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Thread: What should chickens eat? page

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    ciep's Avatar
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    What should chickens eat?

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    I noticed that the organic, cage-free, eggs I usually buy say "vegetarian fed hens" on the carton. It got me wondering what kind of feed is ideal for a healthy hen. I have no idea. I know that when I buy beef/bison I look for "grass-fed" (assuming that grass fed cattle are healthier, and result in higher quality, lower n-6 meat than "grain-fed").

    But what about chickens? Scanning egg cartons yesterday I saw "vegetarian fed", "high omega-3 flax-fed", "grain-fed", and possibly some others.

    What feed is ideal for healthy happy poultry? I've just realized I know nada about chickens.

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    Try to think like a free-range chicken, scratching in the dirt, bright, beady eyes looking for something that's moving, pecking at some low-hanging leaves, snatching a bite of grass, and then streaking across the yard to pounce on a baby rat. That's a typical minute in the life of a backyard chicken, and describes exactly what they eat if left to choose for themselves. My chickens peck at seeds, berries, seedlings, bugs, worms, and yes, if given the opportunity (and if the cat doesn't beat them to it), they'll eat baby rats and any other form of protein and fat they can find. Definitely not vegetarian!

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    AnneArchy's Avatar
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    Easy! They should be eating BUGS!

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    Posts here lately have stated that the vegetarian feed is not good and that the omega 3 eggs are a waste of money. I have a coworker who raises chickens and her chickens eat pretty much anything she will throw at them. Also there is no way a properly raised free range chicken is 100% vegetarian. Those suckers will snatch up a bug with a quickness.

    If I recall correctly the guy at the farmer's market where I buy chicken when I can feeds his chickens grain supplimented by whatever they catch running around in freedom
    somehow I manage to leave my intelligence and decorum at the door wherever I go. I doubt your journal will be an exception to that - not on the rug

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    ciep's Avatar
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    Enlightening answers. Thanks guys! Is there anything in particular you would look for in print on an egg carton? I'm guessing free-range is the truly important thing -- both for the chicken's QOL, and the egg quality for me (assuming free-range means a bug/worm-catching good time).

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    i have 11 chicken, i let them roam during the day, they eat grass, bugs, any of my organic leftovers. . . at night they are in their coop as we have coyotes and foxes who would love to devour them. i also give them an organic egg layer feed. the yokes are bright orange. . .very yummy!

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    Free range don't mean squat, just that they have the "option" to be outdoors 5 minutes a day. Least, that's what the legal USA definition is. Truly free-range chickens are typically sold as "pastured" chickens. As mentioned, they'll eat basically anything they can get their beaks on. Omega-3-enriched eggs get it from flax meal, but the birds do convert some of it to EPA and DHA, which are the forms that are most beneficial for us. It's not a whole lot, but it helps with the 6:3 ratio and the yolks of my O3 eggs are a deeper orange than regular ones, though not quite as much as pastured eggs.

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    I buy omega 3 eggs because I'm able to get them at Costco for about the same price as regular eggs from my local market. Even if the benefit is small, if I'm not paying more for them, then why not? Also, my sis-in-law has a small backyard flock of chickens, and I'm able to score eggs from her now & then when she has extras. She feeds them flax seed to get the higher omega-3's.

    And I totally agree about what PPs have said about a chicken's diet. They'll eat nearly anything. For myself, I would avoid buying eggs that tout a vegetarian diet. That's not natural for a chicken at all. We had chickens for years when I was a kid, and we fed them all kinds of kitchen scraps. And we had ducks too -- they're favorite treat was slugs from the garden, and their eggs were delicious!

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    Quote Originally Posted by duckmama View Post
    I buy omega 3 eggs because I'm able to get them at Costco for about the same price as regular eggs from my local market. Even if the benefit is small, if I'm not paying more for them, then why not?
    Very true, and I buy them when they are on sale and comparably priced. I'm just not going to pay an extra $1 a dozen for them any more
    somehow I manage to leave my intelligence and decorum at the door wherever I go. I doubt your journal will be an exception to that - not on the rug

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    Quote Originally Posted by AndreaReina View Post
    Free range don't mean squat, just that they have the "option" to be outdoors 5 minutes a day. Least, that's what the legal USA definition is.
    Yes, exactly. And by the time in their lives that the door is opened to let the chickens out in their little yard, they're too scared to go out there. As Michael Pollan says here: http://michaelpollan.com/resources/animal-welfare/

    “Free range” doesn’t necessarily mean the chicken has had access to grass; many egg and broiler producers offer their chickens little more than a dirt yard where nothing grows. Look for the word “pastured.” And in the case of beef, keep in mind that all cattle are fed grass until they get to the feedlot; “grass finished” or “100% grass fed” is what you want. For more on the nutritional benefits of pastured food and where to find it go to eatwild.com.

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