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Hens refuse to eat healthy feed

Discussion in 'Feeding & Watering Your Flock' started by JohnsonHomested, Dec 1, 2012.

  1. JohnsonHomested

    JohnsonHomested In the Brooder

    Jun 29, 2012
    We are INCREDIBLY frustrated. For the past couple of months we've been buying a specialized seed mix from another chicken farmer and adding fish meal to boost the protein content. Our whole purpose in raising chickens is to have healthier eggs than we could buy at the grocery store, so we wanted to avoid conventional feeds that contain mostly corn and soy. Problem is, our birds HATE the healthier feed. At first we thought they just disliked the powdery texture of the fish meal, so we bought wheat germ oil and mixed it in to help the fish meal adhere to the rest of the seed. Then we started noticing that the hens would pick and choose which seeds they liked and would leave the rest, and once the tray was full of only the seeds they disliked, they would stop eating all together. Now it's apparent that they are eating only enough to survive. They are exhibiting signs of lack of proper nutrition: mainly brutalizing each other (they killed our bantam last night) and not laying very often (they are 8 months old and have been laying for about two months now). In fact, I've been able to determine that their laying is directly related to how much they eat because when I take them a large amount of scraps one day, the very next day we have twice as many eggs.

    So my question is this: is there anything I can do to encourage them to eat the seed or is it a lost cause? I REALLY don't want to switch back to the soy and corn feed but we want to stop the brutality and we want eggs. We could try to find a high-protein treat that the birds will like (maybe sunflower seeds?) but we're already spending at least $60 a month on feed (for 15 birds) and it seems ridiculous to add even more cost to that. (The conventional feed will only cost us half as much.)

    Other details: we can't free range them because we have dogs, although we do let them out supervised once or twice a week. They have plenty of space in the coop and the run, and I give them scraps at least every other day. We know they liked the conventional feed because they would go through it twice as fast and weren't picking on each other at that point.

  2. ChickensAreSweet

    ChickensAreSweet Heavenly Grains for Hens

    Check to make sure that your fish meal isn't rancid, and that there isn't any mold in the seed mix. If the feed is good, they should be eating it. I found out that my chickens don't even view alfalfa meal as food, even though some swear by it. That is one example of how chickens are individuals and sometimes just won't eat what other chickens eat.

    But if it is just regular stuff that most chickens love, if they don't view it as food, likely it has gone bad in my opinion. The black oil sun seeds in particular, turn moldy at the drop of a hat I have found. I have thrown out plenty of those in a learning curve I had to go up. There is always this powder that forms in it when it is going moldy, and the smell changes. So I constantly am smelling the sun seeds LOL to check for mold- probably not the healthiest thing for me to do.

    I feed a variety of seeds and grains - yes they do pick and choose at first after I fill the feeder but as I only fill the feeder every other day, they finish out what is remaining and I don't throw away leftovers.

    I feed, by the way: black oil sun seeds, millet, wheat, rolled barley, organic cracked corn, rolled oats, and split peas (right now Austrian peas but they don't like these and I won't buy them again). Also I mix in organic chick starter, about 1/3 of the total for some good soy fattening (yes it helps greatly I have found, with the laying and the weight gain).
    Last edited: Dec 1, 2012
    1 person likes this.
  3. Cindy in PA

    Cindy in PA Crowing

    Jul 8, 2008
    Fleetwood, PA
    What is in the mix that they don't eat? That would help us to know what you could change. Unfortunately $60/month is not unusual. 15 chickens would eat about 2- 50 lb. bags of regular feed in a month and that could easily cost you $60+ with the cost of bagged feed now days.
  4. Quyen Le

    Quyen Le Songster

    Jul 9, 2012
    What is bad about corn and soy to the eggs?
  5. ChickensAreSweet

    ChickensAreSweet Heavenly Grains for Hens

  6. sunnyvera

    sunnyvera Songster

    Sep 4, 2010
    NE Ohio
    Have you thought about growing fodder - wheat or barley grasses indoors? It is not difficult at all and there are tons of posts on the forum about it. I have eighteen hens and they get some sprouted greens almost every day - it cuts down on feed, is organic (since you sprout organic seeds) and is cheaper. They like it since it is green and super healthy. They also get leftover healthy treats, occasionally and I notice the egg production is slightly up.
  7. Erica

    Erica Songster

    Dec 5, 2010
    Fish meal isn't all that palatable (nice-tasting), so I'm not surprised the chickens are being fussy. Perhaps you can grind the seeds, mix with the fish meal then make a mash. You'd have less waste and lower feed bills for sure, and the chickens wouldn't be able to pick and choose.

    Meanwhile you can also make seeds much more palatable (tasty) and better for chickens nutritionally by sprouting them (soak 24 hours with lots of water in the bucket, drain into a bag and hang, feed out over 3 days). Wheat and corn are great fed sprouted, though I'm wary of GM corn too, so maybe there are some other seeds you could buy that make good sprouts. A little googling goes a long way in formulating a feed.

    If it was me I'd included alfalfa meal or soaked chaff and also sunflower seeds, but I'm not sure what your seed mix contains, so it's hard to be helpful. Variety does help... Sprouted peas can be a useful addition too, helping to balance the protein if the birds don't eat much fish meal.

    Good luck,

  8. JohnsonHomested

    JohnsonHomested In the Brooder

    Jun 29, 2012
    Thanks everyone! We're going to see how the hens like the Coyote Creek soy-free layer mash and I'm also going to start trying my hand at sprouting some grains for them. Hopefully between those two things they'll be happier all around and we'll get some more eggs. Thanks again for all the advice!

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