Thursday, May 2, 2013
Feeding Chicks From Your Pantry
We had our first chicks hatch a couple days ago. I usually give in to the urge to set eggs or purchase chicks earlier in the season, but as we still have a few feet of snow on the ground and are having record setting cold weather, it has been a good year for a late start.
I was researching feeding chickens whole grain recipes before we ever brought our first chicks home. At the time I did not know anyone who fed whole grains, even the local organic farms nearby fed their chickens regular non organic crumbles or pellets, as at that time our feed stores were not even carrying organic feed. While some years I've broken down and started chicks out on organic chick starter, most years I've taken our whole grain layer feed, ground it coarsely and added a few other ingredients to it; a little extra fish meal for added protein along with a little of this and that from the pantry.
Here are some posts I've written in the past about mixing chicken food:
Mixing Chicken Feed
Chicken Feed Pictures
Early days of mixing Chicken Feed
Here are some whole grain chicken recipes I found online that looked good:
Greener Pastures chicken feed
Mary's Whole Grain chicken feed recipe
Garden Betty's whole grain feed recipe
My feeding regime for both the goats and chickens is ever evolving. For example, I've been feeding my layers cracked corn, mostly because I felt like they probably needed the extra fat for the winters. And while, I'd done some research on corn several years ago and knew that there were concerns about it being a GMO feed, I continued feeding it, not knowing what to replace it with, or not feeling like I could afford to change it out for say, black oil sunflower seeds which are three to four times the cost. Organic corn is also four or more times the cost as the cracked corn I can pick up at Walmart. That being said, I recently came across some of the studies on genetically modified corn, and as a result have finally decided to eliminate genetically modified crops from both our diet as well as that of our animals, and will once again be changing our chicken feed recipe.
As far as feeding chicks; they eat much less than growing meat birds or layers, and I like to make sure they get off to a great start, so I'm willing to feed them higher dollar grains like quinoa, millet, amaranth, etc, and other things in my pantry like red lentils and organic popcorn (just pantry supplies that I have an abundance of - but would quickly depleted if I fed to the adult chickens).
Instead of heading to the feed store to buy a bag of overly priced organic chick starter that does not resemble anything edible, I brought in a few ingredients from the barn and topped them off with what I had handy in the pantry. In the barn I keep local whole oats, local whole barley and local wheat berries, alfalfa pellets, black oil sunflower seeds, animal grade kelp and Alaska salmon fish meal. I brought in a tub with roughly 4 cups oats. 4 cups barley, 2 cups BOSS, 1 cup alfalfa pellets and 1 cup wheat. I also added a handful of each from my goat herb stash, comfrey, nettles and red raspberry leaf. From the pantry I added 1 cup Split peas, 1 cup red lentils (as that is what I had), 1 cup organic popcorn (again - what I had), and a half cup quinoa. Noah did the honors and roughly ground all this in our backup spice (coffee) grinder. When the grains were ground, we added about a quarter cup kelp and half cup fish meal to this mixture and stirred it in. Have I done the math? Nope, just eye balling. I know that the chicks have higher protein needs than the layers, so I keep this in mind. Diversity in grains and diet is also a plus. I do, do the math every now and then and I'll share the results in another post. If I remember correctly layer rations should be around 16- 18% protein, and chick starter should be closer to 20-22% - ish.
This might sound like a lot of work but it wasn't. I gathered the ingredients from the barn on my morning chore routine. It took a few minutes to gaze over my pantry and uncap gallon jars and pour out this and that. Noah spent about ten minutes grinding grains for me and then we filled up the chick feeder. When I look over the recipe, one thing stands out; I forgot salt. But it isn't that big of a deal. I can go back and add it, and even if I didn't, they'd be fine for a while. I do have fine chick grit for these chicks, although I haven't bothered put it in their brooder yet.
Other things I feed chicks: I don't bother buying expensive vitamin chick supplements or electrolytes. Instead I always fill the chick water with a clove of garlic (for parasites), as well as a couple teaspoons of our raw honey (vitamins and electrolytes). I also often put a couple drops of echinacea tincture (immune booster) and cayenne tincture (B vitamins and heart and circulatory booster). We feed the chicks hard boiled or scrambled eggs every day or two. I usually start setting out raw milk and greens for the chicks after they are a few days or a week old.
Other ingredients you may have in your pantry that your chicks will enjoy; beans,lentils or peas (coarsely ground), any sort of grain (wheat, buckwheat, kasha, kamut, oats, barley, rye, spelt) whether it is in the form of whole, crushed, cracked, rolled, bran, germ, sprouted etc., corn coarsely ground, seeds; poppy, sesame, pumpkin, sunflower etc, grind the big ones... What else? I'm sure you guys can think of some things. I was cleaning out my pantry and found some outdated garbanzo bean flour and brown rice flour. I know from experience that the chickens don't care for finely ground flour, so I'm thinking I'm going to have to make some sort of gruel to get the birds to eat it, but instead of just throwing it out I thought I'd try and feed it off. While perhaps not the healthiest, I have been known to feed my layers stale chips, crackers, cold cereal or whole grain pasta that was too healthy for us.
Last I checked my whole grain mostly local chicken feed for the layers was costing around eighteen dollars a fifty pound bag. My random chick feed recipe is certainly more, but also much less than a bag of chick starter - organic or not. We have fed goslings and ducklings very similarly - even though you cannot feed waterfowl formulated chicken feed without giving your waterfowl too much protein. More posts on feeding the chickens coming, along with our new feed recipe for layers and our meat birds, and how much each are costing. If you are in the habit of feeding your layers, meat birds or chicks, crumbles or pellets, I encourage you to switch (gradually) over to whole grains. It is cheaper on your pocket book and healthier for your birds.