Feeding the "Old fashioned way"

Discussion in 'Feeding & Watering Your Flock' started by Prairiewillow, Jun 15, 2015.

  1. Prairiewillow

    Prairiewillow In the Brooder

    Apr 2, 2015
    I tend to be a bit of an "odd duck" and like to do things the old fashioned way. I know that back when my great grandparents were around they didnt have all the processed animal feed that we do now, including all the hormones and antibiotics, and their animals thrived, so I know processed feed isnt actually necissary. I now have my first flock, 14 hens and 4 roos and although I have been feeding them processed chick/grower feed (antibiotic/hormone free) so far, I do live in a farming community where I have access to several varieties of grain. They will also be free ranging and are good at eating veggie scraps. What I am wondering is what kinds of grain I can I feed them? I do know about the Pearson Square, I just dont know what chickens can actually eat. My dad says rye is to long and sharp of a grain? But I am able to get wheat, milo/sorghum, oats... I also have a beef against GMO, so most corn and soy is out... wish is wasnt, but I cant even grow it myself because the surrounding fields would cross pollinate. If I can find an affordable source of GMO free I would consider including them too. Thanks for any input you might have :)
  2. ChickenCanoe

    ChickenCanoe Free Ranging

    Nov 23, 2010
    St. Louis, MO
    I tend to go the natural feeding route for myself and my animals. However going the great grandparent's route has its downside. Firstly, these aren't your great grandparents chickens. We expect (and get) more production today.
    I have looked into it and ran the numbers multiple times.
    I don't want to burst your bubble but it's nearly impossible to make a feed at home that's anywhere near as nutritious or as inexpensive as what one can purchase in bagged feed.
    Bagged feed is optimal nutrition. It has all the nutrients chickens are known to need based on over 100 years of exhaustive research and more importantly, in the proper ratios.
    To make the feed from scratch, it would probably cost at least 3 times as much and unless you have lab analysis, it won't likely to be formulated correctly.
    If you just look at protein, poultry have specific levels of amino acids they need. If one just looks at crude protein, it's possible to have a high protein diet but still be deficient in essential amino acids like lysine, methionine and tryptophan.
    Vegetative sources of protein (grain/legumes) are missing essential amino acids.
    You won't be providing those amino acids with grain or legumes.
    That high protein diet won't provide enough of what the chickens need but will still have excesses of some amino acids that will be discarded in the feces as lactic acid becoming ammonia in the bedding.

    As an example, a bag of oats costs me $20. It had good energy but still is deficient in essential amino acids, vitamins and minerals. A bag of organic soy free feed costs me $24. A bag of conventional feed costs $11. The latter two are complete feeds that supply all the nutrients chickens are known to need.
    If you want to provide the best nutrition, buy a complete feed. If you want them to be missing nutrients, try mixing your own.
    When I priced it out in the past, it would cost about $50 for 50# to make feed that came close to being complete but since I don't have a grinder, mixer or means to analyze the feed, I'm sure I'm better off buying feed.
    Economy of scale works against one. We buy grains by the 50# bag. Feed companies are buying it by the trainload and vitamins/minerals by the ton.

    You can supplement that complete nutrition with free range so they can get micro nutrients that may be beneficial but won't be in the bag.
    1 person likes this.
  3. pdirt

    pdirt Songster

    May 11, 2013
    Eastern WA
    @ChickenCanoe makes some very good points.

    I think one of the most important points though is that the chickens you have today are NOT your grandparents' chickens. Tthe "old fashioned" chickens grew very slowly and produced perhaps 60-150 eggs a year. Today's breeds produce 180-300 (or more) eggs per year. To be able to produce all those additional eggs requires the special genetics that has been created through selective breeding programs. These breeds (even ones call "heritage breeds") cannot produce such a high number of eggs without the specialized nutrition (optimal nutrition) that we have created for them. Humans created these breeds (nature didn't) and humans have created food better situated for their needs.

    Now, yes, there are people who are only feeding their chickens corn or scratch and letting them free range a little. They might even tell you that they get plenty of eggs. I can't recall where I read this but if you look at the track record of such feeding programs, these chickens don't lay as many eggs as they are designed to do and they tend to not be as healthy. But these people are not raising grandma's chickens, they're raising modern breeds.
    1 person likes this.
  4. pinevalley farm

    pinevalley farm In the Brooder

    May 27, 2015
    if your penning chickens up feed layer but yard chickens can eat scratch , crackedcorn or nothing I feed scratch but very lttle
  5. Den in Penn

    Den in Penn Songster

    Dec 15, 2011
    SE Pa.
    To feed the old fashion way. Not many today can do it. They just don't have the operations own great grandparents did. Nor the chickens that were better foragers. Even those living in towns had a better shot at it. Back then every one had a horse for transportation. There were also quite a few cows for milk then. Yes even in cities. the most famous I can think of is Mrs. Leary's cow in Chicago. Small farms had a even bigger variety of animals for them to clean up after. The free ranging chickens had a smoragous board for them. Nothing at the stable then maybe there is something at the pigs. And there were no weed free lawns and most pastures had more species in them too. They had a much better salad then today's hen. Of course they got less is the way of scraps from the kitchen back then. People utilized their food better then today.

    Oh and I do believe that hormones are banded from chicken feed.
    1 person likes this.
  6. A great American once said:
    "Farming looks mighty easy when your plow is a pencil and you're a thousand miles from the corn field." --- Dwight D. Eisenhower
    In 1900 (4 years after the first concerted effort to raise chickens in a scientific manner began) the average hen produced a whopping 83 eggs per year. That's a tad less than 7 dozen. So a family of 5 would need a minimum of 40 to 50 hens just to produce enough eating eggs for breakfast, little less make up losses to predators and show off for the preacher with fried chicken at Sunday dinner. Be careful what you wish for because you may receive your wish. I know because my material granny had at least 50 hens just to keep 4 people in eggs. I've lived it, I've seen it and I've watched a bowl of scrambled eggs circulate around the breakfast table and when it was my turn to help my plate the egg bowl.... she was empty..

    So for one man to enjoy 2 fried eggs for breakfast every morning he needs a minimum of 8 hens. Actually more if he wanted an egg salad, some cornbread, or other baked goods. Also consider that for most of the Spring that all the CASH income of many farm families consisted solely of the few poop smudged eggs that the family could spare.... during precisely the time of year that egg prices were at their LOWEST.

    By the middle to late 1950s, 300 to 330 eggs per year from each hen was common, an increase of 380% This was all accomplished by good husbandry practices and old fashion selective breeding. At the same time the median weight of a dozen eggs increased from 18 ounces to 24 ounces, an increase of 33%.

    A couple of days ago someone was having qualms about dressing a chicken. In the "GOOD OLD DAYS" live table birds (called Spring chickens) destined to become "New York Dressed Chickens" were shipped live half way across the country to butcher shops where they might hang around in a burlap sack for days until a matron plunked down the equivalent of $100 - $150 in todays' dollars for the fixings of a platter of chicken salad sandwiches to serve at her Thursday Bridge Party. Then the poor rooster in training would have his throat slit, he was dunked in a vat of scalding water, his feathers plucked, and he was sold with all his junk intact.

    Forget the Reality TV shows like Naked and Afraid, Survivor, Yukon Men, Life Below Zero, and others, if you really want to see people drop like flies and die like dogs, takeaway their shoes, then give them a tobacco mule, a goose necked hoe, a Bull Tongued Georgia Stock plow and
    force them to farm in order to feed, cloth, and house their families like a lot of our Great, Grand parents did back in the GOOD OLD DAYS..

    I have said it before but it bares repeating.....

    "Make no mistake about it!!!! These ARE the good old days!!!" Smoke'um if you got um. [​IMG]



    Last edited: Jun 15, 2015
    10 people like this.
  7. Really? Prove it.
    1 person likes this.
  8. ChickenCanoe

    ChickenCanoe Free Ranging

    Nov 23, 2010
    St. Louis, MO
    I forgot to mention that the feed you buy at the feed store, i.e. Purina, Nutrena, etc. contain no hormones or antibiotics.

    Commercial broiler and egg companies operate their own feed mills, making feed just for their chickens. Most of those DO contain antibiotics because of the intensive housing. Many also use arsenic both as a cheaper substitute for antibiotics and to increase growth.

    While legal for beef cattle and sheep, hormones have not been allowed in poultry for over 50 years as they were banned by the FDA in 1959 and are now illegal in meat and eggs. They were used briefly as an experiment in the 1940s. Since then, they've been disallowed in most countries.
    Hormones aren't necessary for chickens. Their rapid growth comes from genetic selection, optimal nutrition and environmental conditions.
    Even if they did work, it would be too expensive since they can't be fed but must be injected. They negatively affect poultry performance. Chicken growth hormone isn't even commercially produced.




    http://gactaern.org/Resources/Class_Starters_Enders/Hormones in Chickens_Class Starter and Ender.pdf

    Last edited: Jun 16, 2015
    4 people like this.
  9. ChickenCanoe

    ChickenCanoe Free Ranging

    Nov 23, 2010
    St. Louis, MO
    2 people like this.
  10. curtisbirds

    curtisbirds In the Brooder

    May 30, 2015
    I feed my chickens nutrena laying feed, oyster shell, and scratch during the winter months when I have them cooped up. During the spring, summer, and autumn months they free range from dawn to dusk. I give them a handful of scratch every morning just for interaction and to get a better close up look at their behavior. But I keep a feeder full of laying pellets mixed with oyster shell in the coop for night feeding and bad weather. It is very true that to mix a homemade batch of feed that would be the correct balance would be extremely expensive and time consuming to make, I too checked it out. And I can tell you that feeding chickens nothing but scratch can be very destructive for them, they might live but can have very serious issues. My four big babies are rescues from someone that only fed them scratch and after being a year old, they still had never laid egg one, and the two roosters still resembled young pullets hens in bad shape. To be honest when I got them, I did not think they were going to make it. My chicken page "My 2 Roosters" tells the story of four birds that, and I will state it bluntly, SURVIVED someone that felt just scratch would be okay. They now are four very beautiful chickens, two very productive laying hens, and yes my two roosters. Feeding them nothing but scratch caused them to not grow combs or waddles, to not be able to crow, my Blondie has deformed feet, they stayed with very runny bowels, and in reality caused serious challenges to get them to eat a complete feed. I had to slowly introduce the complete feed to their diet, like you do when changing a dog's food. I still have to be very careful about exactly how much scratch they get because they will try to only eat scratch. I know refer to scratch as chicken crack because of how they act. Thankfully now they are healthy happy big birds but from that experience I can only seriously discourage people from experimenting with their birds base diet. Free ranging in my opinion make for more hardy birds health wise but they will be smaller, and I feel they still need that feed base. And to be honest, when you free range they really don't eat near as much feed. If you are concerned about gmos, there is a vast selection of organic gmo free feeds on the internet but they are not cheap and come in very limited supply. As far as our great grand parents, mine were cajuns and we have a different way of doing almost about everything, to get my girls to start to lay I added dog food to their feed, my grandma taught me that, and it works. I do have a more old age approach to raising animals because I was raised by people that really did depend on their animals for food clothing, and housing. If your cow got sick and you got sick the cow got healthcare first and you got it only after the cow was all good, cause you let that cow go it's illness can and will spread, and then everybody is out of luck. I spent more nights then I can count as a child helping nurse an animal through the night, and I didn't realize other kids didn't. Now my yard in full of all different kinds of weeds we don't even think of removing them, good for the bees you know. And the variety of bugs are more than plentiful. If one really wants to focus on a more old fashioned life for your birds, like another poster shared if you have the ability, consider added other animals to your stock. Chickens thrive with goats and pigs (even pot bellied). Composting is another fun activity for chickens, you just need to watch what you put in your pile. Compost is only as good as what you put into it, and chicken poop is a fabulous addition. But this is only my humble opinion based on my life long experience in husbandry.
    3 people like this.

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