Free Choice Grains

Discussion in 'Feeding & Watering Your Flock' started by pixie74943, Jul 13, 2010.

  1. pixie74943

    pixie74943 Songster

    May 25, 2009
    Adelaide, Australia
    I'm looking into feeding my chickens more grains, and less pellets. Currently they get red hen layer feed, which is pellets, but also contains wheat, black sunflower and a couple of other grains I cant name.

    They also get shell grit in a seperate container, veggie scraps in the morning, the occasional tin of tuna, and sometimes a scrambled egg when I think they need a pick-me-up.

    I'm wondering if I can offer free choice grains in a seperate dish, similarly to the way I offer sheel grit, without them pigging out on the grains and ignoring the pellets.

    Or, does anyone know about the nutrional benefits of Wheat, Oats, Rolled Corn, Safflower, Peas, Linseed, Rape Seed, Meat Meal, and Black Sunflower Seeds (these are all grains I can buy). If they're going to pig out on grains if they're given the choice, I would like to have some nutritional information so I can give them the proper(ish) proportions of each grain.
  2. Sportsterjeep

    Sportsterjeep Creekside Acres Farm

    Jun 1, 2010
    Mill Hall PA
    Here's a link i found a while back. Most scratch grains are about 8 or 9 percent protein. Which is way to little for a chicken. You'll hear of people buying scratch as their primary feed, however most of these people are supplementing with other items as well. You can feed just scratch in their dish, but then they must have access to other things. In the summer they will eat bugs, worms, grubs, etc. Giving kitchen scraps is another way to boost the protein. Such as that peice of steak that the kids inevitably drop on the floor. Also, if you are doing this they need oyster shell to get the calcium that they were getting from the pellets. Don't get the little 1 or 5 pound bags that are found on the shelves. Feed stores and Tractor Supply will carry big bags of oyster shell, I think it was 50 pounds but not sure, manna pro brand if I remember right. Scratch grains with the right amount of roasted soybean or fish meal mixed in will also up your protein level in the winter.
  3. Ariel301

    Ariel301 Songster

    Nov 14, 2009
    Kingman Arizona
    I know that both oats and corn are pretty fattening. Which may or may not be good in your situation. If you do a little internet searching you could find charts showing different grains and what nutrients they have comparatively. Try searching something like "compare nutrient amounts in different grains", I just went through something similar trying to formulate a ration for my goats that was more cost effective than bagged dairy feed. If you can get all the stuff your birds need, there's no reason not to serve them something other than pricey layer feed. You just have to be sure they're getting what they need.

    As for them pigging on the grains and leaving the pellets...maybe. Mine have access to free-range, brewery mash, scratch grains, kitchen scraps, and also a small feeder of layer feed a few times a week to be sure they have enough nutrients, and what do they pig out on? Yep, the expensive layer feed. I think they know which one costs me money! [​IMG]
  4. Organics North

    Organics North Songster

    Dec 30, 2009
    Wisconsin Northwoods
    Sounds like you can get a good selection. Look at my BYC page I am building. It shows what I feed. Of the grains you listed I use:
    Field peas are about 24% protein
    Oats about 12%
    Red winter wheat about 17%
    Black Oil Sunflower about 17%
    Corn 9%

    Some safflower could be OK.?

    Not so sure about Linseed. I would need to see if it can be fed. Some meat meal which I assume is fish meal or other meats, could be used to bump up some of the needed amino acids..

    Heck all you would need is a mineral pack, kelp, alfalfa meal and probiotic in the right proportions and you have a home made feed.[​IMG]
    Of couse free choice oyster shells for layers and grit for all.


    I do love peas, but my birds only eat them ground.
  5. Chris09

    Chris09 Circle (M) Ranch

    Jun 1, 2009
    I'll try to help some.
    Here is some information I found for you. The information I posted is from a old book titled "Poultry Food and Feeding"

    Wheat -
    I have always regarded wheat as the best
    staple grain food for poultry. In many countries maize
    (corn), rye, oats, and barley are chiefly used, as they
    are often cheaper than wheat. The value of wheat,
    however, is now more generally recognized, and, where
    egg production is the main object, it is undoubtedly of
    first importance.
    There are two main classes of wheat : the hard wheats
    with high nitrogen content, and the soft, starchy grains,
    generally a third lower in nitrogen. This point has not
    been discussed in any book on stock feeding which I
    have seen, and yet it is of manifest importance. A
    hard wheat with a gluten content of from 12 to 16%
    is a better flesh former and egg producer than is a soft,
    starchy wheat averaging from 8 to 10% and in many
    cases as low as 7% gluten.
    When wheat and its mill products, such as bran,
    pollard, and wheatmeal, form the main food of poultry,
    it is important to know its chemical composition. Tables
    such as are usually published can only serve as a very
    general guide ; what is required is accurate information
    as to local conditions and foods.
    Wheat is low in fat, compared with some other grains
    and seeds, and it is necessary to make up this deficiency.
    It is within the experience of most feeders that when
    laying fowls have been fed for a long period on an exclusive
    diet of wheat and its mill products, great benefit
    results, together with increased egg production, on
    a change to, or large addition to the food of, maize,
    which has a high fat content. This change is due to the
    more natural and more complete metabolism, owing to
    the restoration of the " fat " balance."'
    The carbohydrate content of wheat varies in proportion
    to the percentage of starch in the grain—soft wheats have
    a higher starch content than have the hard varieties.
    A rough-and-ready method of testing a wheat kernel
    is by biting or cutting it in half. If the grain is starchy
    the interior of the kernel will be soft, white and floury,
    while if of high gluten content the fracture will be short
    and the outer layers greyish crystalline, and the flour
    area comparatively small.
    The fiber content of wheat is low, and, as regards
    poultry feeding, may be treated as of comparatively
    little importance compared with such grains as barley
    and oats. The water content varies according to climate,
    and may in a dry climate average 10%, and in a moist
    climate up to 15 %, or more.

    Oats -
    This cereal is generally regarded as a perfect
    poultry food in all countries where it is grown to perfection.
    Its value, however, depends upon the quality
    of the grain and the percentage of kernel to husk. The
    ration of fats and starches to the protein content make
    the oat what is called a " balanced " food. Oats have
    a much higher fat content than wheat, rye, or barley,
    and compared with these is lower in starches, sugar, etc.
    (carbohydrates). It has a good protein content, and
    is therefore a good flesh former and egg. producer. The
    ash content, although better than that of wheat, rye,
    or barley, is still low, and must be balanced with green
    fodders. The oat kernel is enveloped in a tough, fibrous
    coat which is indigestible. Some poor samples are
    absolutely bad for fowls, and may cause crop impaction.
    The variety known as the " skinless " oats has a base grain
    like wheat—but as a rule very small. It makes an
    admirable food for poultry, but is not generally grown
    on account of the habit of the grain in shaking out. When
    the experimentalist brings out an improved variety it
    will be one of the best of poultry foods.
    Hulled oats are ordinary oats which have had the
    husk and germ removed by milling—they are then made
    into rolled oats, oatmeal or other modem oat products.
    Hulled bats are generally expensive, but are none the
    less most valuable for poultry, and, unlike whole oats,
    they are all food. Their defect, however, is in the lack
    of the germ and its valuable nucleic acid content.
    Oats vary in many ways, and there are numerous
    varieties and sub-varieties, some more suitable for poultry
    than others. A very stout milling oat with fine husk
    is to be desired.

    Maize or Corn -
    Maize is largely used in America, where it is termed
    " corn," and is also used in Europe, South Africa, and
    Australia as a poultry food. During the last thirty
    years the use of maize for poultry or other stock has
    been freely condemned. Like other grains, maize varies
    in its composition, and may be rich in protein or rich
    in starch, according to variety and where grown. It is
    rich in oil, some samples showing up to 8% of " fat"
    content. Its ash (mineral) content is very low.
    The ill effects, in pig breeding, attending the long
    continued use of maize alone is well known. This,
    however, with all stock, can be made good by the free
    use of clovers and lucerne (alfalfa).
    Maize, perhaps more than any other grain, is prone to
    deteriorate, and is very subject to the attacks of weevils.
    As a sole poultry fattening food maize is objectionable.
    Its use results in the production of much fat, but
    of a yellow, oily nature, not desirable in a high-class
    specimen, and, moreover, of no economic value, as it
    largely disappears from the tissues in cooking and leaves
    the flesh dark in appearance.

    Peas -
    There are several varieties of the common
    feeding pea, and, in addition, the garden varieties, which
    are heavy croppers, are desirable as poultry food.
    I have always been a strong believer in peas as poultry
    food, and there are many others who also appreciate
    the value of this legume. The protein content is remarkably
    high (22 to 24%), and this points to a good flesh
    former and egg producer. The value of peas in bacon producing
    pigs is well known ; it is of all foods the one
    which gives the necessary meat in what too often is
    " too fat " bacon.
    With fowls, the high protein content
    enables us to keep the fowls going in cases where other
    foods would lead to too much fat production and consequent
    diminution in the egg supply.
    They may, however, be regarded as a concentrated
    protein food, and are better fed, in due proportion,
    with other grains, or as pea meal mixed with
    the mash. Fowls will soon become accustomed to whole
    peas, and will eat them readily, but they seem to dislike
    crushed peas. Peas have a better mineral
    percentage than wheat, oats, and barley, but still there
    is a shortage which must be made up.

    Sunflower seed -
    Sunflower seed contains.14% of protein, 32% of oil,
    3% of mineral salts, but also 28 to 30% of crude indigestible fiber.
    Sunflower seed can often be obtained at fair prices,
    and may be used with advantage, especially during the
    molting period.

    Flax seed or linseed -
    Linseed is still richer in protein (24%),
    and the oil (36 %) is evidence of its heat producing powers.
    The mineral content is fair. In both the protein and
    the fat (oils, etc.) there are principles which act most
    favorably. upon stock, to which a judicious amount is
    fed. The value of linseed as an addition to poultry
    foods is not generally known to breeders, although
    fanciers use it in preparing their stock for exhibition.
    Equal amounts of protein and fats might be given from
    other sources, but the effects of linseed feeding would
    not be produced.
    As a preparation for, and also for use during and for
    a time after, the molting season, linseed is invaluable.

    Rape seed -
    Like other seed of the brassica family,
    is not used as poultry food, although there is no reason
    why, if obtainable, it should not be used in moderation.
    It may be ground and added to the mash, but in small
    quantity. The mineral content is fairly good. The
    protein is present to the extent of nearly 20%, and its
    oily nature (45 %) stamps it as one of the richest oil bearing

  6. pixie74943

    pixie74943 Songster

    May 25, 2009
    Adelaide, Australia
    So the reasons...

    Im looking to have a better knowledge of what Im feeding them, as Number 1.

    Number 2 is hopefully saving some money in the long run (although since pellets are pretty much $1 a kilo, I cant save much)

    And thirdly, I dont want to MIX feed, per se... I'd rather habe three o4 four different feeders, containing different grain options to allow them to pick and choose. I'm just curious about proportions so I know what they may pig out on that could be bad for them (eg. corn) and then I could put less in that feeder, so that when they ran out they were forced to eat a better portion of the 'healthier' foods.

    and on the topic of foliage, right now I have a tractor set up. Once I build a permanent run, I will be planting berry bushes and fruit trees, both for the chickens and maybe (if they leave me anything) myself.

    Also, I would like to know about what nutrition is in the food aside from the portein content. It seems pretty easy to find out about protein, but I cant find anywhere that explains what else is in each food

    ETA: Cheers Chris, your post wasnt there when I started typing this one. Im off to bed now but will definately re-read your post with my brain switched on in the morning.
    Last edited: Jul 13, 2010

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