Grass fed - no corn?

Discussion in 'Feeding & Watering Your Flock' started by GoodEgg, Apr 8, 2008.

  1. GoodEgg

    GoodEgg Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Hi all,

    I've been thinking of changing my chickens' diet. I've just read a tiny bit, and haven't found much, so what I'm thinking may be impractical, but I hoped to get some input.

    I've been reading that grass-fed animals produce meat that is lower in saturated fats than grain fed. I am wondering if that translates into egg production as well?

    I already feed my chickens some flax seed to increase the omega-3's in their eggs. I wonder if the corn in the crumbles causes the eggs to have more fats (or "bad fats") than they would if fed a different diet?

    And ... if that is the case, I am wondering how I can feed a healthier diet to my chickens? I do feed laying crumble, and give oyster shell. They eat a LOT of grass as it is ... I have 25 chickens on a little less than an acre and they keep the grasses fairly short and weed-free so far this year. (Doubt they can keep up when the weather gets hot and rainy though.) But they "graze" most of the day. I also give them lots of extras ... any leftovers we have that don't seem UNhealthy for them, which usually involves a lot of fruits, veggies, and some corn and bread products. I also make rice for them, and feed oats.

    If I can produce a better (in terms of fat content) egg AND keep the chickens healthy, I'd like to try doing that.

    Thanks if anyone has any info!

    trish
     
  2. wynedot55

    wynedot55 Chillin' With My Peeps

    Mar 28, 2007
    you can let your hens live off grass buggs an worms.but know if you dont feed them .that their egg production will dropp off.but they will still lay a few eggs everyday.
     
  3. silkiechicken

    silkiechicken Staff PhD Premium Member

    Unlike ruminants, chickens don't have the enzymes in their guts to break down cellulose, the primary protein in grass.. so esentailly... a grass fed chicken would be a starving chicken. They can eat grass for fun and as a supplement, but it won't take over for grains.

    This might have some info too.
    https://www.backyardchickens.com/forum/viewtopic.php?id=28539
     
  4. greyfields

    greyfields Overrun With Chickens

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    Chickens are single stomached animals (like humans and pigs) so even though it appears they 'eat' grass, they're really getting very little nutrition from it. Yes they eat it and pass it... but what they are really doing is eating the grass seed and weed seeds that they can find. You can't raise chickens solely on grass like you can ruminants. [​IMG]
     
  5. digitS'

    digitS' Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I believe that Joel Salatin talks about a 30% reduction on feed consumption for "pastured" chickens. The Cooperative Extension agents have given numbers like 10%. Keep in mind that commercial feed makes up the remaining 70 to 90%.

    Legumes are an important part of livestock forage. And, you could be thinking about raising seed and other crops specifically for chickens on your acre. Attention to protein levels would be important. It would be fairly easy to produce a lot of carbohydrates which would do little for the production of protein-rich eggs.

    Could you be providing a more healthful diet for your flock? I believe you could [​IMG].

    Steve
     
    Last edited: Apr 8, 2008
  6. hcammack

    hcammack Overrun With Chickens

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    My hens are in a tractor and get free range and since the grass started coming up and getting green the feed use has dropped about 20% close to what Joel Slatin predicts in his book. My hens definetly eat grass and like it but can't survive just on that alone. The egg yolks are also much brighter orange because of the chloryiphile in the grass.

    Henry
     
  7. GoodEgg

    GoodEgg Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Thanks so much for the replies.

    That's along the lines of what I was thinking ... my chickens forage all day, but the feed demand hasn't dropped off that much. I should keep records, but I'd have to say 20% sounds about right.

    There are a wide variety of things growing out there ... actually there was very little grass last year. What I am noticing this year is that a nice "lawn" is coming in where the chickens spend most of their time. It seems they are eating all the weeds and just keeping the grass cut back a bit, plus the grass probably benefits from all the fertilizer they leave around.

    I'd be more than happy to grow some things just for them. I used to feed wild birds and a lot of the spilled seed sprouted and I enjoyed watching them eat the "crops" instead. I get the flax at a discount, but still ... if I can grow things myself it would help. We're on a pretty tight budget still.

    Protein was my main concern, and I can understand how grass would not meet that need. They of course eat bugs and worms, but even in Florida I doubt there are enough bugs to support ALL of my birds.

    I used to mix corn/beans/rice for a base, adding a variety of veggies and fruits for my parrots. The corn/bean mix/rice was for protein.

    Looks like this will be a bit complicated, but I'm interested in learning more. I'd still like to see if I can produce quality eggs with an eye for protein and limiting fat if possible. I just don't know anything about how their diet affects levels of fats/protein, etc. in eggs, or if it even can. Maybe eggs have to be just as they are for the sake of hatching, and the fats cannot be reduced.

    But if I can't produce better eggs, maybe I can at least improve the health of my chickens. I may be over-reacting, but I really hate reading the labels of the feed mixes. The ones I see use some form of chicken by-products for protein, and that just doesn't seem right. I feed my chickens a lot of things, but generally not meat (since 95% of the meat we eat is chicken anyway).

    I knew a lady that made her own feed and used locally grown corn and added fish meal to that. Still, I think I'd prefer plant protein sources for my chickens, with the exception of whatever insects and worms they find. (And lizards ... they LOVE lizards ... Ugh!)

    Thanks again. If anyone knows of a good informational website, I'd love some research info!

    trish
     
  8. hcammack

    hcammack Overrun With Chickens

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    I may be wrong but you should not feed most legumes which include beans to your chickens because they are mildly poisonous to them. I think dried beans may be an exeption like soybean meal that is used in most feeds but I am not sure.

    Good Luck,
    Henry
     
  9. GoodEgg

    GoodEgg Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Thanks, I will check into this. I hadn't heard that before.

    I admit to having given them refried beans and bbq beans [​IMG]

    trish
     
  10. chickenannie

    chickenannie Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I buy my feed from a neighbor who grows his own corn, oats, and soybeans. He roasts the soybeans and grinds teh corn and oats himself, then buys probiotics and minerals from Fertrell (a great company -- also sells organic everything). I feel assured of what's going in my feed and I know it's not medicated. Plus it's fresh, and not very expensive.
     

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