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Heritage Feeds for Heritage Breeds

Discussion in 'Feeding & Watering Your Flock' started by Jake Levi, Oct 26, 2011.

  1. Jake Levi

    Jake Levi Songster

    Jan 14, 2011
    Harrisville, MI
    Good morning,

    my interest is in the heritage breeds of chickens, I enjoy them, raising them and spending time with them.

    I have been giving thought to a ration that approximates the rations that they were developed on, other then what they found ranging the usual item I find reading old articles etc is 'scratch grain' and 'scratch corn'.

    One other interest is organic gardening etc. I am working up a ration, of available farm grains from the era our heritage breeds developed. As all wont be able to range every day I will be adding either animal meal and/or fish meal to compensate, other then minerals there wont be any modern additives .

    So far its cracked/ground corn, rolled oats , barley and wheat, BOSS, with minerals and a vitamin supplement. I do feed daily a number of handfuls of alfalfa findings/chaff to my flock which they clean up daily.

    I would like to hear what others are doing similar.And if others have found actual rations used in the devopment of our breeds. As for ranging, I do plan to let a different group range daily, but, that wont be enough, plus shortly our Wa snow will be here.

    Last edited: Oct 26, 2011

  2. Erica

    Erica Songster

    Dec 5, 2010
    Hi Jake Levi,

    I don't mean to be a downer as I totally agree with what you're trying to do. Unfortunately though, if you can't free range 24/7, I can't help feeling you're going to have to go the whole hog with formulating a ration. It doesn't have to include synthetic additives such as are in nutrient balancers and in commercial feed, but I would think it needs to be pretty well designed. Even limited free ranging will help cover some omissions or errors, but not all... For instance in particular during winter you may see vitamin shortages, particularly the ones like A and K that are available in leafy fresh greens, and B vitamins in general might be a little low in your ration (I'm not a nutritionist, so don't take this as gospel at all; but those are my impressions from a quick read). From my reading yeast is a good additive for B vitamins (though not B12) and sprouting wheat and other greens like kale in a greenhouse may supply winter greens.

    If I were you I'd look at some of the 1930s and 1940s poultry keeping books, because they were written after some good studies on nutrition had been accomplished but before modern synthetic vitamins and other dodgy additives had become widespread in feeds. The University of Manitoba website has a really interesting review of a popular 1945 poultry feeding manual, and if you haven't seen it before but would like to check it out (forgive me if you've already done a whole heap of reading), it's here... http://www.gov.mb.ca/agriculture/livestock/poultry/bba01s23.html

    Just to explain where I'm coming from, I hope you don't mind if I set out a few of my thoughts on the whole heritage breed/feed thing... It's something I've thought about a fair bit, but excuse me if I'm going off on tangents or if you're way ahead of me... It's a great topic though, and highly pertinent now with the petrochemical industry starting to cough and splutter...

    It seems to me that back in heritage days (let's say 'pre-industrial' to be clearer) farms were much more varied in their livestock, cropping etc, so it's arguable that the range of vitamins available on-farm was higher. For instance some vitamins were obtained (for poultry I mean) by picking through the droppings of other animals and so forth. In a way you could say pre-industrial farms were run much more like an ecosystem, with everything in some way complementing everything else. At the same time, birds had been bred to suit this system. They weren't expected to lay massively well and if they were highly productive in one way (meat or eggs) it usually meant very low productivity in other ways, to keep an overall balance. Nobody paid any attention to 'formulating complete feeds' for poultry because there was an environmental balance based on how small-scale farms ran.

    Industrialisation and monoculture farming changed all that, and small farms became no longer viable. Productive-type birds were also bred for even greater productivity at the expense of being able to survive on forage alone, while to a large degree the keeping of dual purpose heritage breeds became a show-thing (with the exception of a few game type breeds and perhaps one or two others, depending on where you live... In Australia we lost most of our genuine utility birds). At the same time thriftiness, foraging ability and hardiness were often neglected.

    However the highly industrialised monoculture approach to things is now starting to meet the reality of diminishing oil. A more positive way of looking at the situation is to say that small integrated farms could become profitable again, if they're closer to markets, as they can beat transport costs. That's if industrial giants don't do everything they can to kill a return to small integrated farming. But most of us don't have fertile smallholdings and for most of us doing things off the grid will be a compromise at best. [​IMG]

    My compromise has been to try to learn everything I can about poultry nutrition (I'm not there yet, nowhere near), and put a lot of effort into a feed recipe based on natural ingredients (i.e. no petroleum industry derived vitamins), while also keeping heritage x commercial birds rather than straight heritage purebreds (for better feed conversion among other things). Perhaps you won't need to make any compromises at all, if you source the right birds and have the right setup for them. Great if you do!

    It's nice of you to start a conversation about these things, and I'm sure while there haven't been many responses so far it's not because it's an uninteresting topic. Some BYCers have connections to industrial farming and are ever-ready to jump on those who want to try formulating diets themselves, but many more people will see the long term point to all this, and realise that Uncle Industry isn't necessarily going to be there for all of us in the next several decades. If they are there for us, well and good, and we can all relax; but meanwhile those of use pottering about on our own won't have done any harm, and we just might have done some social good for ourselves and others during hard times...

    Good luck with your program, I'll shut up now. [​IMG]
  3. EggyErin

    EggyErin Songster

    Apr 2, 2011
    N. Ga mountains
    Gosh, impressive answer! You've clearly done your homework and have actually made sense of it. Very interesting.
  4. Jake Levi

    Jake Levi Songster

    Jan 14, 2011
    Harrisville, MI
    Hi Erica

    We are pretty much on the same page, because of predators here I cant free range them unsupervised, I am hoping a couple dogs can help on that some.

    I am trying to avoid the industrial over-cooked stuff, and the additives. Some vitamins may need to be supplemented, I feed alfalfa now daily and they clean it up right away. What I want to get away from is the labels that say 'grain products', 'plant protein products', 'processed grain products' , and such, I am in a selenium deficit area so will be adding a mineral mix with selenium, calcium phosphate, and will be looking hard at the vit mixes. Some such as bisulfite can be added, thiamine, and others. This label I have doesnt even show what grains or the percentage of each, all it shows is % of protein and the additives. That is way unacceptable to me. Been a long time since I sat in a class and balanced rations but its not rocket science. And a complete ration is what I am planning for sure.

    I am collecting some of the old books and articles, dusted off my Poultry Science by Ensminger et al, and looking long and hard at what is doable. Calcium, phosphorous, salt are pretty easy to add, it will be something interesting to formulate, and then fine tune as I go along. What prompted me to do this is moving from MI to NE Wa and finding that laying mash is right at twice what I paid for it in MI at my area Amish owned mill. I seriously believe that I can do way better then that even if it means buying a larger quantity at a time.

    BTW, I didnt have that U of M. site, thanks, good stuff there.

    Thanks for your comments and time to do it,


  5. Chris09

    Chris09 Circle (M) Ranch

    Jun 1, 2009

    As you may or may not know chickens can be divided into two classes of fowl, the first being Hard Feather Fowl (American Gamefowl, Oriental Gamefowl, Spanish Gamefowl etc) the second is Soft Feather Fowl (all other breeds other than Game type fowl).

    Hard Feather Fowl are best feed a somewhat a whole grain diet that has a concentrate (Turkey pellet, Big 4 pellet etc).
    Soft Feather Fowl are just the opposite as the do best fed a processed type feed (Mash, Crumble or Pellet) with whole grains feed at a minimum.

    If you going to mix your own feed you will have to keep this in mind because you're going to have to have a way of grinding the feed into at least a mash.
    Soft feather fowl that are feed a diet of mainly whole grains (un-ground) tend to have poor feathering in that the feathers are brittle and break easily, feathers may also fray easily and be in poor condition more often than they should.

    All though it may not be, "rocket science" there are a lot of thing that you will have to keep in mind when you are miking you own poultry feed.

    This may also help on the feed tag and what some of the "stuff" are,
    Plant protein products - represents one or more of 41 different feedstuffs including: various forms of
    soybeans, cottonseed, yeast and other plant meals.
    Grain products – represents any of the normal forms (whole, cracked, ground, etc.) of several grain
    products such as corn, oats, barley, etc.
    Forage products – represents inclusion of one or more of several different forages including alfalfa,
    coastal Bermuda, lespedeza, etc..
    Roughage products – represents inclusion of one or more high roughage feedstuffs such as various types
    of hulls and pulps (cottonseed hulls, beet pulp, etc.).
    Processed grain by-products – as the name implies, includes over 40 by-products of grain processing
    including wheat middlings, brewers dried grains, corn gluten feed, etc.
    Molasses products - includes various forms of cane, citrus and beet molasses.
    Animal protein products – includes various forms of animal by-products. The FDA prohibits use of
    mammalian protein sources in ruminant feeds, therefore, most feed manufacturers will not use this
    collective term on their label. Some approved animal protein products for ruminants include hydrolyzed
    poultry feathers, blood meal, fish meal, whey, dried milk, etc. If animal protein products are included in
    goat feeds, most manufacturers will list specific rather than collective terms.

    Last edited: Oct 26, 2011
  6. Jake Levi

    Jake Levi Songster

    Jan 14, 2011
    Harrisville, MI
    Hi Chris

    Thanks, to save time I should have listed my degrees, but didnt think it was relevant, but I took poultry science a bit over 28 years ago. I am quite familiar with the different poultry types. As well as formulating rations for different species.

    As you mentioned, the broad categorys say nothing when listing grain as 'grain products' etc, this is what is unacceptable to me. They might as well just say 'chicken feed, good stuff', but they do have to list the protein content and the other additives by per cent and weight. Pity they dont have to list the other ingrediants. Rather then buy thse very unknown quantities I prefer to mix my own.

    I know what I am going to do, I was wondering if there are others on the site who are doing or going to do the same. Thats all.

    Thanks for your inputs.

  7. dirtsaver

    dirtsaver Songster

    Mar 20, 2010
    Northern Kentucky
    Post deleted because

    "if you can't say anything good........."
    Last edited: Oct 26, 2011

  8. eggdd

    eggdd Songster

    Jul 12, 2011
    first, animal meal isn't organic.

    secondly, i'm also interested in providing the most natural (free of any industrialized toxin) experience (which includes, but not limited to, diet) for my chickens. however, i have hundreds of acres and can allow my chickens to range all day/every day minus sleep time. this also eases my liberal moral conflict of keeping an animal confined to a pin. that's another topic, though. i supplement their diet, of course, and am always researching ways/ideas/things to try and ensure i am providing what's needed while maintaining the integrity of my program. unfortunately, i do not think this is the place to have that conversation. indeed, i started a thread about feeding just a few days ago - - it got locked due to off handed comments - - few were able to stick to the conversation at hand. there's a good deal of projection happening.

    pm me if you'd like to have further conversations. otherwise, good luck and i hope you get a lot of good feedback.

    edited to add half a sentence i left off - - it's late! [​IMG]
    Last edited: Oct 26, 2011
  9. Jake Levi

    Jake Levi Songster

    Jan 14, 2011
    Harrisville, MI
    I did get a couple pms, but folks seem leary of doing it, its not rocket science, farmers have been doing it for a very long time. Ideally I would free range mine, but the predators make that risky and expensive.They will get some free range time in good seasons, now its getting cold up here and snow will be herre soon. Hopefully in the spring I can free range each greoup a different day of the week, with supervision.

    There are two real protein supplements other then some seeds, meat meal or fish meal, I include blood meal in with the meat meal.

    Fish meal has great protein level, but, it can give an off taste to eggs, so best for starter and grower feeds. I will be using BOSS, and exploring the various protein supplements available here. The basic grain mix will be corn, oats, barley and wheat, in decreasing amounts. Corn ground and other grains steam rolled.

    For those folks interested in formulating your own mixes I strongly suggest Poultry Science by Ensminger, available from Amazon.com, and there are several other good works available. I learned much years ago from the Ensminger book. It will give you the basics, most of the rest comes from tweaking what is available to you in your areas. That will make the major differences in each breeders mixes, as well as what is available different times of the year. As well as what mineral supplements you need to make for your areas deficencies.

  10. Bear Foot Farm

    Bear Foot Farm Crowing

    Mar 31, 2008
    Grifton NC
    This label I have doesnt even show what grains or the percentage of each, all it shows is % of protein and the additives

    The reason for that is the mix can change according to what is available, as long as they keep the PERCENTAGES of protein the same.

    It keeps them from having to print a different label for every batch.

    Reality is it's STILL grain.

    "Heritage" chickens didn't eat nearly as well as what most people feed them today​
    Last edited: Oct 27, 2011

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