Recently I started trying to figure out exactly how much our chicken feed recipe was costing, the post is here. You can see my original chicken feed recipe and the sources I used to come up with it here. I've been wanting to get a better idea of the nutritional content of the different ingredients and how they work together. Conclusions that I have come to are that our current recipe is too expensive, too high in corn and not diverse enough.
Here is the recipe that I have been using for the most part of this last year, if you check out the original recipe I began with, you'll notice it has changed a bit. This totals to about 80-85 Ib and lasts us about two weeks. I often make a double batch, one batch per tub side by side. If I don't have to move bags of feed, the process of dumping, mixing and moving the feed into lidded garbage cans takes less than a half hour. I usually mix it on a weekend so I can crack a beer and mix in peace (without assistance from the kids who would double the time) which makes for an enjoyable and rewarding experience.
- 30 Ib cracked corn
- 20Ib whole wheat berries, white or red, winter or spring, or a mix
- 10 Ib whole barley (local)
- 10Ib whole oats (local I think)
- 4-5 Ib alaskan salmon meal
- 3 -4 Ib flax seed
- 2-3 Ib kelp meal
- 1 Ib salt
- 1/4 - 1/2 Ib herbal vitamin supplement
Other things we feed the chickens regularly:
- kitchen scraps: veggie, bread, dairy and meat scraps that are not spoiled
- kombucha tea ( provides beneficial yeasts and acids, immune boosting, detoxifying)
- kefired raw goat milk (when in season, most the year, not now- beneficial yeast and bacteria in a symbiotic relationship - takes the place of dried yeast and probiotics)
- grit and oyster shell provided at all times
- wormer and anti parasitic herbal formulas as needed
- Brome and occasionally alfalfa hay
- As of this past week I've started sprouting various grains and legumes and have been feeding the chickens several cups of sprouts a day. I hope to continue this practice at least through the winter until the chickens can get out and forage.
A high protein diet is important. From chick starter to broiler grower protein levels range from seventeen to twenty two percent. Most processed chicken feeds have a large amount of ground soy meal to the feed, in addition to fish meal. I have declined to use soy in our chicken feed for a number of reasons, partly because eighty five percent of soy in our country is from genetically engineered sources, in addition to containing large amounts of pesticides. There are a number of other health concerns associated with soy products which you can easily look up if you are so inclined.
In the Lionsgrip nutrition article I just linked to, I read about the importance of B vitamins in the chicken's diet. Too much or too little of any of the various B vitamins can lead to deficiency related health problems. The source suggested that most feeds use synthetic B vitamins which are quickly depleted and not as helpful as those directly from legume and grain seeds.The following is a list of the ingredients we are using and what little I know about them:
- Corn: provides energy and fat. Feed more in the winter, less in summer. Often makes up a large percentage of processed chicken feed. Downside is that a large percentage of corn comes from genetically engineered sources. It often contains high levels of pesticides which build up in animal fat and are transferred to the consumer. 9% protein. Low levels of B vitamins and most vitamins and minerals.
- Wheat Berries: There are spring and winter wheat berries, hard and soft. Depending on the variety protein content varies from 11 to 15 percent. Supplies moderate amounts of other vitamins and minerals
- Oats and Barley: oats are 14 percent protein, barley 12 percent. One of my original sources said never to have Barley or Oats make up more than fifteen percent of the chicken feed, whether alone or combined. I feed more than this fifteen percent, but I do check myself when it comes to these ingredients despite wanting to use more of them as they are inexpensive and local, nine dollars for a fifty pound bag. I feed them whole.
- Fish Meal: May be one of the healthiest and most natural protein sources with the exception of living bugs or worms. 60 % protein. Increases Omega 3 fatty acids in the eggs.
- Kelp Meal: dried seaweed, great source of vitamins and minerals
- Flax Seed: Boosts omega three fatty acids in eggs. High in B vitamins and minerals
- Black Oil Sunflower Seeds: high in fat, minerals and B vitamins
I noticed that our local feed store is finally carrying organic chicken feeds ranging from twenty two to twenty seven dollars a fifty pound bag. Most of my feed ingredients are not organic, although I wish I had access to more organic whole grains at reasonable prices. Mixing chicken feed is not rocket science. I do see why people are intimidated by coming up with their own recipes. After reading about B vitamins I started worrying about whether I was giving the birds too little or too much of something. Chickens are resilient, as are our own bodies. I eat too many sweets and dairy, too many red meats and not enough fish or organ meats. I don't pull out a nutrition chart for every meal. Everything is a balance. I am trying to feed my chickens a healthy whole grain diet (natural and local when possible).
Despite not being formulated by scientists, I think there is a good chance that my chicken feed is healthier than the processed organic feed sold in crumbles and pellets, primarily because I am using whole grain. Organic or not, processed animal feed is generally not quality ingredients to begin with, and then what nutrition is in the grains to begin with is lost once ground, pressed and sprinkled with synthetic vitamins and minerals before being put in a bag for months. As I make changes in the chickens diet I'll be calculating costs and keeping an eye on the birds health. For now I am feeling pretty good about my chicken's diet, and beings that we eat their eggs and will at some time eat them, I'd say that is a good thing.