Rationing chicken feed vs. all they can eat?

Discussion in 'Feeding & Watering' started by Mama Hen, Nov 16, 2020.

  1. Mama Hen

    Mama Hen New Member

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    Hi all!
    We have 18 chickens, most of them are Australorps with a half dozen Golden Comets. So far we have fed them ad lib- constant access to layer feed and cracked corn. They have access to a run most days, if it’s not too cold here in northern North Dakota. Otherwise we keep them inside in an insulated coop with a heat lamp. My question is, do we need to ration their feed? And if so, how much feed to give them daily? I am concerned that they are eating more than is necessary, but simultaneously I understand they probably do need to eat more, now that it’s cold. Any thoughts will be appreciated- thanks in advance!
     
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  2. robin416

    robin416 Administrator Staff Member

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    Chickens are foragers and eat all day long. Chances of them getting fat are slim if they're getting the exercise they also need.

    I have concerns about the heat lamp. They should not need it since they are in an insulated coop. And it creates issues going from a warm place, I'm using that term loosely, to the cold outdoors.

    They need to spend more outdoor time. If you put a tarp on the windward side of their run they can spend the day out there and if it's sunny they get the added benefit of the Vitamin D.
     
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  3. Poultry Judge

    Poultry Judge Moderator Staff Member

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    Yes, outside time is important and not too much of a temperature differential. If your coop is insulated, you should be fine.
     
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  4. Mama Hen

    Mama Hen New Member

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    Good to know! I failed to mention that so far the heat lamp has been on a timer. It’s only on early in the morning for a few hours and then again in the evening. Even with the heat lamp in there I doubt it gets much warmer than 35 degrees. The tarp is a good idea that we’ll have to implement. Any other suggestions for overwintering chickens in our near arctic zone 3?
     
  5. robin416

    robin416 Administrator Staff Member

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    What are they roosting on? Most of us use 2X4 fat side up. That way the birds can hunker down over their feet completely and avoid frostbite.

    Even down here where it's hot we have windy days the birds don't want to deal with. Tarps or shade cloth is used a lot to cut the wind.
     
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  6. Poultry Judge

    Poultry Judge Moderator Staff Member

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    35 is actually pretty warm.
     
  7. Closed Flock

    Closed Flock Member

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    I provide chickens in a maintenance state (not growing or in lay) held singly a ration all the time without issue. They are also watched closely for inability to keep weight on. The ration system can still work with single birds that are growing or in lay, but feed allotment needs to be adjusted with need, especially as impacted by temperature. If you do not adjust feed allotment with need, then growth or egg production will suffer. As it get colder (wind chill is actually better measure) a larger ration is needed to meet needs for everything going on with the birds. My chickens are big time outside so feed intake varies a lot with the weather making so about half the time they are effectively getting free-choice access to feed while other days they would eat more than offered.

    When they are housed in groups, excess feed needs to be present to ensure pecking order issues do not result in lower ranking birds getting less to eat and possibly having need for more because stressed by bullying. I also see a lot more feed wastage with multiple birds in a group.

    The free-choice / all they can eat approach requires a lot less management effort on your part when feeding. For me it is worth it because it helps with rodent management helps me read birds based on their interest in feed.
     
  8. Poultry Judge

    Poultry Judge Moderator Staff Member

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    Rodents can be a huge issue and hard to eradicate.
     
  9. robin416

    robin416 Administrator Staff Member

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    I've got bait out now for rodents.
     
  10. Closed Flock

    Closed Flock Member

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    I have yet to use rodenticides and have trapped rodents only because kids were interested in doing so. Rodents here more of an issue around permanent structures like the barn. Pens out in open are much less problematic because it is there I also employ restricted feedings the most or make so feed is applied well away from pens during the day. Those feeding areas are always in the open and periodically moved to reduce damage to ground.
     
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  11. Poultry Judge

    Poultry Judge Moderator Staff Member

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  12. Slippy

    Slippy Active Member

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    Take a 5 gallon bucket, fill 1/4 way with water. Drill 2 holes in top of bucket across from each other (12 and 6)
    Take a used water bottle, cap on and drill holes in bottom and into cap. Slide a wooden dowell through one end of bucket, through water bottle and through other end of bucket so that water bottle is suspended over water in bucket. Dab Peanut Butter on to water bottle.

    Mice will climb up to get peanut butter, water bottle will rotate and dump mice into water bucket where they will drown.

    Cook mice over spit and salt and pepper to taste!

    (Just kidding about the last part!)
     
  13. danathome

    danathome Well-Known Member

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    I do not provide an abundance of food as there are many reasons not to that have been mentioned in other posts; spoilage, rodents, etc. I do not believe in rationing either. I provide the amount of feed to last all day. If the feed is completely gone before the day is over, I feed a bit more the next day. If there is food left from the day before I feed a bit less. Ideally, I want feed to be available all day long, but to be completely gone by sundown so there is nothing left for mice and rats to get during the night.
     
  14. Closed Flock

    Closed Flock Member

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    Apparent Satiation
     
  15. danathome

    danathome Well-Known Member

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    Yes. Most of my birds are free range or have enough room to stay active and not become obese. As others have mentioned, it is important that birds have the room to stay active and exercise.
     
  16. Poultry Judge

    Poultry Judge Moderator Staff Member

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    Yes, they absolutely do best if they can free range at least some of the time.
     
  17. Poultry Judge

    Poultry Judge Moderator Staff Member

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    Robin's Guineas free range at the neighbor's house...
     
  18. robin416

    robin416 Administrator Staff Member

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    No, they're not free ranging at the neighbor's house. They're there solely to terrorize the chickens in the pen.
     
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  19. Poultry Judge

    Poultry Judge Moderator Staff Member

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  20. robin416

    robin416 Administrator Staff Member

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    Just four. No rooster.

    Next property over is another that has a whole bunch of pitiful birds. I'm just waiting to have to drive them from over there.

    If they would go to the property north of me I'd be happy. She enjoys the Guineas. But no, they never go where they're wanted.