Chicken Utopia!

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rick
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Chicken Utopia!

Post by rick » Fri Jul 14, 2017 11:42 pm

I've been mulling this thing over and I don't know the answer (if there even is one) but was wondering what you all thought...
I'm imagining a Utopian free range chicken world where there are no boundaries to a mown lawn with trees and, of course, no predators! There is also a supply of premium layers pellets.
Would they eat the pellets? Would it matter if they didn't - although given that they are not wild birds and to perform as laying hens (bred more or less for that reason) without lacking in productivity or health.
But some of us come close to providing areas that don't get 'chickened out' - presumably they don't eat so many pellets...
In contrast, many of us have an area that gets stripped pretty quickly (bare soil and very little in the way of surviving plants.) I just let mine out into the garden this evening for the first time for a while. They do a great job of raking all the leaves out from under the fence - just swept them up - thanks girls! Aerial was eating so much compost from plant pots I put them back in after an hour, worried she might explode! There will be some big black poops on the shelf tomorrow morning.
But the point is; if they were free ranging they would eat as much greens, seeds, worms, beetles etc as they could handle and probably would get through very few pellets. I have been wavering between giving them copious cabbage and spring greens - then none (like when worming) and just pellets. They rapidly adapt to both.
Greens are defiantly good but they do eat less pellets. Pellets are defiantly good because they are domestic hens...
I'm probably overthinking this, it won't be the first time!!!

... P.S. We all know what commercial free range looks like - nothing like the Waitrose advert (shot from very low over the grass outside the run) and more like the Arizona desert! I'm guessing they must get through a several truckloads of cabbage a week!
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Re: Chicken Utopia!

Post by valeriebutterley » Sat Jul 15, 2017 7:08 am

We all do the best we can for our beloved girls, I certainly do. A fairly spacious run of bare earth the largest we can provide, bugger the actual dimensions, pellets, greens of all sorts, the occasional slice of granary bread, and loads of love, seems to make a very contented, tame girl.
Seeing them free ranging in the garden I find fascinating, just watching them each with a mate or a particular clique go about their busy business cropping the grass, the chasing and the head down wing flap charge always makes me smile, I personally do not understand people who keep chickens but keep them always penned up, and not free in the garden. If, like recently, the weather has been glorious. I scoop the poop when they are in for the for the night, precious flower beds were protected, pots moved out of busy beaks way. Chickens are so simple, easy to keep happy, endearing, and supply endless eggs of rainbow colours, from very large to tiny. They are one of the best things I have discovered in my (very) later years.
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dinosaw
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Re: Chicken Utopia!

Post by dinosaw » Sat Jul 15, 2017 9:17 am

Oh they still eat their pellets alright!. Not quite so many, but still a hefty amount, I presume they taste quite nice. You also get less eggs as they seem to enjoy finding alternative laying sites.
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Re: Chicken Utopia!

Post by MrsBiscuit » Sat Jul 15, 2017 11:50 am

I think a real chicken utopia would be a world free from predators :D after that maybe plenty of tree cover and rough grassland full of weeds and wild plants for a variety of leaves and petals and plenty of seed heads. A cultivated veg plot for easy pickings, fruit bushes with low hanging branches and soft fruit windfalls would be luxury and constantly turned soil for grubs would also help :D

Apart from the lack of predators I am kind of describing my back garden in the UK, and my observations are that most birds help themselves to whatever natural foods they fancy but they still return to the feeder for pellets. I am forced to conclude orpingtons are lazy and polands are so small it takes too long to hunt your own dinner when you could be sunbathing :D The only exceptions were some utility Sussex and they ate more wild forage than pellets. I feel sure that after a few generations they would go back to being what they were before we humans got hold of them :D
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Re: Chicken Utopia!

Post by Evie » Sat Jul 15, 2017 11:51 am

:D oh rick, that did make me smile.

You're exactly right on all fronts. Yes, they've been bred to lay a wholly unnatural number of eggs so need their artifical feed for the necessary amount of calcium and protein etc for their health. You could leave pellets in a rat proof area in their run that they can get to in the morning so they can fill up and eat a fair amount of them each day. That way it's the best of both worlds, probably, and if you ever get egg shell problems you can always adapt your system.

Do you not have a problem with predators? We do around here, in our garden it's fine during the day as long as we are at home and can hear everything that's going on, but we can't leave them out of sight. Utopia needs a predator proof area ;) And they do pooh all over the place - shoes off when you come inside and no bare feet on the grass! :lol: But they're so worth it! :-)17
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Re: Chicken Utopia!

Post by chrismahon » Sat Jul 15, 2017 12:14 pm

Our neighbours' hens didn't much like free ranging- they used to grub around in bushes and then sprint across the lawn to get under cover of the next bush. It was rare to see them in the open. in fact the only time was when their feed was thrown out and they had to get to it before the rats, sparrows and dog ate it. The last survivor of yet another fox attack is now being looked after by us. She is under a bush surrounded by chicken wire, eats as many pellets as she wants and is perfectly happy. I think they prefer being enclosed, as long as the area is big enough.
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rick
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Re: Chicken Utopia!

Post by rick » Sat Jul 15, 2017 1:44 pm

That's all really interesting and its good to know that beyond the industrial leaden skys and the horizon there IS a chicken Utopia in your back garden Mrs B :)
I haven't been able to let them out much in the summer as our remaining garden, outside the run, is about the same size and full of pots with plants that are blooming but also a bit too heavy and tall to move easily (just taller than the dog can cock his leg but an easy hop for a hen!)
They do like coming out because there are surprises to find although I suspect it would get as familiar, explored and denuded within a week as it is inside the run. I put cabbage up and have my patent (not really) grain sprinkler in there but they do seem to get a little bored. The pellets are always available and its totally fox proof now - we have a mouse from time to time but no rats so far and if they did turn up some finer mesh over the weld mesh could keep them out. It's a covered coop/run with access throughout for them all of the time.
So it seems, its not so much what they will find to eat when they are 'free ranging' but the act itself of foraging and free ranging that is a bit limited here.
But also good to know that it shouldn't be possible to overdo the greens supply.
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Re: Chicken Utopia!

Post by bigyetiman » Sun Jul 16, 2017 3:31 pm

Chicken Utopia for my Bluebell is the freedom to beat up anyone that gets within range. For the Light Sussex it is not getting up til late, then just lazing around. For the rest it's being out in the garden and maybe finding that I have forgotten to move the pots with the pepper plants out of the way and they can munch away happily on them, sheer bliss is following us as we dig the garden
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Re: Chicken Utopia!

Post by Evie » Sun Jul 16, 2017 8:20 pm

bigyetiman wrote:Chicken Utopia for my Bluebell is the freedom to beat up anyone that gets within range. For the Light Sussex it is not getting up til late, then just lazing around. For the rest it's being out in the garden and maybe finding that I have forgotten to move the pots with the pepper plants out of the way and they can munch away happily on them, sheer bliss is following us as we dig the garden

How about: "yay, she didn't cover up the new bean plants, yummy!" :mrgreen:

A few hours of free ranging would do them, rick, just the fact that it's outside of their run will make them want to be in the garden even if they've been there for years. The grass is greener on the other side, even when you're a chicken :D
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Re: Chicken Utopia!

Post by Evie » Sun Jul 16, 2017 8:20 pm

bigyetiman wrote:Chicken Utopia for my Bluebell is the freedom to beat up anyone that gets within range. For the Light Sussex it is not getting up til late, then just lazing around. For the rest it's being out in the garden and maybe finding that I have forgotten to move the pots with the pepper plants out of the way and they can munch away happily on them, sheer bliss is following us as we dig the garden

How about: "yay, she didn't cover up the new bean plants, yummy!" :mrgreen:

A few hours of free ranging would do them, rick, just the fact that it's outside of their run will make them want to be in the garden even if they've been there for years. The grass is greener on the other side, even when you're a chicken :D
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