Avian Aqua Miser: Automatic, poop-free chicken waterers

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What do chickens eat in the wild?

Pie chart of the optimal chicken dietNow that our introduction to chicken tractors series has wound down, I'm going to turn my attention to chicken feed.  Most backyard chicken keepers probably go the easy route just like we do and buy commerical chicken feed at the store.  This grain-based feed certainly isn't the cheapest option, and I wonder if it's the healthiest.

Before delving into traditional homemade chicken feed formulas and modern alternatives, I wanted to take a look at what chickens would eat in nature.  It turns out that Jungle Fowl (the wild ancestor of the domestic chicken) feed primarily on insects.  Scientists who cut open the crops of wild Jungle Fowl found that half or more of the mashed up food in there was typically insects and other invertebrates (especially termites.)  Various plant matter was also represented, especially fruits, berries, bamboo seeds, nuts, and young leaves.

The upshot is clear --- if we want to wean ourselves off a dependence on store-bought chicken feed, we shouldn't be planting rows of wheat and barley.  Instead, we need to find ways to provide our chickens with copious insects, or at least some sort of feed high in protein.  Stay tuned over the next few weeks as I highlight the options.

Meanwhile, check out our automatic chicken waterer, the other key to healthy chickens!

99 cent pasture ebookThis post is part of our Homemade Chicken Feed series.  Read all of the entries:

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looks like a great read. can't wait. looking into growing out own chicken/livestock feed as well. thanks.
Comment by Anonymous Tuesday afternoon, August 14th, 2012
Anonymous --- I'll be curious to hear how your experiments turn out! Be sure to click the link below for the tag "chicken feed" to read our more recent experiments with alternative feeds.
Comment by anna Sunday evening, August 19th, 2012
wild chickens coming into my yard. I want to trap them and provide more naturaly sources of food. Any help?
Comment by Julie at lunch time on Thursday, July 9th, 2015
Julie --- If you want to catch them, I think your best bet is to watch and see where they roost at night. If it's low enough to reach, it's pretty easy to snag chickens off a branch after dark. Just wear gloves and long sleeves in case they scratch!
Comment by anna at lunch time on Monday, July 13th, 2015

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