Every mother-to-be wants the best for their babies. You start off with all the best intentions. Breast pumps, cloth diapers, making your own baby food. Yeah, it sounds good in theory! I didn't have luck in the lactation department (or maybe I am too high strung to relax enough for nature to work on it's own?) and I certainly didn't have time for cloth diapers or making my own baby food thanks to a full time job. BUT, I understand that feeling of wanting to do all the right things. I felt the same way with our baby chicks! We did much research on how to make a suitable brooder and how to make a sturdy nice coop that would keep our babies safe. (more on that in a future discussion) Now we are faced with what to feed and nourish our girls and boy with. There is so much out there it can make your head swoon. I think I've been swooning over the feed issue since May. We started the chicks on the medicated chick starter from Purina (red bag). Medicated does NOT mean antibiotics. The medicine actually helps give the chicks a good start and helps prevent a nasty disease that will kill them called Coccidiosis. I didn't want to mess with mother nature, so decided this was the best option to guarantee healthy chicks. When you only start with 6, there is no room to lose 1 or 2. They stayed on this feed until about 8 weeks. Then they continued on with the unmedicated chick starter feed in the yellow bag.
Knowing they were getting ready to lay at about 18 weeks. I went to the feed store to purchase their 'adult' rations. Chick feed has higher protein for growth and the layer feed has higher calcium needed to make eggs. After talking with the clerk (the employees are all college graduates educated in animal management), she convinced me that I should stick with the standard Purina Layena. The Layena is about $17/ 50 lb bag. Going with an organic feed would cost twice as much and didn't seem worth the added expense. So I left with the Layena. I am currently mixing what is left of the chick crumbles with the adult pellets until the chick feed is all used up. Also, only 1 chick is laying so far, so this way the others are still getting some extra protein. I still can't rest over this decision to use commercially made food. I mean, if you are going to the hassle to 'grow your own', you should know what is going into your animals and in turn, into you. But I couldn't see spending double on feed for 'organic'. After hanging out on some boards, I have found a local amish farm that mixes their own feed. They make organic feed (but it isn't certified) and also use NO SOY. They use fish meals which is good since chickens are omnivores. The Purina feeds boast that there is no animal proteins in them, which means it's all soy based proteins. Soy has been on the chopping blocks lately and I tend to agree that it is just not the best way to go. Also, GMO's are most definitely used in commercially mixed feeds. I talked to a rep from a local feed mill and he confirmed that GMO's are in everything. The amish man sells an 80 lb bag of his special organic, soy free feed for about $30. So it's not that much more. I'm going to seek him out when I am ready for the next bag.
Polly want a cracker? Snacks and Treats.
Other things to think about regarding the birds diets. The birds are living compost bins! I love (and they in turn love me!) giving them treats from my kitchen. Any organic scrap....strawberry tops, celery trimmings. Anything you can think of minus afew toxic items (like my avocado skins). It certainly is making me choose healthier foods for us with the benefit of surprising our feathered friends with some yummy treats! When I clean their litter, I dump it all in our compost bin. Hoping that in a year we will be ready to start a small garden and will have some nice compost to get started. You cannot use chicken poop for about a year because of the ammonia content....it will burn your plants. But once it composts for about a year, you are good to go. The other snack the birds love is 'Scratch'. It's a great treat to lure them and now they know where I keep it and they follow me to the shed. I also coax them down to their coop and throw a handful in and they run right in. Much better than chasing them around to catch them! They are quite squirrely now that they are full grown! Scratch is kind of like crack for them and there isn't much nutrients in it, so I use it sparingly. Don't want them to fill up on the scratch!
The other important item in the bird's diet....GRIT. If you've ever had a pet bird, you will understand. Birds have gizzards and they need literally stones in their gizzards to grind up their food. Birds that free range all the time should have ample opportunity to find stones to fill their gizzards up, but supplementing with grit is the best way. I usually throw some in the pen so they can pick it free choice. It literally is ground up granite! Crazy!
Thanks for stopping by and hope you learned something! I definitely have learned to really look into what is in your food and what is in the food your food is eating! YOU ARE WHAT YOU EAT...AND WHAT THEY EAT!