Can My Backyard Chickens Enjoy Some Tasty Goose Grub?



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I still remember the day I brought home my first baby chicks from the farm store very clearly.

It was early spring 2 years ago on a sunny Saturday morning in March.

I had spent the whole previous weekend building a cute little chicken coop in my suburban backyard to house my new feathered friends.

I used scrap wood, chicken wire, and red paint to piece together a little barn-style coop with an attached outdoor run right next to my vegetable garden.

When I first opened that cardboard chick box and saw those 6 fuzzy little peepers looking up at me, I just about melted from the overwhelming cuteness.

The short answer is yes, chickens can definitely eat goose feed without issues.

In fact, many chicken owners like myself intentionally feed their flock an all-flock pellet or game bird feed since it often has higher overall protein, fat content, and other nutrients.

My Spoiled Chickens Got Tired of Their Boring Chicken Feed


As my small backyard flock of 6 chickens grew from cute, fuzzy little chicklets into lanky, awkward teenagers over their first summer, they started turning up their beaks at the expensive organic 16% layer feed I offered them every morning.

At first, when my Rhode Island Red, Buff Orpington, and Barred Rock hens started wasting the organic feed I specially ordered for optimal nutrition and egg production, I was worried something might be wrong with my girls.

I thought maybe they had developed intestinal worms or coccidia from something in the backyard.

Or perhaps the brutal July heatwave that hit my Northeast town had ruined their appetite.

But after bringing fecal samples to my country vet and giving them all a thorough twice-over, he assured me my chickens were the picture of health.

Their loss of appetite didn’t seem to be impacting their growth, feathering, or bright red comb and wattle color at all.

I soon noticed that anytime I sprinkled some of the game bird feed I used for my 2 Sebastopol geese for the chickens to try, they would come sprinting at top speed from across the yard!

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No matter what I did to try to entice them back to their layer feed through the summer, they always deserted it to scratch around the delicious goose feed I would put out twice daily.

The Higher Protein Goose Feed Was Clearly the Chickens’ Favorite


That’s when the lightbulb finally went off in my head about what was really going on here.

My spoiled chickens had decided their goose feed was far tastier than the premium chicken grain I offered them every day!

Compared to traditional 16% layer ration, the 23% protein gamebird starter I fed my 2 big Sebastopols is packed with much higher protein and healthy fats to support fast growth and development in juvenile geese and ducks.

I did some Googling and discovered I’m not alone in this inconvenient realization.

Turns out, many backyard chicken owners report their flocks wisely rejecting standard chicken feed once offered the taste of delicious goose feed or duck ration.

While formulated specifically for waterfowl, game bird feeds tend to contain more overall protein and calories.

This supports egg production and provides vital nutrition to help chickens sustain themselves through stressful events like molting or cold winter months with lower daylight.

The Downsides of Letting Chickens Gorge Themselves on Tasty Goose Feed


Now, you obviously can’t just leave a 50-pound sack of rich game bird feed available for your chickens 24 hours a day.

As I learned the hard way, allowing them unlimited access results in chickens that eat themselves sick and overweight.

One morning I found my prize Buff Orpington hen Lucy keeled over in a stupor after selfishly hoarding more goose feed than her crop could handle the afternoon prior.

Rather than waiting patiently for their rotated morning mealworm ration like the others, she had gorged herself to discomfort out of greed and gluttony.

After that scare, I wised up and started controlling access to the tempting goose grub much more strictly.

I recommend only offering game bird feeds or similar high-protein feeds occasionally as a limited supplemental treat alongside balanced layer ration.

Scatter some handfuls in their run or coop bedding so your chickens have to work and forage naturally for those tasty morsels.

This converts goose feed into a prize they have to earn rather than unlimited access buffet-style, which prevents obesity issues and other health impacts.

Finding the Right Balance of Chicken and Goose Feed

These days I keep my high-octane goose starter feed safely sealed in galvanized steel cans out in my locked garage to remove all temptation.

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I only offer about 2 cups per day maximum sprinkled over their scratch grains to supplement my chickens’ 16% layer feed.

At first light when I let my chickens out to free range every morning, those tasty fat goose pellets mixed into their scratch gets them running and flap-flying with delight like kids set loose on an Easter egg hunt!

It’s hilarious and adorable to watch how excited they get over finding those yummy whole corn and goose pellet morsels I’ve hidden in the pine shavings.

Meanwhile, limiting access ensures my goose pair still gets exactly enough game bird feed daily to support their needs year round.

And as a bonus, the chickens and geese have bonded into a happy little extended flock that spends their days grazing, foraging, and dust bathing together in perfect free range chicken harmony!

Can Chickens Free-Range Well While Eating Goose Feed?

Some chicken owners wonder if feeding a higher fat game bird feed causes issues for free-range backyard chickens who get lots of exercise.

I was a little worried my spoiled flock would turn into lazy couch potatoes if I gave them access to such energy-dense grub without making them work much for it out in the yard.

But as long as you sprinkle or hide small portions of rich feed instead of pouring it openly in feeders, your chickens will run around foraging just like always.

I observed no drop off in activity levels or exploration time of my garden and property by providing a few handfuls daily of the 23% goose grower alongside their layer pellets.

Egg Production Differences When Feeding Goose Feed

Another common question is if feeding goose or game bird feed impacts egg production, size, or quality versus traditional layer feed.

In my experience after two seasons experimenting with substituting about 30% of my chickens’ intake with the higher protein goose feed, I noticed no dips in production quantity from my hens.

If anything, the higher overall nutrition and delicious taste seemed to improve feed conversion ratios.

Meaning, my hens needed slightly less daily feed to maintain excellent production of large, grade A eggs with strong shells and rich orange yolks my family preferred.

Best Feeding Approaches When Using Goose Feed for Chickens

Through learning things the hard way, I developed a fail-safe system for integrating goose feed successfully without messing up my chickens’ health.

First, I always make sure their mineral feeder is full of oyster shell for strong bones and egg shells.

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The higher calcium requirement of goose feed needs supplementation when hens eat significant quantities.

I also keep insoluble granite grit available 24/7 in a separate feeder so their crops grind feed efficiently.

Finally, I scatter any goose feed instead of pouring so chickens get exercise hunting for those tasty morsels.

Watch Out for Bullying Around Goose Feed

One challenge I didn’t anticipate was bossier flock members chasing timid chickens away from premium foods like goose feed.

It took me a while to notice my smallest Barred Rock hen, Elvira, had gotten thin and ragged looking despite my other 5 birds thriving on the goose grub.

Turns out, one old cranky Rhode Island Red had claimed the goose pellets as her personal feast.

She would ferociously fend off poor little Elvira anytime she spotted that tempting feed scattered in the pine shavings.

Separate Areas for Supplemental Feed Helps With Bullying

Luckily I discovered a simple fix for the bullying.

I built a small private pen area I could usher Elvira into near the coop while I sprinkled goose feed.

This gave her space to access the nutritious grub without harassment.

Within a couple weeks, she was back to full glossy feathers and laying eggs with bright orange yolks thanks to those healthy goose feed nutrients.

Trying Duck or Turkey Chick Feed for Chickens

Once my chickens accepted goose feed readily, I got curious if other high-protein poultry feeds would appeal to them.

I picked up sample bags of turkey starter feed and a duck grower pellet at my local farm store.

Both offered similar or slightly higher overall protein and fat than typical layer rations.

When I sneakily substituted a mix of both into my chickens’ feeders one morning, they gobbled it right up!

It was fun to discover my chickens weren’t goose feed snobs.

They enjoyed the taste and nutrition boost from duck and turkey feed just as much.

The Downside of Poultry Feed Mix-and-Match

While my hens seemed unfazed by a rotating smorgasbord of waterfowl and game bird feeds, I did run into one issue after a couple months of grab-bag feeding.

Egg shell strength and thickness declined noticeably when I freely swapped feeds week to week.

Turns out each feed formula contains slightly different vitamin and mineral packages that require consistency for best egg quality over longer periods.

Once I stuck to just goose feed with supplemental oystershell as my high-protein splurge instead of endless variety, my ladies rebounded to lay hard-shelled beauties again.

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