Saturday, November 26, 2016

We need your input- A Ralph Post

As most of you know, our poultry is free roaming and far ranging! We basically have no restrictions for them (with the exception of the nightly lockup - after they put themselves into the chicken house and onto the roost). We have lights in the chicken house that we turn on about half an hour before dusk. This pulls the chickens in to the chicken house. The chicken house was built inside of the barn, so it is quite dark inside. After we close the door (as we say goodnight to the hens), we turn the lights out. They have full access to the yard, gardens, fields, and the buildings (when the doors are open) all day long. 

We have feeders for the poultry. One feeder hangs in the breeze way. One is in bay two, near the outside door. We have a trough out in the yard.

 There is a trough in the sheep pen. 

And there is a third trough in the middle of the barn where they are always passing. They pass in and out and through the barn all day long. They have access to feed somewhere all day long. We have observed that they do not camp out at the feed. It is rare to see more than one or two at a time at any feeder. Same with water. We have seven watering points for the poultry. Unless it rains, then we have many more! 

We just slaughtered eight roosters. They were healthy and fat. They had a good bit of abdominal fat. It was not overly excessive, but was more than “normal”. Winter is coming on and animals store fat during summers’ bounty for the bleak winter in order to survive. That is what we think we were seeing. It was not excessive and was a bright yellow. Healthy looking. As are the hen’s yolks. When Fiona processed the gizzards, they were healthy looking, with nice fat cover, nice meat, and cleaned easily. Our impression was that these roosters were in quite good shape and very healthy. We roasted one the next day. It was juicy, sweet, nice drippings for gravy, and not greasy. The skin, fat, everything was a nice, vibrant color. The fat was so bright and fresh looking. These roosters had grass and weeds and bugs all summer long. They are still having greens and bugs from the cover crops. Feed was not their only source of nutrition. I am sure this added to the health and color.

Our question: Are we over feeding? We don’t think so. Many people insist on only a half pound or quarter pound or whatever per bird per day. We go by feeder height. If it is low, we put some in it, or fill it up. One feeder might get hit heavy today and another tomorrow. This is governed by their roaming patterns. Most non-human animals stop eating when they are full (have had enough to eat). The ones we butchered back in the spring, did not have as much fat. But that was the end, not the beginning, of winter. And those roosters were younger.

The wind was out of the south about 15+ MPH today. The trough north of the barn was filled this morning and again this afternoon. It normally only gets filled once a day. I think they were over here to get out of the wind.

My instinct is to keep going as is. Our birds seem to be healthy and happy. We are not made of money, whatever that rare commodity is. But, we aren’t worrying about the cost. If it gets too expensive, we will be eating more chicken, duck, and turkey. We are using about three to three and a half bags of feed a week. That is 150 to 175 pounds of feed a week for 40 adult chickens, 35-40 juvenile chickens of various ages, about 16 adult or near adult turkeys, about 22 ducks, and 1 guinea. All of this at the beginning of winter.

So, back to our question: Are we over feeding? Any suggestions?

Thanks for your input and wisdom. May God bless you as you deserve. 

Ralph and Fiona

PS: Mosquitoes! Was this a bad year for them? Were the poultry to blame? Because we are up on top of a hill? We have a pond. But no mosquitoes. Fiona and I were talking yesterday. She says she only had two all summer. I had six or seven. Mine were later in the summer and late in the evening. We had a wet spring and early summer. Where were the mosquitoes? We’ll pay for those comments next year. Whoever has those little creatures, please keep them. Moses should have left them off of the Ark!!!


  1. We feed free choice inside the hen house so they come in to lay. Water in several places. We feed organic laying mash with some organic scratch thrown out in the mornings. Over-fat hens won't lay as well. We use the hanging feeders and put a lid on top. Open feeders encourage mice, squirrels and birds to eat feed. We have cut down on feed since we went to strictly hanging feeders. If your hens are active and laying well and cleaning up their feed, I think you are doing OK. Just make sure that it is the chickens eating all that food. Chicken fat is good and it sounds like your roosters were just right.

    1. All our feed is non-gmo. The Amish are quite aware of its dangers. Fiona froze a lot of the fat to render later.

    2. Non GMO is not the same as organic. Chemicals are sprayed on non GMO but not organic

  2. We had fewer flies and mosquitoes as well, and I'm confident it's due to the chickens. As far as feeding, I recall reading that they don't over eat, and you're very happy with the results of your current program, so...carry on! IMHO

    1. One note, the chickens do not like the Asian beetles.