Conventional non-GMO Whole Grain/Seed Recipe for Layers

Discussion in 'Feeding & Watering Your Flock' started by Dandelioness, Jan 20, 2015.

  1. Dandelioness

    Dandelioness Chillin' With My Peeps

    398
    68
    131
    May 27, 2014
    East Central MN
    Hi all -

    I've been asked by a couple people to share a feed mix I've been making up for the hens & guinea fowl this winter. They are laying very well on it and appear healthy. Until I cull members of the flock in a couple years and see their insides, I won't know for sure if this feed mix is both productive (plenty of eggs) and healthy for them. Usually the liver is a good gauge for how healthy your feed is for your chickens, IMO.

    I do not have a grinder, so this is a whole grain mix. I also do not use wheat because of sensitivities, but that could be something you could incorporate as well. I'd like to hear how others do on this mix by using it different ways - maybe sprouting some, soaking some, using some dry for scratch. I'm feeding about 1/4# per bird per day dry right now, but I understand this mixture could be stretched out by trying some of these methods.

    There is a spreadsheet I use, the formulas for which are in the back of Harvey Ussery's book the Small Scale Poultry Flock, to monitor my cost and protein %. I know protein isn't everything, but I've read in a few places that as long as your mix is diverse (several sources), shooting for the correct crude protein % & using a mineral supplement will balance out those other factors. Free ranging when appropriate will help, too, of course.

    In central MN, we have to either pay for large quantities of no-soy organic feed to be delivered every month or two months, or drive several (like 40) miles to pick it up, unless we want to pay the high price of Scratch n Peck through Azure. So this is a compromise feed for others who may have trouble with the expense of providing a quality feed with no soy, corn or alfalfa (the main GM feed sources in our area) or budget minded folks who are looking for a conventional non-GMO option.

    Buying these grains/seeds from my local feed mill in 50# bags and mixing/stirring together my self in a large plastic trash bin, I am spending about $19.50 per 50# on this using my local mill's current prices, including everything but the supplemental crushed red pepper that I add in the winter and of course grit. I may be able to get a better price per bag by giving this recipe to my local feed mill guy and buying a ton at a time, but a) I cannot store that much here and b) I am changing the recipe in small increments to see if I can realize some cost savings or increased convenience in feeding. When I have a recipe I'm happy with, I will probably have him do it for me. A couple other people have said they'd go in on it with me, and I know the local mill is looking for a recipe like this. They are on their second or third attempt at providing a conventional 99% non-GMO feed, but there have been hens who stopped laying & growers who stopped growing (separate formulas, of course) on their other attempts. For comparison, locally people are paying $26-30 per 50# bag of organic no-soy after delivery, and we have to supplement a lot because the protein content is lower than standard soy-based feeds.

    I mix a double batch of this (one on top of the other) once every 1.5-2 weeks. I mix as well as I can, but some days the feed's a little more "white" and some days a little more "black", but they eat it all up anyway. I find it to be pleasant work, but if I got 2-3 more trash bins, it would make life easier as I could go a month or two without mixing and currently I have to store partially used bags of everything on an old buffet table my church was getting rid of.

    This recipe is for a single batch, the crude protein is 18%:
    Mix together:
    5# whole feed oats
    5# barley
    10# millet
    25# black oil sunflower seed (in the shell)

    Measure out the following separately:
    5# whole flax
    0.5# brewer's yeast
    2.5# poultry mineral premix for layers (my feed mill sells this in 50# bags - it goes a long way! And it gives the correct proportions to use for 1-ton batches, so the math is tricky on a small scale but just get your calculator out - you can do it!)

    Okay, it's actually 53# batches. :)

    Provide free choice:
    Shell grit
    Rock grit (very important, as this is a whole grain/seed mix)

    Sprinkle on, if desired or as needed:
    Crushed red pepper

    The reason for all the separating is I don't have a professional mixer and plus the chickens were leaving all the powdered stuff behind in the trough. I tried wetting the whole thing, but it would freeze (of course!). The whole flax is not digestible unless sprouted, soaked or ground. So what I do now is take HALF the day's ration of the other mixed feed out of the big bin and put that in the chicken trough. On top of that, while in the coop, I scoop/pour/sorta sprinkle the WHOLE day's ration of flax, brewer's yeast and poultry mineral premix which I have measured out & soaked for a little while that morning or the night before. They eat the top stuff first and the rest of the feed does not freeze this way. Zero waste, also a good thing. There is a lot of math for figuring out how much of each of these little amounts to break up and give everyday, but you only need to do it once, really. If you change the recipe of the large mixture, the small amounts will still remain the same per 50#.

    If you can freshly grind your flax, do so and then add it to the big trash bin on mixing day. I cannot freshly grind mine & flax goes rancid very quickly once ground, so I am wary of buying it ground. This is harmful and creates free radicals in the body, so I putz around with soaking for now. I HAVE checked droppings (fun!), and there are no whole flax seeds coming out undigested. I would still sprinkle the day's ration of powdered supplements on top, or maybe make a paste & apply to the top.

    The SECOND 1/2 of the day's ration goes out at about 3pm here in MN in winter. I throw it on the ground dry, like scratch, any place where the bedding looks like it needs mixing especially. This allows me to shut my chicken door before dusk and warms their bodies up for the cold night ahead. You could do 2/3 in the morning and 1/3 in the evening, or all at once, or any variation. This is just what I've found works for me.

    Well, happy mixing people! If you find the feed is going much farther with soaking & sprouting some, maybe the a.m. portion, please share what you've done and the proportions you are using for each hen. This recipe calls for 1/4# per hen per day, plus the correct amount of powdered stuff & flax each day.

    I am currently adjusting this by adding some sunflower "chips" and reducing the flax & millet, and increasing the barley & oats a little, but I don't know that I can truly judge if a feed is good for laying until about 3-4 weeks have gone by and numbers still look good.

    No chick recipe yet. I don't have a grinder, but I may try raising a batch of chicks in two groups - one with my normal chick feed and one with a soaked small grain/seed ration with the appropriate mineral mix (not the one for layers). This way, I would be able to see any differences in growth/nutrient absorption and quickly switch the experimental group onto the normal ration if things go awry.

    If and when I wind up having the local mill produce this recipe (or a modification) on a large scale, I will post a comment to that effect.

    Do you have a recipe you'd like to share? Please post it here so others can learn from your experiences as well.
     
    1 person likes this.
  2. lalaland

    lalaland Overrun With Chickens

    3,628
    473
    281
    Sep 26, 2008
    Pine County MN
    thank you so much for posting this!

    I'm having a little trouble following the recipe - About the powdered stuff/flax mix - you are feeding about 1/4 lb of the grain mix per hen each day plus how much of the powdered stuff per hen?
     
  3. Dandelioness

    Dandelioness Chillin' With My Peeps

    398
    68
    131
    May 27, 2014
    East Central MN
    Ahh, the math.

    I have a container for the flax (5# per batch) & another that I mix the brewer's yeast and premix in (0.5# & 2.5# respectively, per 50# batch).

    To figure out how much I need to bring out each morning, I had to determine what percentage of the large portion I was bringing out in total each day so that the supplements would match that ratio. (which happens to be 20% of a 50# batch per day). So if my flock was hypothetically eating 10# of the large mix per day (which was originally 50# but the flax is now separate), I would feed 9 pounds per day of the mixture in the big bin, one pound of the flax, and 9.6 oz of the mixed brewer's yeast and premix.

    I have 40 birds, so the scenario above has my measurements. You would need to find the correct percentage for your sized flock.

    After I measured how many ounces of the mixed brewer's yeast and premix I needed each day for my entire flock, I weighed it out then marked that amount on a little plastic jar I had in the kitchen, so now I just use that "scoop" once per day in the morning. I did the same for the flax. I dump the scoops in to a larger cottage cheese container and add twice that amount of water to soak for 5 minutes or so. This slurry is what I pour over the ration in the morning.

    It will be different for your flock - how many do you have at the moment? Maybe I can help you at least determine the correct weight of supplements to use per day so you can measure the scoop out at home.

    It helps to figure out the powdery additives & flax for the whole flock, rather than per bird, because the amounts just get ridiculous. And the pounds should be converted to ounces before you start. Just a little kitchen scale is all it takes to do that initial measuring.

    I know all this sounds complicated, but when I first started I got the morning ration measured and ready the night before and things were easier. Now I can do it half asleep. But my measurements will be different than yours, unless you also have 40 birds to feed. :)

    Does that help?
     
    1 person likes this.
  4. Leahs Mom

    Leahs Mom True BYC Addict

    10,850
    3,489
    511
    Feb 9, 2012
    Northern Indiana
    @Dandelioness

    Good post! I LOVE Harvey Ussery's book too :D

    I'm leaving a link for you that may be helpful. It talks about percentages of various grains in the overall diet and which things can't be fed unless cooked (in which case, chickens wouldn't eat it anyhow...never saw any chickens out roasting anything lately... )

    Anyhow, a couple examples are: Oats and Barley combined should be no more than 40% of the total feed; Amaranth can't be fed raw; Buckwheat causes photosensitivity (more susceptible to sunburn) and should be used only in moderation...etc.



    http://www2.ca.uky.edu/smallflocks/Nutrition-Grains.html

    http://www2.ca.uky.edu/smallflocks/Nutrition.html

    PS: I also make my own feed no-soy but I'm using organic as I can get the grains at the feed mill not too far in 50 lb bags. I do grind the field peas since no self-respecting chicken would EVER eat a legume seed if it had a choice. But so far I haven't found a reasonable alternative to get the protein up high enough. Though I do use fish meal (at the highest level you can use without causing fishy tasting eggs) and they do get animal protein at least weekly otherwise. I still wish I could find a good animal protein source that was a reasonable price that could go into the dry feed.

    We do get livers and other items from a friend that hunts deer and use that as well as a little ground meat now and then (all raw). But it sure would be nice to find something that could go into the dry feed that didn't cost an arm and a leg. For sure folks with large flocks wouldn't likely be able to give the meat I give unless it was the livers, etc. My local butcher will give me all I want of those free, too, but I like to know how the cattle are raised as I feed raw and I don't want CAFO raised meat (or grain fed for that matter).

    I did finally realize that for the price of my grass fed ground beef (I get it at $3.50 lb) it is actually cheaper than getting dried mealworms or the like lb. by lb. But there are certain nutrients in the bugs that you won't get in the meat... sigh
     
    1 person likes this.
  5. Leahs Mom

    Leahs Mom True BYC Addict

    10,850
    3,489
    511
    Feb 9, 2012
    Northern Indiana
    Forgot to add that they state that the sunflower seed shouldn't be more than 30% of total diet so that kind of restricts totally replacing the peas with them.

    Their quote:

    Quote: http://www2.ca.uky.edu/smallflocks/Nutrition-Sunflower_seeds.html The cholesterol issue is a non-issue as far as real research is concerned and is actually needed for health. Pale eggs? Mine go out and forage in the summer and they get plenty of greens so I don't think that's an issue either. In the winter I still try to give them greens.
     
  6. matt44644

    matt44644 Chillin' With My Peeps

    1,490
    113
    168
    Sep 14, 2014
    Sanilac County,Michigan
    Oats or Barley:
    The primary purpose of oats and barley is to add fiber and to increase the bulk density of feed. The hull
    makes up 20% of the weight of oats and barley. High fiber from small grains keeps the digestive track
    clean and can also be used to limit feed intake. High-fiber small grains also add protein and energy,
    although most of this added nutrition is burned off digesting the excess fiber. Oats and barley have an
    inclusion limitation of 15% in any combination without added digestive enzymes. The result of excess
    oats or barley is wet litter and poor digestive viscosity

    http://ucanr.edu/sites/placernevadasmallfarms/files/102993.pdf
     
    1 person likes this.
  7. Dandelioness

    Dandelioness Chillin' With My Peeps

    398
    68
    131
    May 27, 2014
    East Central MN
    Hi -

    Thanks for chiming in, you two.

    In the summer when they can range, I don't worry too much about their animal protein because they're out there catching bugs and stuff like that. The brewer's yeast is added for that reason. I've read you can add quite a bit more, but the powdery waste + freezing issue is primarily why I'm leaving the amount so small. The B vitamins they get from animal protein are very important.

    I save my meat scraps and extra liver bits for the growing chicks, because the no-soy feed I have trucked in is only 18% protein, and they will grow more slowly on that, of course. When I supplement with said scraps or cottage cheese or fishmeal, they (broiler chicks) grow at the same rate as broilers on a standard soy feed - I raise some to sell, too, and only one of my customers cares about non-soy and is willing to pay for the increased price per dressed pound, so I oblige the other customers and usually have two batches of chicks growing side by side.

    I do have those limits on weights and percentages of various grains. It's in my spreadsheet, but of course I didn't post that in the recipe above. I think it would be good to have a running list of those limitations for others who might be experimenting. This recipe is well within those ranges. I think you could do well with adding wheat, as it has a little bit higher protein content than the barley and it's cheap (at least this year at my mill).

    I've searched high and low for an upper limit to the BOSS, but could not find one. I did see that they've used UP TO 30% in a layer ration with no ill effects on laying, but did not read that as a limit just more of "we know up to 30% is okay." I have seen good health and very quick molting occur over the past two months as well as good laying numbers. But again, time will tell so I'm not going to say this recipe (50% BOSS) is perfectly safe until I've used it for a while and been able to examine a culled hen internally. If anyone has seen a definitive upper limit, I would be definitely apply that to my recipe. I'm not on the low-fat wagon, either, so I'm taking a watchful approach to the amount of sunflower here.

    I have not noticed pale yolks in my flock yet, although they are not that awesome orange you get in the summer. They certainly aren't the pale yellow like the eggs in the store. Maybe they have nutrient stores they are still putting into the egg yolks from all that time outside?? I do give them veggie & greens trimmings from the kitchen though.
     
    1 person likes this.
  8. Dandelioness

    Dandelioness Chillin' With My Peeps

    398
    68
    131
    May 27, 2014
    East Central MN
    Here are the grain/seed limitations I have collected. Please feel free to add to this by quoting and adding on - that way people can have a running list in the thread.

    Oats - no more than 15% by weight

    Wheat, hard red - no more than 30% by weight

    Barley, no more than 15% by weight - Barley is also recommended only after point of lay has been achieved (not for growing birds)

    Flax - no greater than 10% by weight - should also be freshly ground, or soaked or sprouted

    BOSS in the shell - up to 30% by weight has been shown not to be harmful, but no definitive upper limit has been found as of yet.

    Brewer's yeast (copied from Feedipedia) - Brewer's yeast is usually included at levels of 2-5% in rations for poultry, but if the price of dried brewer's yeast is low, it can replace up to 80% of the animal protein in poultry diets provided that additional calcium is added. (there is no ratio for calcium supplementation, but I think free choice shell grit could help negate this concern)

    Amaranth - should be fed cooked, not raw

    I do not have on hand the upper limits of buckwheat or fishmeal, perhaps someone else can add those.

    Thanks for sharing your experiences! I don't have a grinder, so peas are not something I can do but others may be able to make that work for their flock.
     
    Last edited: Jan 20, 2015
  9. Dandelioness

    Dandelioness Chillin' With My Peeps

    398
    68
    131
    May 27, 2014
    East Central MN
    How much $$ is the dried portion of your mix per 50# and what is the crude protein %? just for comparison, as others could use the info. I realize regional prices may vary quite a bit. I'd love to see your base recipe.
     
  10. Leahs Mom

    Leahs Mom True BYC Addict

    10,850
    3,489
    511
    Feb 9, 2012
    Northern Indiana
    I don't have a grinder either but...

    I realized that my mom had an old commercial quality vita mix and that's what I'm using. I know another person that got an old blender from a re-sale shop that has a glass container instead of plastic. She does everything that needs grinding in there and she has a huge flock!

    If I didn't have to use the peas, I wouldn't really have to grind anything I use except for the new chicks. (I make everything "all-flock" levels then add extra protein to the littles and free-feed extra calcium for the olders.
     

BackYard Chickens is proudly sponsored by