese. They don't come in at night. They have an acre pond that they live on to keep the predators at bay. We don't feed free choice mainly because the Canada geese would eat us out of house and home. Another reason we don't feed free choice is I WANT them to forage, eat the algae off the pond and they actually keep our fly population down.

                              However, in the winter, they are in the barn over night and we do have free choice feed out then. But when the weather is nice, algae, bugs and worms are abundant, they get fed duck food 2 - 3 times a day.
                              Sorry! But that barn smell is my aromatherapy!
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                              • #16
                                My new chicks figured out to go in the house at night after 2 days. Their food and water is in there. They go in around dusk. Any time sooner, and it is like a circus chasing them.

                                I feed free choice. They eat what they want. They make layer pellets, and I have found those are much less waste than the crumbles. They don't spill them or pulverize them as easily. I fill up the feeder every night for them. Sometimes they eat it all, sometimes they don't. I think it depends on the goodies they find outside.

                                It is a good idea to get them to come when called. I like to do a head count throughout the day to make sure they haven't wandered away into my neighbors yard or fallen into the lake.

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                                • #17
                                  Originally posted by deltawave View Post
                                  Got home late tonight--9:30, just as the sun was going down--and found all five chicks in the coop, ready for bed! They're not (all that) stupid, I guess--just not ready for bedtime when I do my evening chores!
                                  Mine are the same way...If I go out late enough they are in there, but they do NOT want to go in when I'm doing the evening feeding....

                                  Tonight there were only 3 of them refusing to go to bed....

                                  Fortunately they still have not discovered the strawberry patch.....
                                  Turn off the computer and go ride!

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                                  • #18
                                    My chickens love chopped up bits of grape. I use them for clicker training. Chickens are quite fun to work with.
                                    If you are allergic to a thing, it is best not to put that thing in your mouth, particularly if the thing is cats. - Lemony Snicket

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                                    • #19
                                      Free choice. And free range during light hours if possible. They also enjoy anything from wheat grass, chopped fruits, veggies, bread.

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                                      • #20
                                        Originally posted by poltroon View Post
                                        My chickens love chopped up bits of grape. I use them for clicker training. Chickens are quite fun to work with.
                                        they do love grapes.

                                        Uhm, clicker train a chicken? please elaborate

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