Feeding your flock amidst of feed shortages

australorpia

Chirping
Jul 27, 2021
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What should we switch to feeding the flock if shortages become even worst and there isn't any feed in your feed store? Mine are almost 3 month old but am thinking forward. Obviously, feeding what we have as leftovers. What did people feed their chickens back in the great depression?
 

U_Stormcrow

Free Ranging
Jun 7, 2020
5,211
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North FL Panhandle Region / Wiregrass
...I'm on my second year of failure trying to get a BSFL composter working, btw. and while they are a good supplimentary protein source, over the long term, the rest of the diet needs to be balanced around them, if that's going to be your main source of non-plant prtein and amino acid profile.

In past centuries, we expected MUCH less of our poultry, and they got by on the scraps/leavings - but it was a varied menu because the farm also had a cow (or more), pigs, grains, a robust veggie garden, etc. There are even old feed recipes for chickens that involve removing all their water, feeding mixed grains, and having them drink skim milk!

You start taking away those sources of variety - the cows, the pigs, the garden plots, and suddenly the chicken's diet excludes both the feed those other animals missed, but also the scraps and excesses OF those animals - and the whole system falls apart.

Modern society is based on highly efficient specialization. Doing one thing exceptionally well, and trading all over the State/Nation/World for everything else you need. Sustainable homesteading involves inefficiently doing a lot of different things, just well enough to keep juggling. Its a completely different mindset. and skills set.
 

australorpia

Chirping
Jul 27, 2021
30
137
61
Best bet is to not let things get that bad. If they do, most of the things we or our suppliers might substitute are going to have the similar supply issues because the issues are not something like a natural disaster affecting one part of the supply chain. Even things like moving to the country so you can have that cow to spill grain for the chickens. Land prices have skyrocked already in many regions across the country. I hope many more people become aware of how much we do not live in a vacuum and start making themselves aware of unintended consequences.

I have several plans depending on how fast it gets how bad - if it does but it sure seems to be increasingly likely. I'm doing only the "cheap insurance" level but I'm starting to think more seriously about doing more. I don't know how far down this path you want to go or how applicable my solutions might be to other people.
With all the attack on livestock and the idea of livestock, I'm not so sure. I grew up in communism and these are dangerously similar times we are living in.
 

U_Stormcrow

Free Ranging
Jun 7, 2020
5,211
15,703
626
North FL Panhandle Region / Wiregrass
What should we switch to feeding the flock if shortages become even worst and there isn't any feed in your feed store? Mine are almost 3 month old but am thinking forward. Obviously, feeding what we have as leftovers. What did people feed their chickens back in the great depression?

Assuming they maintained flocks at all (and fair warning, their expectations were MUCH MUCH lower), you might find these pages really instructive - (for which I thank @saysfaa)

Tl;dr? About 80% (mostly junk) grains supplimented by 20% "meat scraps" (no longer allowed inclusion in commercial feed mixes). The grains were largely a blend of corn and wheat, plus sometimes oats and/or barley. Meat scraps were about 55% protein, 2% fiber, 10% fat.

You aren't going to be able to duplicate that if things all go to hell, unless your circumstances are pretty unique. Thankfully, most of us have not suffered complete absence of feeds thru the pandemic thus far, but changing brands, or substituting a starter/grower for an all flock (or vice versa) since they tend to have similar nutritional profiles has been pretty common.

My advice, which you should feel free to disregard, is that if it gets that bad, eat the chicken early - will cost you more resources to keep alive than it produces. and I say that as someone with a stable flock on a potential 30 acres (though only about 1.75a is currently given over to pasture, and only about 4.5a is fenced.
 

Red-Stars-in-RI

Crowing
7 Years
Mar 24, 2014
1,392
3,355
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Rhode Island
Equally important, you don't need working refrigeration while they are continuing to walk around. There is a truth in that wisdom, "food on the hoof".
That's a good point. Depending on how many chickens you have, the last one to go may even put on a few ounces while "walking around".

Reminds me of my dad....he's slowly cutting down some oaks at his house for firewood, but only cutting what he needs for 1-2 years. He figures that at 75, he can't only process so much at a time, and any tree he leaves standing will keep growing and probably more importantly, not start to rot, until it's cut.

You know you've been working a a piece of land a long time when the large oaks that you're harvesting, you planted the first few years you started.
 

saysfaa

Crowing
Jul 1, 2017
1,235
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Upper Midwest, USA
"Not LET it get that bed?" Might not be up to us, the consumer. The problem right now seems to be the bottleneck in the supply chain. There's no shortage of product, it's all floating out there in the Atlantic - waiting for non-existing truckers to come offload it.
Yes. Not LET it. Why do you think the supply of truckers have been short for the past 15 years and so extremely short the past year? Why is product floating in the Atlantic instead of being grown in Georgia, woven in Massachusetts, and sewn in North Carolina or, if we don't know (or care enough) about the unintended consequences of importing on this scale then why is product floating in the Atlantic instead of flowing through the distribution system? ... why is there a container shortage... why haven't they been unloaded in the distribution centers... ... ... choices we make.
 

TooCheep

Crowing
Feb 23, 2019
841
5,773
294
Indiana
And I'm pretty sure we have drifted far from the op's intended topic. So, unless australorpia wants to go this way and lets us know that, we should move this to an appropriate forum.

My apologies, australorpia. I started the derailment of your post this way and should not have. It wasn't fair to you. Or a good welcome.

I think finding fault/pointing fingers is where things went astray. There are plenty of legitimate things to point our fingers at, but for almost all of us, that is entirely out of our circle of control and not a productive discussion.

@australorpia created a very valuable thread on how to help our chickens help us deal with hard times. If things don't get any better then that is exactly the kind of info that we may need and is within our circle of control. From what I've been reading, this winter may be worse than last in terms of supplies/shortages. So, what practical things can we do to help our chickens help us?

I know I haven't entirely thought this out. I only have 3 chickens and they free range in my backyard. If things get really bad, then:
  • I know a little about how to grow insect protein for them
  • I have a couple of trees that apparently can provide good fodder
  • I know how to collect Japanese beetles as a good food source and minimize the damage they do to my mini-orchard and berry bushes.
  • I have a small compost pile that they can help me turn and get food at the same time.
  • I know that you can sprout grains (wheat, etc.) as a good, inexpensive fodder, particularly during winter when fresh plant matter is harder to come by.
  • I have food preservation skills that can be applied to making their feed store longer.
  • I have been using their egg shells as a calcium supplement, so calcium is at least partially covered.
That isn't a 100% answer, but I'm hoping to get more info here.
 
Last edited:

U_Stormcrow

Free Ranging
Jun 7, 2020
5,211
15,703
626
North FL Panhandle Region / Wiregrass
If you time it right, if you have X chickens, you can get chicken dinner for X days and fresh eggs for breakfast for X-1 days. :D
Equally important, you don't need working refrigeration while they are continuing to walk around. There is a truth in that wisdom, "food on the hoof".
 

saysfaa

Crowing
Jul 1, 2017
1,235
2,788
281
Upper Midwest, USA
Best bet is to not let things get that bad. If they do, most of the things we or our suppliers might substitute are going to have the similar supply issues because the issues are not something like a natural disaster affecting one part of the supply chain. Even things like moving to the country so you can have that cow to spill grain for the chickens. Land prices have skyrocked already in many regions across the country. I hope many more people become aware of how much we do not live in a vacuum and start making themselves aware of unintended consequences.

I have several plans depending on how fast it gets how bad - if it does but it sure seems to be increasingly likely. I'm doing only the "cheap insurance" level but I'm starting to think more seriously about doing more. I don't know how far down this path you want to go or how applicable my solutions might be to other people.
 

TooCheep

Crowing
Feb 23, 2019
841
5,773
294
Indiana
Not a direct answer to your question (an excellent one by the way).

I ran into a problem with getting my preferred feed (18%) early on during covid lock-downs. Had to get 16% that one time and there was a visible difference in my flock's health. I now have a rotation where I store 3 bags of food rather than one and preserve them in food buckets, much like long-term storage for people food. I add an oxygen absorber to each bucket to help keep them fresh until ready for use. That will get me past any short-term problems, but a real long-term one needs a better answer.

One possibility is growing your own protein in the form of black soldier fly or meal worms. I've seen some videos and both are fairly easy, though I haven't done them. I've commented a couple of times on how to easily collect Japanese beetles on BYC but that is a seasonal thing. I know that there are plants- I have a mulberry tree and a Siberian pea tree that are supposed to be good high-protein chicken fodder, but haven't actively done anything with them yet.

Looking forward to what others do in preparation for potential problems.
 

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