Interesting article on Barley/High protein Wheat as feed source

Discussion in 'Feeding & Watering Your Flock' started by sommrluv, Nov 21, 2009.

  1. sommrluv

    sommrluv Songster

    Jul 17, 2009
    Bucks County, PA
    I occassionally eat wheat berries, grind them as flour, and we store them as "emergency food". I know you can buy the same high protein wheat considerably cheaper than the $.99 a lb I pay for organic as "stock" feed locally. I've seen it adverised at $5 a bushel online. I'm curious what others think of this. I might just try it. I only have seven chickens...and the worst thing that would happen is small eggs, lack of eggs, etc. They are young, and I just got my first egg Wednesday (YAYYAY!!) We're having a free range issue because I have a massive amount of hawks. They come to within 6 feet of me and the dogs. Ballsy buggers.

    When I found the grains I got milled, even from my "local" mill were likely over a year old, and 60% - 70% corn...I think there is something better I can feed my chickens. Commercial feed is worse.

    I started researching it...What do you think as a poultry feed...this is from the Canadian government, department of animal science. High protein wheat is 15% and they had normal egg production. They also track the amino acid profile in the whole grain.

    If you don't want to go to the link here is the conclusion of the study, I found it interesting reading:

    The following conclusions can be derived from the data obtained in the current project:

    1.Hulless barley and CPS (Candian Prairie Spring) wheat can replace HRS (Hard Red Spring) wheat in diets for layers at a slight increase in feed intake, resulting in improvement in egg size.

    2.Enzyme supplementation of the lower nutrient diets resulted in improved performance, but did not match the positive control.

    3.The response to enzyme supplementation was greatest with the hulless barley diets.

    4.Hyline W98 pullets were less responsive to changes in dietary cereal types than the W36 pullets.

  2. fiberart57

    fiberart57 Songster

    May 31, 2009
    First and foremost, welcome to Backyard Chickens. This is the most wonderful learning site about chickens in the world.

    I read the study and came up with some thoughts:

    First: Laying hens have a lifespan of 16 - 24 months and adequate nutrition for overall health seems to take a back seat to egg production. Commercial feed mixtures have all the ingredients for maintaining health for a lengthy period of their lives. If you plan to cull and replace your birds every year or so, you can "get away" with restricting their feed to the minimum they need to survive and lay eggs. The study focused on the last three months of a laying hen's career and the early stages of a pullets career. It didn't give any information about how it will affect the chickens when they're older.

    Second: Even though I'm new to chickens, I don't think any of the grains, including the hard red wheat, supplied enough protein. Fourteen and one-half percent is inadequate in my opinion. Read many of the posts here on protein intake verses eggs and overall body health and you'll see that many use a higher protein feed. I use Purina Flock Raiser at 20% and supplement on occasion with grass feed organic ground beef. I may start mixing in Game Bird for a higher protein count. Chickens are evolutionarily designed to be omnivores and do well with meat. In the winter here in Colorado we have no bugs for them to munch on so I'll help them out.

    Third: The study shows that the laying hens actually gained weight with the barley feed. Not necessarily a bonus; a fat laying hen is not a good laying hen. They also had a larger incident of uncollectable eggs. The summary talks about the pullets not doing as well with the replacement or enzymes in Study 2.

    Fourth: They performed the study over a lot of chickens, 1152 chickens total. On an operation of a massive scale, it might make sense to shave a few pennies here and there to skimp on feed. I have six chickens and I'll spend a little extra to keep them healthy. In instance where the barley was fed, the mortality was low, 0.52, but over 1.0 for the rest.

    My summary: I wasn't that impressed with the results. I don't think that overall any benefits of cheaper feed were that well accounted for in other departments like weight, mortality, uncollectable eggs etc. I'm going to continue my commercial food. I go through 50 pounds in two months and that's because I dump it out and put fresh in the feeder on a regular basis. They utilize the feed very well.

    If your chickens do well with your wheat, excellent. But really, the commercial chicken feeds are well formulated for healthy birds. There are organic feeds if you are wanting those.

    I mix up a scratch for my girls that they love and do well with: Four parts whole wheat, four parts race horse oats, one part BOSS (Black Oil Sunflower Seeds), and now that it's winter, one part cracked corn. They get it at night so they go to bed with a full crop. In addition they get yoghurt, safflower seeds, alfalfa, pumpkin . . . but all in moderation. They need the nutrition they get from their chicken feed.

    Good luck and thanks for the article,
    Mary in Colorado
  3. sommrluv

    sommrluv Songster

    Jul 17, 2009
    Bucks County, PA
    Thank you for your very thoughtful and interesting reply, Mary!

    I don't think I want to short my chickens on nutrition. I was interested to see the amino acids in the wheat.

    I'm also, currently using a 20% layer pellet, and realistically, it's inexpensive based on what I've read other people pay, and in my own estimation...$11.49 a bag. (50 lbs)

    A lot of the recipes I've looked into this morning for mixing your own feeds, seems I would be at the same price once I got legumes, corn, wheat, etc.

    I personally, also just do grass fed beef in my diet, we eat soy free only foods, so I guess it kind of bothers me to eat chicken or eggs that are raised on a soy diet or one that is I'm trying to think of a cheap way to get there. Because with only 7 chickens, it's just not cost feasible to spend a ton of money to feed them a designer brand food that isn't neccessarily better, if I can doctor up something myself. Kwim? We'll probably add 5 more in spring, but that's it. We have a large coop, but not the biggest run ( think about 200 sq feet, maybe 300), and we'll have chicken tractors by mid summer.

  4. You have brought up very a valuable discussion. For the last few weeks I have been researching feed requirements, for layers, production, breeding, game birds as well as domestic fowl... I have a swollen head at this point honestly.

    I was happy to learn that my local feed store, in addition to the bagged pellets Purina Flock Raiser I've been buying for over a year now, can also special order grains for me. We spent hours discussing all of the information I had assimilated, and together we ironed out what would be feasible to do here locally.

    I just returned today actually with my stash... whole wheat, flax, groats, cracked corn, alfalfa pellets, black oil sunflower seeds and fish meal. I also have granite, oyster & vitamins. I have Canadian peas on order and next months she'll be ordering her breeder conditioner seeds so I'll be able to add things like safflower, hard red wheat, and a small variety of other yummies.

    I'll be happy to share my mix ratio with you, but right now I gotta go finish canning some soup. I'll check back soon, as I have now become sorta a walking encyclopedia of poultry feed rations!

    I should say this is all unproven as I have yet to walk the walk, but will be starting tomorrow, and would love to keep this thread open to discuss my progress and any others that try this route.

    Added: However I didn't just go make this up, like I said I've been researching like crazy and have behind me the advice of many long time breeders of both game & domestic fowl.
    Last edited: Nov 22, 2009
  5. sommrluv

    sommrluv Songster

    Jul 17, 2009
    Bucks County, PA
    Open that swollen head of yours and SHARE! LOL
  6. Ok.. well as with any good long post on any controversial topic, I can only share what I've learned and what I'm going to do as well as my experience as this "experiment" continues.

    Let me start by saying, I will be switching the birds over slowly from bagged Purina Flock Raiser pellets as a sole ration, to a combination of feeds including whole grains as a main staple. More pellets than grains in the beginning and after a few weeks more grains than pellets. I EXPECT a slow down in egg production, but right now egg production is slow anyway so it's as good a time as any.

    My main motivations for changing my feeding methods and trying this are the following things I've learned:

    Chickens are very smart, and given a choice will consume the feeds they need to balance out their own nutrition... today might be more oats & wheat, tomorrow might be more corn. By giving chickens a COMPLETE feed, they are forced to consume the entire contents of each pellet just to get more corn. Consuming unnecessary calories that they might otherwise not have to eat, to feel balanced.

    As soon as grains are cracked they begin to lose their nutritional value. I have to assume that my bagged feed is between 1 and 3 months old, therefore NOT as valuable as fresh whole grains or grains that were cracked here at home and then served

    It has been observed that chickens eating whole grains will consume less overall feed, there for it can cost less to feed your flock

    It does not cost more pound for pound to buy the raw ingredients right now, and with no increase in grain prices expected in the near future, it is worth trying right now.

    I will feel better knowing that I am feeding them the freshest possible product, and in now way is it harmful for us to keep raw grains on hand that we can also consume by grinding for our own eating purposes.

    I think those are my main motivations right now, so now onto my plan

    I will be switching to a 5 feeder system
    Feeder 1 - Oyster Shell
    Feeder 2 - Granite Grit
    Feeder 3 - Daily serving of dry cracked & whole grains (corn/wheat/oat/flax/peas)
    Feeder 4 - Daily serving of complete feed (pellet mix or commercial mix)
    Feeder 5 - Long Hopper/trough/wire basket - Daily Greens, sprouts or alfalfa pellets

    Free choice Oyster Shell & Water (clean, or with ACV or water soluble vitamins for breeders)
    Free choice greens for penned/cooped/non ranging chickens; garden greens, weeds, kale, rape, cabbage, clover - alfalfa & sprouts in off season
    Free choice cracked/ground & whole grains

    Now, this may LOOK like a lot of work, but it is only a SMALL amount more than what I already do. I make 3 trips out to the coops already each day. Morning Feeding, Afternoon Egg Collection, Late Afternoon Water fill up. I often make another trip out just to check on them or say hi. Therefore, each time I go out and visit everyone I can also drop off a scoop full of grains/pellets or greens depending on their needs.

    Now what might sound like a lot of work and when i occasionally sprout some seeds for them to replace the forage they might get out ranging [​IMG] but I won't focus on that for this just yet.

    Here are my basic notes for ingredients:
    Preferred Grains: Wheat, Oats, Corn, Flax
    If possible avoid Milo, Barley & Buckwheat as these are fillers and do not pack the same nutrition per pound as preferred grains above.
    You can Soak &/or Sprout: Whole Corn, Wheat, Lupins, Sunflowers
    *Other seeds, grains and legumes that may be sprouted are: amaranth, barley, buckwheat, corn, popcorn, millet, oats, rice,
    rye, triticale, kamut, spelt, almonds, broccoli seeds, cabbage seeds, kale seeds, fenugreek seeds, teff, pumpkin seeds,
    radish seeds, quinoa, alfalfa, clover, garbanzo beans, and adzuki beans.NOTE: Large raw beans such as anasazi, black, fava,
    kidney, lima, navy, pinto, can cause problems of toxicity and digestive upsets when eaten uncooked and should not be fed raw to birds.
    Cracked corn feed dry (will not sprout nor benefit from a 24 hour soak)
    Meat Meal Substitutes - offal, fish etc.. boil & mince.. save water to make mash
    Also available in powders or meals ie. fish meal or bone meal

    Grains can be fed any of these ways:
    1. Soaked for 24 hours and fed.
    2. Soaked for 24 hours and sprouted for 2-3 days (just when the tiny sprout tail emerges [#3])
    3. Dry - whole or cracked (slowly introduce new chickens to whole grains)

    Daily Feed Mix Recipes
    Mix Example Layer Mix from Storey's Guide:
    24kg Ground Mixed Grains (corn, milo, barley, oats, wheat, rice etc)
    7.5kg Wheat or rice bran
    6.7kg meal - (soybean, peanut, cottonseed, sunflower, sesame etc)
    1.3kg Meat meal
    1.8kg Alfalfa meal (not need if ranging)
    1kg bone meal
    1kg milk powder
    1.3kg oyster shell
    200g salt

    Or in a less precise method I have narrowed down the following potential recipe which I will be tweaking based on my local sources & protein contents
    50% whole wheat (wheat berries)
    25% whole oats or groats, cracked corn
    10% whole flax, sunflower seeds & peas
    5% granite/oyster
    The last 10% leaves room, I still haven't figured out the exact proportions, for playing with your mix depending on the chickens needs.
    Animal proteins like fishmeal or mincemeat, plant protein or alfalfa pellets in the winter months when fresh greens are not readily available, adding specialty grains & seeds like safflower, hard wheat etc
    plus there is also a serving of vitamins/minerals and rock salt available as needed

    Ok... I am SURE I didn't make all of that complete.. I've been working on editing this for over an hour now... but I hope that gives you enough to chew on.

    I'm still working on figuring out the protein analysis portion but just for reference in 50lb bags we have
    Corn 7%
    Wheat 10%
    Sunflower Seeds 16%
    Flax Seed 22%
    Oats 13% @
    Fish Meal 60%

    I'm learning about Lysine right now, which I believe is required in order for the chickens to assimilate protein, therefore absorption of protein is directly tied to the amount of Lysine available in the product... or so that is how my notes read at this moment...
    Last edited: Nov 22, 2009
    1 person likes this.
  7. sommrluv

    sommrluv Songster

    Jul 17, 2009
    Bucks County, PA
    You're awsome Dawn. I'll post more tomorrow. I'm waiting for some grain mills to get back to me with pricing.....I'm also going to start calling my small butchers that I go to (we normally get a cow or pig done every two, and of course the deer every year) but they don't get a lot of "face) time with me, so while I SPEND as much as a regular...I sure don't feel like one sometimes! I'm hoping I can see what I can do to see if they have "scraps"

    Our poultry guy told me they used to do a grind meal for .15 a lb but stopped because of lack of interest! I wonder what the protein would be on that! High, I bet. But not omega 3, or is commercial fish meal, not omega 3?

    My girls have actually been getting some fish oil supplements in chicken and rice, I give them to my dogs already.

    I have a dog who's allergic to lamb, corn, and various grains, with bad eczema. My husband told me today I just like to control everyone's diet. LOL!

  8. Dust from the butcher's saw is called bone meal and is also great and gotten for free or dirt cheap sometimes. I don't have a local butcher... I will be selling smaller packages of Fish meal starting next week if your looking for easy animal proteins and an increase in Omega 3s. Fish meal offers both but has to be kept to small quantities anyway otherwise you get a fishy egg. But fish meal is 60% protein so a little goes a LONG LONG WAY in chicken feed.

    Good on you for investigating other options... I wasn't ready to learn about it for the longest time... but now that I have, I'm glad I did.


    Mar 2, 2009
    I am happy to see this thread. I changed my chickens diet about 4 mths ago to a whole grain diet too. I love it. I was feeding a commercial high protein crumble, and the chickens wern't doing good on it at all. They all had horrible yucky poop, that was really fowl smelling. And it seemed to me that it was excessive poop too. There were other signs too. There feathers were dull, and loosing alot of feathers. I also noticed them eatting the feathers too. Which to me ment they still are not nutritionally getting what they need. They were also not gaining weight at all, and getting worms all the time. No matter how many times I wormed them. Something had to change, I had tried 2 kinds of crumble and nothing changed. So, off to the internet I went, to look up whole grain diets. And to research soybean meal in chicken feed. I also have done my fair shair of reading on this subject, and have found that I am doing almost exactly what you are doing. I too free feed whole oats, and then in another feeder I mix my alfalfa meal and fish meal. Which they also free feed on. Then for their snack everynight they get whole wheat, whole sunflower, whole safflower, a little milo and some cracked corn. I also give a vitamin supplement with the oats. (red cell) And oyster shell and grit together in a bowl, which they regulate.
    I have been really happy with the results. They have all gained weight, feathers are so nice and shiny and full. And we really cut down on feather loss. And they have only had worms 1x since I started. And it was about 2-3 wks after I changed over. I tried the flax seed too, but realized they didn't like it as much. So there was alot of wasted flax seed. I am still tweeking, and I am always looking for healthy and nutritious treats for the chickens.

    b]So are you going to free feed all those ingredients?[/b]
  10. Ok, I was up late again, because now I'm onto calculating the different protein amounts per mix.
    I have a 16% mix but it's a little pricey with the amounts I have... basically $.36 per pound
    That is because in THIS mix there is little corn, which is our most available and economical resource here in the U.S.

    Here's a basic mix ratio for a 10lb ration at 16% Protein
    5lbs wheat
    2.5lbs Flax
    .75lbs Sunflower
    .75lbs Oats
    .5lb corn
    .5lb Fish Meal

    I'm going to spend the next few hours tweaking & working these equations over until I find the right price & combination of ingredients for daily feeding.

    and yes i will be free feeding the grains, starting with a complete portion, and then adding a little more of whatever they eat more of, etc.

    But I have to say, I have healthy beautiful chickens on the Flock Raiser... we've placed well at shows, gotten lots of compliments, even had people ask me about what I'm feeding because their chickens don't look as good..... but they eat A LOT of it.

    I'm trying to match or get close to the $0.28/lb I was/am paying for Flock Raiser
    Last edited: Nov 22, 2009

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