Hey folks! You may have noticed by now that when it comes to our “farm stuff”, we do a lot of learning by trial and error. What farmer or homesteader doesn't, right? Don't get me wrong. We research the basics and what we feel we need to know on things, but, as with most things on life, it's never quite that simple, is it?
One such thing we've discovered (well, me, at least) recently is the importance of protein in your chicken's diet. I'm willing to bet about half, if not more, of backyard/small operation chicken keepers out there buy some form of commercially produced chicken feed, so not much thought is given to this, more than likely. With us switching from store-bought feed to mixing up our own and the daytime being shorter, it's become glaringly clear just how important protein really is in our flock's diet!
If I remember correctly, we mixed up our first batch of feed in early December so obviously, the days were pretty short by then. I didn't really think anything of it when the girls egg production went down even more since I've read plenty of times that this is natural during the winter. Anyhow, John did mention after we started feeding them the new stuff and we were only getting ONE egg a day, if that, that we needed to add some form of protein to their diet as what we were using in their mix did not contain enough.
Well, John had planned on ordering some fish meal to add to their feed for protein, but evidently unless you buy high-grade stuff, it ends up making their eggs taste like fish. I obviously don't know if this is true or not since we never tried it, but that's just what John found in his research.
As usual, some time went by and we kind of forgot about it/put it off, but John did eventually research some things we could add for extra protein. We started out by adding a packet of plain ole gelatin powder to their feed each day. Someone, I won't mention names, is bad about communication and didn't tell me I needed to put it in everyday to make a difference in their egg production. (Now I know.) But, a few days after we had been consistent about putting it in, I was surprised to FOUR eggs when I locked the girls up for the evening, which equaled FIVE for the day as there was one waiting for me that morning!
We also recently purchased some lentils as they are supposed to be high in protein too. We just started those today, so I'll have to let you know how that goes. Not surprisingly, most of the girls weren't crazy about them when John tossed them out there dry, but once I hosed them down some they started gobbling them up!
As I mentioned in my post on switching to our own feed, we plan on replacing some of the items in our feed, eventually, with others that are higher in protein too. We are planning on growing a massive amount of peas, from what I can tell (ha ha), so we will be replacing the cracked corn with those as well as replacing the oats with wheat. (To be honest, they don't seem to care much for the oats anyways!)