I just got in from a round of night time chores. As I slipped my boots on I paused contemplating my light weight capri lounge pants that I was wearing. Usually I just put on my farm coveralls over whatever I'm wearing unless it is really cold and then I put on a wool base layer followed by sweats/sweatshirt or light sweater and then coveralls and a down coat. I thought about what I needed to do; toss bucks hay, toss does hay, gather eggs, close chickens in and close ducks in, fifteen minutes, no problem. I headed out. Sure enough, it was warm enough that I could hear the roof dripping onto the ground below and if that wasn't enough, the thermometer read almost forty degrees above zero! Is it really mid February or did we wake up to find ourselves in the wet slushy mess we call April?
With the exception of dripping water following me on my trek up the hill, the night was still and dark with a picturesque sliver of a moon. The goats are all in fine temperament after this long lasting warm spell. The chickens aren't easy to get in even late at night, they want to take advantage of the warm night, some would stay outside for the night if I'd let them.
In the morning I am eager to get outside, wake up with the fresh air and get some things done. By late night, I am much more reluctant to leave the warmth of the house into the dark night. Yet once I am dressed and walking, observing the sky, the moon, can I see the stars in the sky or goat eyes looking down at me through the trees? Chana runs ahead, letting me know if she hears or senses anything in the woods. My senses are acute and aware, always looking, noting the tall silver birch trees against the dark night. Tonight there was no crunch of my feet on the snow, no snow outlining the trees against the night, and my headlamp did not catch the glitter of cold ice crystals. When it warms, the snow is dull, the trail slick and the trees naked.
As I've been doing chores I've been thinking a lot of why we feed what we feed to our livestock and more importantly; why I feed what I feed. It is complicated. We follow current practices thinking the modern day veterinarians and experienced farmers know best. We try to follow their lead only to learn that maybe they have alterior motives, maybe they don't have the animals best interest at heart. I've been doing some research on feed ingredients, mostly grains. Today I realized I've been feeding too much corn to the chickens. I've been feeding corn because it is at the top of the list when you start looking at chicken feed recipes. Yes it provides energy and fat, but very little nutrition. When compared to other grains, seeds and legumes it is practically at the bottom of the list for vitamins, minerals and protein content. It occurred to me that corn has been a main feed ingredient because it has been cheap. Well, at seventeen dollars a bag, it isn't cheap anymore.
I'm done for the night, but coming soon I'll be sharing what I've been feeding our chickens and why, and what changes I'm planning on making, and of course, why.