Saturday, 5 January 2013

Feeding chickens organically for less



The nutritional prowess of a good egg is something to behold so securing top quality, consistent, sustainable egg production from our hens is a priority for us here at Little Home In The Country.  Since completing my Organic Master Gardner Course and researching more on the topic of genetically modified grains, it became an urgent priority to source local organic feed for our chickens.  


We already purchase our organic heritage wheat from him and LOVE it.  It makes nutritious, delicious bread and baked goods and we love that we are buying directly from his certified organic farm just a few miles down the road.  I emailed John a few months ago asking if he had any organic grains available for feeding our chickens and this tote was the result of that conversation:  


That tote pictured above contains a metric tonne of screenings.  It's collected when the wheat is "cleaned" and screened in preparation for sale.  Below is a peek at what it looks like inside the tote.



We also invested in a used 5HP feed mill (a few hundred dollars) to grind up the grains a bit to make more of the nutrition available to the hens.  That ensures the highest nutritional bang for our feed buck.  This Farm King mill is a workhorse that so far runs perfectly.  Thanks also to John for referring us to this beauty that he found listed on kijiji. 



Pictured below is the ground grain in the hen house hopper - quite fine compared to the original picture in the tote.  Our hens love it and are eating 1/3 the quantity of it compared to the previous grain feed we were using AND they are laying double the eggs to boot!  We have also made available a hopper of oyster shell for grit until Spring when our land defrosts and the snow melts.


If you keep chickens, I encourage you to find out who grows organic grain near you.  See if you can purchase some wheat screenings for your hens.  John apparently also uses screenings to feed his meat birds with equally excellent results.

I love how networking in our community can net such wonderful results. We'll be saving a good chunk of money on feed costs plus we no longer have to drive our suburban and trailer to pick up feed every few months, saving both fuel and time.












9 comments:

  1. Wow. That was a learning curve for me but a good one, thanks Sherri, I'll file that info away.

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  2. Nice work! I have looked at buying organic grain mixes in the past, but they are so expensive compared to budget grain (containing who-knows-what). I don't think we have any local organic growers, but I will look out for it now I know that I might be able to get their by-product to feed instead. Nice grain mill too!

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    1. Liz, we found that our hens were "wasting" a lot of the previous feed that we were buying... We would always find a lot of it on the floor of the coop and thought they were spilling it as they pecked aggressively in the hopper. Turns out that "waste" was actually a lot of chaff and they were probably targeting to "good" parts of the feed. As well, our hens won't eat genetically modified wheat. I bought some wheat a few years ago when I first got into bread making and because I didn't know anything about genetically modified food at that time, it was not organic. I came across it a while back and decided to to test our hens... they wouldn't even come near it let alone eat it. Animals are so wise :) Unless you are buying organic feed, it's very likely that the budget grain feed is full of GM grains.

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  3. Sherri, there is a way you can value add to your grains. Find a rubbish bin lid, or something similar, and throw in about a ¼ bucket of grains. Throw in some water, let the grains soak for a day, drain the water off. Let the grains sit in a sheltered area and wet them again if they look like they're drying out. After a few days, depending on the weather, the grains will sprout. Chickens love eating sprouted grains and it increases the nutritional level of the grains a lot. I usually have two of these lids going at one time so I can see the chook sprouted grain a couple of times a week.

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    1. Thank you so much for that tip, Rhonda :) I'll definitely try that.

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  4. Glad the feed is working out for you Sherri. Rhonda is pretty close to the mark also. Those soaked grains she mentions more closely resemble grass fed type diet and it is a fairly energy efficient way to process your grains on a small scale if you don't have a mill. For birds though, don't forget that they have evolved to eat seeds. Their dietary requirements are completely different from a human. They need the hard seeds in their gizzard to keep it clean and efficient. Doesn't hurt to soak the grains at all, but I wouldn't make that a 100% diet.

    Pigs are another matter though...we've successfully fed them nothing but soaked grains and hay for winter feed rations. We just kept a line up of buckets going so that each bucket fed had been soaking at least a few days. It worked out very well for us.

    As for sourcing out this type of feed, a first step would be to call around to local seed cleaning plants. Ask if they have screenings available from organic cleaning batches. The farmer often decides to just sell the screenings to the plant instead of dealing with trying to sell them from the farm. If not, the plant may put you in touch directly with the farmer who owns the screenings and you can deal with them.

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    1. Thanks for your reply, John. Very informative!

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