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The cost and quality of organic feed has been a thorn in my side for over a year now. I am one of those label readers and just because it’s organic isn’t enough to impress me. The fact that most brands contain 50 percent soy and/or corn has been driving me crazy.
So, for months I have been experimenting with ingredients with a simple list of goals…
- No soy!
- No corn except during cold winter months which is only about 2-3 months here.
- Must be cost effective.
- Must be higher quality than pre-mixed
- Can’t slow down egg production or negatively affect chickens health
The list is not in order of importance.
So I have been messing with it and with the short term results I have, I think I have cracked it. I order my ingredients from New Country Organics, Amazon and buy some from the local Tractor Supply or local owned feed store.
I don’t buy much from the local feed store only because I have had issues with quality. This hurts too because I am a local buyer whenever possible.
So here is the product so far. Note I buy 50lb bags but you can scale down. I usually only mix half at a time so the rest stays fresh in the bag which is inside a big wooden box I keep in my feed area.
50lbs Wheat- whatever kind is cheaper- mostly I buy this organic and sometimes not because it there is not a GMO form on the market yet. So in a pinch I will.
50lbs Oats rolled- same thing, some times I will buy the non-organic because it is not GMO
50lbs cracked field peas-organic please!
18-25lb Black sunflower seed- there is organic but I only find it in small bags here are not GMO forms on market, I am trying to grow enough this coming summer to cover at least half my needs
5lbs Fish meal-make sure it is not fish bone meal and make sure it is for feed not fertilizer. Really look into it because quality is everything. I make sure it is wild caught not farm and that it is prepared in a way that doesn’t kill all the goodies
5lbs kelp-look into quality. Make sure it isn’t fertilizer and make sure it wasn’t over cooked
2.5lbs pink Himalayan salt
1lb flaxseed whole- optional*- has to be organic to guard from GMO. 90 percent of flax in this country is GMO. Look into the source.
1lb oregano powder -optional*-if you add it get organic. Face it, it’s powder so it’s not the best of the best anyway which is fine. I don’t care that it’s made from ugly leaves or whatever but if I buying less than perfect and in a form that is very hard to judge quality I am buying from a source that seems legit and I am getting organic.
5lb nutria-balancer- Farrell makes one that is okayed for organic production
Ok so here is what I do, it is very scientific too.
I use a big colored plastic tote. This is probably this totes 20th or so job as I am a cheap person and keep these kind of things until its used up. Mine has tiny little holes on the underside on the handles so I used duct tape to cover them. I like colored rather than clear to keep UV out.
I pure about 25lbs of the oats and wheat, then about 10lbs sunflower seed and about 15lbs peas. Mix it up very well with clean hands/arms.
Then right before feeding I put a few scoops into a feed bucket. I go to my faucet and fill the bucket with water. Then I pour the water out. You can use your hand to keep the feed in or you can use a lid with a bunch of holes to keep it in, the buckets from Tractor Supply work great and they are food grade. I do this to get the dust and dirt knocked off and to make the seed a little sticky for the other ingredients. Then sprinkle in salt just enough like you were flavoring it. Of course that’s not what it’s for but it’s a good reference. Sprinkle in flax, just about twice the amount of salt you added. Then oregano, about the same as the amount of flax. For the kelp and fish meal I would say about a big handful per every 25 chickens. Nutria-balancer use about a small handful per 25 chickens.
It will take some playing with. At the end of the concoction you should have the same amount as normal premix you would feed your chickens. I like the seed to be a little wet so all the dry stuff will stick to the grains so I know it will end up in the chickens. I throw my feed around far the kiddos to scratch and peck at and that way too everybody gets some.
I know I am not specific with my measurements but I am not a big believer in a rigid fixed measurement. What works is always evolving and changing but this mix is what seems to work for my girls as far as keeping weight level, pullets growing, egg production and flock health.
It’s not the cheapest way to go but I sometimes cheap isn’t the first option. It’s the obsession with cheap food that got us in the position we are in. I am not going to get preachy but making the healthiest food for my family is the reason I started raising chickens.
Also in my closet nerd research I compared this concoction to premix brands like the coveted Scratch and Peck. this mix is almost the same but not corn. I only add a little corn during winter or for my little babies that I want to give a little help gaining weight. In that case you have to grind it.
I do cull chickens and they end up on the table but this fall is my first round of meat bird production and I am excited to see how this mix with evolve for them.
UPDATE: NOV 2016
Ok so here is the shorthand of all the experimenting and learning I have done this year!
Of course things are not exact same for two farms. Even just next door things are different so please only take anything you read online as a jumping off point not law and stone.
My mix as of now:
Two parts oats or rice- Wheat is harder for chickens to break down and I am figuring out with my girls that the less I depend on wheat the more egg production I am getting. Plus there are many studies coming out about the gluten and trace fat and things- for another day.
One part wheat- as I said not a fan but as for now it is a cheap filler. Plus the girls need for calories during winter
One part corn- just during colder times
kelp(hand full)- I have noticed that the girls really go for it and I think most of the time they are a great judges of what they need
Himalayan salt(as if seasoning)- makes a huge difference in feather condition
Oregano(as if seasoning)- sometimes just for parasite control and vitamins
I also sometimes add fishmeal when I feel they aren’t getting enough protein but my girls are pastured and work compost so I only add it if I haven’t been putting much meat in.
Bottom line is, don’t be scared of trying new things. As long as you are experimenting on full grown chickens and watching their behavior and condition everyday you can’t mess up too bad and will learn as you go. Honestly I am finding the more we move away from conventional the better we do.
*picture from Bing search