minimal feeding requirements

Discussion in 'Feeding & Watering Your Flock' started by gadus, Mar 22, 2017.

  1. gadus

    gadus Chillin' With My Peeps

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    It currently costs me about $35/month to feed my flock of 18 layers (stars, BOs, EEs). With shavings and scratch (soon to be discontinued), it might run me $40. I sell five dozen eggs a week and this pays for all with a little surplus left over. They are laying about 12 eggs/day but prior to mid-February produced slightly better numbers.

    I have experimented by following the advice of my feed store guy who also raises layers, and given the birds a 22% protein game bird crumble through these cold winter months (Maine); this costs about $2 more per bag but now that spring has arrived, I am going to be switching back to the 16% layer feed next trip to the store.

    I free-range them about half the day and give them all my kitchen scraps; lately I have been putting apple cider vinegar in their water.

    I keep the coop relatively clean and dry and scatter straw in the yard when it becomes wet; I also dump old shavings in the yard for the same purpose.

    Generally, they seem healthy and with the exception of a broody BO-who went AWOL for about two months-I've been satisfied with what were a hatchery purchase.

    This is a long-winded intro to what is my main question:

    Other than the feed, is there anything else that layers absolutely have to have in their diet? Any medications which are absolutely essential?

    I'm not ducking responsibility but am concerned with cost and also with trying not to fall prey to what sometimes feels like a feeding fad that someone is trying to push, including feed manufacturers.

    If you have some good empirical evidence for what your feeding/medication regimen is-vs. hearsay or received wisdom, I'd love to hear your input.

    *As an endnote, I would add that if I could afford the upfront cost of buying sacks of whole grains and mixing them myself, I would do that.
     
  2. eggbert420

    eggbert420 Chillin' With My Peeps Premium Member

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    How much land do you have? Is free ranging an option? I have a flock of RIR that I have not fed or watered in 2 years they eat bugs grass drink from a pond. They are healthier than my birds that live in a run. They go to their coop every day to lay eggs and to sleep at night.
     
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  3. TalkALittle

    TalkALittle Chillin' With My Peeps

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    You say you free range for about half the day. How large and what does the range area look like? Suburban lawn? Woodsy area? Pasture? Weedy/scrubby brushy area?
     
  4. eggbert420

    eggbert420 Chillin' With My Peeps Premium Member

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    I only free range no feed or medication. All day then they go to their coop at night.

    [​IMG]
     
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  5. TalkALittle

    TalkALittle Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Sorry, my question was for the OP.
     
  6. lazy gardener

    lazy gardener True BYC Addict

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    I feed my flock of 16 birds on about $22/mo. in Central Maine. No skimping on feed, they eat till their crops are full, and if their crops are empty, I feed them again when I put them to bed at night. They also get sprouted wheat. That cost $12.50 for a 50# bag that will last me all of this season and half way through next winter.

    Where do you buy your feed? I have found that Blue Seal, at least where I am is a better deal than TSC, especially when coupled with a discount coupon. They have an Economy Layer (Back yard basics) pellet that is about $2.00 less per bag than their standard offering. But, you need to know that it exists, and ask for it. They will always give you the more expensive bag of feed if you simply ask for layer pellets. The ingredients are essentially the same. Only difference as far as I can tell is some advertising hype. Also, as pricing goes, typically: Mash is the least expensive, pellets are mid range, and crumble is the most expensive when comparing price of a particular formulation. If your feed is not fresh, you are wasting your money. A well known poultry nutrition expert quoted in "The Small Flock Poultry Keeper" by Harvey Ussery states that by the time a bag of feed is 42 days out of the mill, the nutrients are breaking down, and the oils in the grains are going rancid. So, never buy more feed than you can use in a reasonable time, and check the mill date of every bag of feed before going to the cash register. I've walked out of stores without any feed b/c all they had on the shelf was 3 month old product.

    This brings me to my next feed savings. Buy the least expensive product available, taking into account the nutrient formulation and the availabile form. Be sure it is fresh. Store it well, preferably in a metal can off the ground in an area that holds steady temp. Hot feed breaks down faster. This will keep it fresher, and prevent rodent issues. Then, ferment your feed. This will make the nutrients more bio-available, and will give the birds improved gut flora, which will improve their ability to extract the nutrients from the feed. You'll see your feed bill go down b/c birds are eating less, and there is no waste from them billing it out of the feeder, or rodent pillaging. And you'll find that their poo is drier and does not smell as bad.

    On fermented feed: my birds lay sooner and more than birds of same age and provided from same hatchery than those of my neighbors and friends. I've been selling eggs all winter, while a friend who has birds of the same age was doing well to get enough eggs for just he and his wife.

    Mixing your own feed, unless you had a free source of grain will end up costing more than buying prepared feed. But, you can augment your feed bill by growing a lot of feed for them in the summer.

    I collect leaves in the fall. One yard I visit yields 100 contractor bags packed full of leaves. They will last me until next fall. I've found that leaves are far superior as bedding in the coop and run. they break down into a wonderful compost in both places. $$$ savings by not buying shavings. Feed bill savings b/c the birds forage in the leaves all year long: improved gut flora with the ingested fungi and bacteria. The leaves also attract beneficial insects and worms. More feed savings. Those beneficials help to eliminate pathogens and internal/external parasites.
     
    Last edited: Mar 22, 2017
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  7. gadus

    gadus Chillin' With My Peeps

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    My "range" is mostly mixed forest, some blueberry field. Plenty of land and plenty of bugs out there but only for about six months a year.

    I buy Blue Seal feed at my local feed store, game feed at $16/bag and layer crumble for $14. I'm switching to layer pellets at next purchase....Maybe I can save a little with pellets-and I'll try fermenting.

    What you're telling me is that I really need to be buying one bag at a time (not two) , given the short shelf life. I never thought about it but that could be huge.

    Lazy Gardener, I was mistaken in thinking the leaves you mentioned in last year's post were for the garden, now I understand they were to be used in run (and coop?); I can't imagine leaves in the coop but I'll try anything once. Plenty of leaves here. Your suggestion for dumping shavings and poop mix in the run I've already been doing.

    What about meds? Sounds like people are doing a lot of treating for worms...I simply haven't seen any signs of sickness so haven't seen the need.

    Thanks.
     
  8. MerleMice

    MerleMice Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I switched to fermented feed about a month ago. My birds were laying 3 eggs a day, now they are laying 6-11. Which considering there are 18 hens (dual purpose) isn't great, but it's soooo much better. XD Though with spring here, who can say what did what.

    What I can tell you is for sure true, is that the birds eat less, and waste less then the crumble, and drink less water. I would agree that the disclaimer about it taking 3 weeks to see changes is true.

    Right now I'm going through about a 50 lb bag of crumble a week. My birds do not get to free range because of how close I live to neighbors, unfortunately.
     
    Last edited: Mar 29, 2017
  9. TalkALittle

    TalkALittle Chillin' With My Peeps

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    There a far more people NOT worming than are worming. It's just that those people never post "Hey, I didn't worm my chickens today!"

    That isn't to say you shouldn't worm your birds. If you gather a sampling of poop, most vets can do an inexpensive fecal float test to tell you if your birds have worms, what species, and how heavy a load. Then you can decide to treat or not and with which wormer.
     
    Last edited: Mar 23, 2017
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  10. lazy gardener

    lazy gardener True BYC Addict

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    Sounds like you have a chicken heaven. Is your blueberry field sprayed? That would be my only concern with such a varied environment for foraging. Check out the Backyard Basics Layer Pellet. If they don't carry it, see if they can order it for you and do a price comparison. On the plus side, if they have to bring it in just for you, it is more apt to have a very fresh ship date. I buy in Bangor. Do you shop there? Leaves: they are such a bounty. I save the best bags for the coop (dry). They store very well if you get them bagged dry, keep from perforating the bags, and then store the bags upside down so they shed water. I use the wet ones in the run. Also use them in my garden, in a hugelkulture mound I'm building, and in my orchard. I'm in the process of converting the garden to a Back to Eden. Doing same for my 3 year old orchard. I never have enough leaves. 130 bags last year, plus a trailer full of loose leaves. Though I'm surrounded by trees, the leaves all fall in the woods, and I have an old neck injury that makes raking not feasible.

    This year, my DL in the coop is going so much better. Last year, it did have some ammonia build up. This year, only had an issue for a single day, and I spread some more leaves, and a bit of hay, and the coop has smelled sweet all winter. The difference between this and last year was that the bedding has been a bit wetter! It is now about 15" deep under the perches. The birds love to dust bathe in the DL. My mentor, Bee Kissed has been telling me all along, that I needed more moisture. I was fearful to add water to the bedding b/c of fear of rotting out the wood structure, even though the floor is covered with sheet vinyl, and the framing and wall sheathing is primed and painted. Bee is the queen of DL management, and of course she was right.

    MM, how many birds are you feeding? My bad. 18???

    Agreed. Even many veterinarians who deal with farm animals are changing their song: Best practice is to manage for an acceptable load of parasites instead of routine worming with the goal of total elimination. It's often said that 10% of the animals in a flock or herd bear 90% of the parasites. Appropriately culling the weakest animals from the flock/herd will result in a population of animals that is resistant and does not need any medication. Parasites will over time build up immunity to commonly used helminthicides. So, natural management seems to be best practice IMO.
     
    Last edited: Mar 23, 2017
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