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PostPosted: Tue Jul 25, 2017 9:06 pm 
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Hatchling
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We have recently increased the number of Isa Brown hens up to 30, and boy are they ripping through the pellets. We are considering growing our own food, eg pigeon pea. This could be for forage, or we could collect the seeds to supplement the pellets. Does anyone have any experience with this? And does it decrease the food bill? We have plenty of land for growing a small crop which could be in with the hens or in a separate area.


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PostPosted: Tue Jul 25, 2017 10:03 pm 
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Golden Swan
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The good news, is, yes you can suppliment a pellet diet. The bad news is that it is very difficult to suppliment and still maitain the correct nutritional requirements for chooks, especially Isa Browns, as they are bred as laying machines and so need spot on nutrition to keep it up. They are a long way from wild birds who can get their nutritional requirements met but foraging. So realistically any food you suppliment their diet with must either be nutritionally balanced for them (and no single grain will do this) or fed in small enough quantities so that it wont affect the balance (and unfortunately wont give you much respite from the food bill). So yes, grow your own, but don't feed too much or your chooks health is likely to suffer.

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PostPosted: Tue Jul 25, 2017 10:45 pm 
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Fiesty Fowl
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HenCottage wrote:
.... does it decrease the food bill? We have plenty of land for growing a small crop which could be in with the hens or in a separate area.


Welcome to the forum HenCottage - and no in my limited experience nothing decreases the food bill once there are more than 20 birds. Don't think you'd harvest enough to fill many bags with feed, and one bag-full doesn't go that far anyway with 30 hens. Probably be more economical to fence some of your spare land - with an electric line at the top to effectively discourage fly-overs. And give them all some generous free range time. No more time consuming than crop management, gives them a healthy green pick, and reduces pellet intake slightly.

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PostPosted: Tue Jul 25, 2017 11:02 pm 
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Old Mother Goose
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What NellyG said.
Keep in mind that what goes in will affect what comes out. A bird bred for high egg output, like ISA and other commercial hybrids has a very high and specific need for a well balanced diet. Be cautious about diluting the balance of nutrients as this will affect productivity and ultimately their health will suffer eg constant laying and extreme moults are high protein activities.
Check the protein level on the pellet that you re using - sometimes it becomes more economical to provide a higher spec ration - often the observation is that the chooks actually eat less for the same gain.
There are some advantages to free range but only so long as what is available to forage is high quality (improved pasture) and the extra energy expended does not result in bigger appetites..


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PostPosted: Wed Jul 26, 2017 10:41 am 
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Hatchling
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Thank you for all the feedback above. Probably saved us from wasting energy for little or no benefit. The pellets we are feeding are 16% protein and has a picture of an ISA Brown so I think we are on the right track there. They are free range for most of the daylight hours and have all day access to their feed. I am interested in the comment on 'improved pasture'. What does that mean?


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PostPosted: Wed Jul 26, 2017 10:49 am 
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Old Mother Goose
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Native Australian or exotic wild grasses offer little in the way of nutrition when compared with 'herbage' grown specifically as stock feed/grazing. Some have fragile root systems and do not cope with grazing. Ask at your local seed merchant/rural supplier for a recommendation for a suitable fodder/grazing blend.
For the last couple of seasons, I have scattered a blend called Dryland over some of the areas where my chooks range (when rain is forecast) then mown over the top so that the cuttings give the seed some protection - not very scientific but germination happens so long as the chooks don't first have access to the seeds or young growth. The extra ground cover also helps stabilise the soil on our sloping areas.


Last edited by sue55 on Wed Jul 26, 2017 11:06 am, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Wed Jul 26, 2017 11:05 am 
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Hatchling
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thanks


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PostPosted: Thu Jul 27, 2017 6:42 pm 
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Wise Wyandotte
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What you might be able to grow will depend on where you are, if you have available water for irrigation and your skills. Can you give us a bit of an idea at least about the first two things?


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PostPosted: Sat Jul 29, 2017 9:52 am 
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Wise Wyandotte
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http://www.queenslandcountrylife.com.au ... -pastures/


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PostPosted: Sun Jul 30, 2017 9:09 pm 
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Hatchling
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Great article, thank you. We live on Sunshine Coast hinterland. We have plenty of water and hubby is a handy veg gardener. We have about 1 acre for the hens divided into the original paddock which is fast being scratched to bare dirt; and two new paddocks. We are currently building Hen Cottage 2, to move the girls into fresh pasture. The plan is to rotate between the pastures, possibly 'improving' the pasture that is vacant if it seems worthwhile.


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