Over the past couple of months my chickens were fed different types of feed along with their laying mash. During this observation the hens were between 7 – 8 months old.
Time of year during this observation was August – early October. Daytime temps ranged between the mid 80s – mid to upper 90s.
Oats, hen scratch and laying crumbles
For close to a month the chickens were given a 4 – 5 ounce scoop of feed oats, 4 – 5 ounces of hen scratch, a 3 – 4 ounce scoop of crushed oyster shell for calcium. Free access to Arrow Feeds poultry laying crumbles was provided at all times.
The Hens were let out of the coop early in the morning right around sunrise. The mixture of feed oats, hen scratch and ground oyster shell were spread over the ground for the chickens to pick up.
Egg production slowly dropped until the hens were laying around 5 – 6 eggs a day.
Free range and laying crumbles
Hen scratch and oats were stopped, so the hens had access to Arrow Feeds poultry laying crumbles during the day. In the evening a few hours before sundown, the hens were let out of the run to free range.
The area the hens were allowed to free range in is a tree line between my house and my neighbors house. The tree line is about 15 feet wide and is full of bushes and trees.
With access to only laying crumbles and free range, egg production increased to around 7 – 10 eggs a day.
Why did egg production change
So why did egg production go up when the hens were allowed to free range? I think there were two factors, access to a wide range of food, and the hens got more exercise while free ranging, as compared to staying in the run.
While chicken feed may be formulated to simulate natural food the chicken may find while foraging, artificial feed is not going to be an exact match. But on the other hand, foraging is may not provide all of the nutrients the chicken may need.
Access to both commercial feed and free range provides the chicken a way to supplement artificial feed with a wide range of seeds, bugs, and natural protein.
Chickens were not designed to sit still, or to be contained in cages. Selective breeding has produced chickens that tolerate confinement well. Given the chance to dig through some leaves and catch some bugs, you think a chicken is going to pass that chance up?
I still give my hens some hen scratch, oats and crushed oyster shells, just not as much.
Egg production during a SHTF situation
Awhile back I asked the question what would you do if you had 7 days advanced warning before SHTF? One of the things I said I would do is buy up a bunch of chicken feed.
Its observations such as the effects of free ranging on egg production that provides information on where I should dedicate my resources.
During a long term SHTF situation, I would probably use the laying crumbles as supplements to free ranging + table scraps.
Share your opinions on this topic
Do you have chickens?
Have you noticed a change in their egg laying patterns when given certain types of food?
Do you let your chickens free range?