So, I have spent countless hours going through threads on the forum about feeding my chickens and scouring the internet but even after all the reading I still have a number of questions...
First, a little background:
I am a first time chicken owner. I have 4 chicks. As of today, they are 6 weeks old. I live in South Florida on 1/3 acre in a residential area.
Rural King is the only retailer I can find in the area that sells chicken feeds (unless I want to drive an hour or so)... I am currently feeding them Nature Wise Chick Starter which runs about $13/40#. Once they are off the starter feed, the layer feed is about a dollar less per bag. The organic feeds are roughly double the price!!! All that being said, I would prefer to make my own feed.... like buy wheat berries, oats, peas, etc mix them up and feed them that instead. I looked at a lot of recipes and am confident I can come up with an acceptable mix. In addition to their regular feed I give them kitchen scraps and they get to "free range" out of their coop in a run area for an hour or so a day.
I also have 2 rabbits who share the run with them who also get kitchen/garden scraps. I bought some wheat berries from Amazon and have started sprouting it in a fodder system. I should have my first batch done tomorrow. Hopefully the chicks and buns like it! I have a worm bin which sometimes gets infested with BSF larvae and I plan to let the chickens eat some of them.
So my questions are these:
1- What percentage of their diet can be sprouted grains and what percentage should be dry grains? I've read that sprouting grains can increase the volume of feed 10 fold, is it only an increase in volume? Is there any additional nutritional value?
2- If I make my own feed mix, does it need to be ground up for them to eat it? Or can it be fed to them whole? Are their pros and cons to both ways?
3- I saw some people say they are paying like $0.30/lb for wheat berries and other grains... the cheapest prices I can find for wheat berries are $1/lb and that is from Sam's Club. Amazon is like $1.50/lb. I cannot find any co-ops in the area that sell grain, only vegetables. With these prices it doesn't seem economical AT ALL to make my own feed... Am I missing something? Where are people finding their ingredients so cheap?
4- I saw a lot of people saying they feed all their garden weeds to their birds. I have plenty of weeds growing in my yard and garden. There are some that I know the names of and have researched to see if my rabbits can eat them and have assumed the chickens can eat the ones the rabbits can eat.... What about the ones that I don't know what they are? When you are feeding your chickens weeds from your garden, are you identifying each one and seeing if they can eat it first? Or is it relatively safe to assume they can eat any weeds I find?
That is all the questions I can remember at the moment. I am sure there are others though... If there is any additional information you think I could benefit from, I'd love to hear it!