Hey folks! I know it's only January, but...I'm excited to get some more homesteading posts going again! Are you?
Since it's still too early for plants, sadly, today we're going to talk about, you guessed it, chickens! We've been talking about switching their feed diet to something...better, for awhile. You know how it goes, though, and we got into the habit of just buying the cheap Rural King brand Country Road layer feed whenever we went to the “farm store”. (Don't get me wrong. I love Rural King. But it's not exactly the best brand of feed. I'm getting to that.)
This worked fine during the summer and most of fall since there was still plenty of grass, bugs, garden treats, berries, etc. for the chickens to eat, not to mention they actually prefer those things. Also, they were true free-ranged until August, if I remember correctly, when we finally got a “pasture” area set up for them because we were having too many chickens getting picked off by critters and, quite frankly, were sick of them pooping everywhere, eating the flowers off veggie plants, like the peppers, etc.
You can see where they've left what they don't like as much, which is mostly the oats and corn.
So, what does this have to do with anything? If I've never mentioned it before, I used to not be able to eat store bought eggs because they upset my stomach something fierce. John seems to think it's a soy allergy and is related to the chickens' diet. Since our chickens were getting most of their food intake from other things than the feed, I could eat their eggs just fine. Woo hoo! I love eggs. I'm so happy I can eat them more often again! However, once it started getting toward late fall and the daylight got shorter and the chickens weren't spending as much time outdoors, their eggs started upsetting my stomach. Not writhing in pain, laying in bed for hours upset like store-bought ones used to make me, but stomach pain and, ahem, some gastrointestinal distress, shall we say. Still not fun things to deal with.
Needless to say, we finally HAD to make a switch! No point in keeping chickens if you can't eat their eggs, right? You might not think a chicken's diet makes much of a difference in the quality of their eggs, but I'm here to testify that it does! We switched them to a “soy-free, whole grain and seed” diet. Here is a rough breakdown of what we're currently including in it below. (We are planning on making some substitutions eventually, but I'll get to that in a minute.)
*Gelatin (for protein)
*Vitamin & Probiotic Mix
You can watch a video of us mixing this up on YouTube.
We bought all of this separately and mixed it up ourselves. Our mix listed above cost us about $60 for 250 pounds. A similar, commercial brand is $34 for 25 pounds! Needless to say, the cost savings speaks for itself! Plus, it lasts a helluva lot longer.
Eventually, we would like to replace the sorghum, millet, and oats with peas, wheat, and barley because it's better for them and they like it better. As of right now we haven't researched more into affordable suppliers of these things, but what we have included now seems to be working just fine for everyone. :)
I should also mention that we roughly measure out their feed each day (according to how many chickens we have and how much they should be eating per day, which is 1/3 pound of feed per chicken) and soak it in water overnight. This allows it to ferment some, which makes it easier to digest for the chickens and they eat less because it makes the vitamins, minerals, and protein in the feed more readily available. And yes, we have definitely seen a drastic difference in the amount of feed they eat each day!