New to chickens, and having to mix my own feed

Discussion in 'Feeding & Watering Your Flock' started by aschrimp, Feb 27, 2012.

  1. aschrimp

    aschrimp Out Of The Brooder

    Feb 24, 2012
    Sacramento, CA
    So...we are brand new to chickens, and have kind of jumped in with both feet. We have 16 chicks all 1-2 weeks old. We had planned to feed organic chick starter until they were much bigger, and then transition to a homemade grain feed. My son has a serious gluten sensitivity (celiacs disease), and so for long-term purposes, we need them on a gluten free food, of which I have not been able to find *anything* available commercially. So...we've got a 50 lb bag of organic chick starter...and I thought we could just double wash hands for the 6-8 weeks they were on that, and deal with it until they were bigger...but my son has rashed up all over his hands and face, even with scrupulous hand washing. He's never had a contact reaction before, but it's got to be the chick feed - nothing else has changed. So...we've got to get them on our own feed much sooner than I had planned.

    I worked out the nutrition of the various gluten free grains that I am able to get at our not-so-local feed store - they actually have an awesome selection, and worked out a recipe that gets them *really* close to conventional chick starter in protein/carb/fat ratios. Probably even closer once I am able to get back up there and get a bag of sunflower seeds. It's higher fiber, obviously. It's still a teeny bit low on protein, but I think I can supplement that with raw milk, cottage cheese, scrambled eggs, and eventually when they are old enough, bugs and forage - we have 5 acres, with an empty 15 surrounding us, so there is plenty of free-ranging space. We are also already providing tons of fresh greens, basically all they can eat a couple times a day, adding about 2% dried kelp meal, and offering free choice salt + minerals and chick grit. The amino acids should be fairly well balanced with such a good variety of grains. I've got them on maybe 15% of the new feed, and the rest is still the toxic (to us) chick starter right now. They like it, and don't seem to have any issues eating the bigger chunks of things like the buckwheat, peas and whole oats. They certainly aren't leaving any of it lying around - even the food that is shoveled out of their feeder is getting picked through and every bit of "real" grain is beign gobbled up (and they won't eat the chick starter once it's touched the shavings).

    I'll be transitioning slowly and watching them really carefully, if they start to look like they aren't doing well on it, obviously we'll have to do something else - it would probably meen finding a new home for our already beloved chicks.

    Grain Serving Size Cups Calories Fat Protein Carb Dietary Fiber parts
    1 cup
    1 cup
    1 cup
    Cracked Corn
    1 cup
    1 cup
    1 cup
    1 cup

    For reference, I collected a few different chick starter guaranteed nutritional analyses. The one with 18% protein is what they are currently on, and apparently it is one of the lowest protein ones out there. Of course, I didn't note the names (sorry!!). The carb contents are approximations, and don't include the half percentages of stuff like ash, etc, that are in commercial preparations.

    Chick Starter %s

    We don't have a choice on this one, it's either not have chicens at all, or feed them a gluten-grain free diet. So...if you've had experience feeding a home mixed feed, or replacing a large portion of your commercial feed - am I forgetting anything?
  2. ChickensAreSweet

    ChickensAreSweet Heavenly Grains for Hens

    You can have a look at my BYC page if interested in what I feed. I do feed wheat, since we don't have allergies (just skip over that part, LOL).

    They can sure overdo it on the salt quite easily. You might think about putting only a tiny amount of salt out there at a time for the free choice container (and see my comment below about under two week old chicks). The kelp meal will give them some salt- but I don't know how much, and usually feeds are comprised of 1% or less salt, from what I have read.

    I used to feed salt free choice, too, but got concerned with the sporadic overconsumption I noticed. I don't know if it would have been a problem for them or not.

    So now I just give kelp meal and also kitchen scraps which have salt on them. I think salt added to the ration is good, though. Under two weeks of age I recommend giving grit "sprinkled over the food like salt" (from McMurray Hatchery's website) as they overconsume the grit (and thus I am worried about the free choice salt too) and can fill their crops with it, causing problems.

    Once they are two weeks old I offer grit on the side (as well as some mixed into the feed since I feed whole grains).

    They really enjoy pecking at the charcoal and ashes from the woodstove too, so if you have one you might think about making a dust bath area for them with cooled ashes/charcoal for minerals. You can mix the ashes with sand, dirt, DE, or just pour the ashes on the ground like me.

    I would recommend starting them on grass clippings, very short, like 1-2 inches long (I only give adult fowl 2-3 inches long too to prevent impacted crop). Grass has many vitamins and is necessary for happiness and health from my experience with chickens.

    Edited to add- saw your greens comment- you are already giving greens- great!!
    Last edited: Feb 27, 2012
  3. ChickensAreSweet

    ChickensAreSweet Heavenly Grains for Hens

  4. Erica

    Erica Chillin' With My Peeps

    Dec 5, 2010
    Hi aschrimp,
    I really feel for your son with his wheat issue. That must make things so hard, but good on you for all this effort.

    I hope you don't mind if I make some suggestions to start with. I'm not a nutritionist or diet expert, so this isn't gospel.

    But I can't help feeling you're going to see poor growth for a couple of reasons. One is that flax has I think about a 4% inclusion rate with adult birds, and that would probably be lower for chicks, because of toxic or antinutritional compounds. From memory a similar situation exists regarding chicks with milo (I think in that case it's the tannins). Peas can be a useful additive, but again they have antinutritional compounds that limit their inclusion (especially with chicks). These things really will make a visible difference if overfed when birds are small.

    So I would suggest you forget trying to achieve the right protein levels purely with the grains etc (because recommended inclusion levels will limit their use) and find a source of fish or meat protein. Soured milk can be very good for chicks. Then you can focus on just a few of the grains, but find the most useful ones.

    If I couldn't use wheat, I would be looking at a base of sprouted corn, soured oats, maybe millet or cooked barley, then working at finding good animal protein additives (with seaweed, shellgrit and salt for minerals). I'd probably still include sunflower, peas and flax, but I'd make sure I stuck to recommended limits for young birds, and I wouldn't use milo at all. I understand soy is fairly compromised in your country so perhaps you could cook the peas if you really want to include them at higher levels.

    You might be able to set up a mealworm farm and some worm farms to try to make fresh protein easier to source. You may also be able to raise mealworms on oatmeal (though I haven't done it so am not sure).

    Incidentally, a really useful worm farm is just to lay a sheet of carpet over rich damp soil, and wait...

    These are my thoughts, for what they're worth -- I haven't done my food resource reading in a while so excuse me if I've fouled up any of the nutrition points.

    Best of luck, I hope you can do this,

  5. aschrimp

    aschrimp Out Of The Brooder

    Feb 24, 2012
    Sacramento, CA
    So, I've pulled thier grit and salt, and I'm just going to sprinkle over thier food until everyone is 2 weeks old. I can ask about fish meal when I go back up to the feed store on Wed. All the stuff that I've read recently was anti-fish meal, though. I'm not opposed to a meat based protein source - obviously they eat all sorts of bugs and stuff when they free range.
    I actually did do some reading about milo, it said that up to 10% of the mix was safe and didn't cause any growth issues, and also looked into safe percentages of flax seeds and stayed under those. That is why those items are lower on %s in the mix, though, and why I didn't bump up flax seeds to increase the protein. They are primarily there to provide variety and omega 3s, not protein - removing them doesn't alter the food profile at all, they are such a small portion - 1/4 of one part. I'll do some more reading about the peas...
  6. aschrimp

    aschrimp Out Of The Brooder

    Feb 24, 2012
    Sacramento, CA
  7. ChickensAreSweet

    ChickensAreSweet Heavenly Grains for Hens

    Livestock | Poultry | University of Manitoba Research on Feeding Peas to Poultry | Manitoba Agriculture, Food and Rural Initiatives | Province of Manitoba
    Here's a nice peas link. Please note that for my chickens, there is a dose of peas above which, they just leave them. Some grind the peas and include them that way, so they don't refuse them. Mine eat them happily as long as I don't give them too many.
    Last edited: Feb 28, 2012
  8. aschrimp

    aschrimp Out Of The Brooder

    Feb 24, 2012
    Sacramento, CA
    So right now I've got the peas as approx 25% of their grain diet, but they are also probably getting an additional 20% or so of their diet from the greens and extra protein foods I am supplying. I think that should still have me under the reccomended 20% even for young chicks. I am still going to pick up a bag of sunflower seeds - they will have a different amino acid profile from the other grains, and certainly can't hurt. I'm doing some more research on fish meal...

  9. ChickensAreSweet

    ChickensAreSweet Heavenly Grains for Hens

    "Lower levels of lysine and threonine may cause some restrictions on some non-ruminant uses of sunflower meal. However, sunflower meal contains an excellent level of methionine which provides potential advantages for mixing with other meals."

    Sunflower seeds are higher in methionine than peas, so including them is good!

    I just can't help thinking that your chickens will be some of the best fed chickens in the world! [​IMG]
    Last edited: Feb 28, 2012
  10. aschrimp

    aschrimp Out Of The Brooder

    Feb 24, 2012
    Sacramento, CA
    Ok...I was researching the fish meal, and found a mill an hour and a half away that makes a soy *and* what looks to be gluten free line of chicken feeds, and it is all organic! I need to find out what is in their vitamin and mineral premix, but everything else is safe. Now...I've got 300 lbs of grains that would have to sit for a while, but this may be easier until they are bigger and able to forage for protein:
    *Organic Soy Free Chick Starter & Poultry Grower Crumbles #6021

    Use: Chick starter and grower crumbles have a minimum of 22% protein and are used to start out baby chicks. You can use this mix for the whole grow out period.
    Ingredients: Organic corn, organic sesame meal, organic peas, organic sun-dried alfalfa, limestone, Redmond Conditioner (clay), diatomaceous earth, kelp meal, Redmond Sea Salt, monocalcium phosphate, DL methionine, poultry vitamin & mineral premix, dried aspergillus niger fermentation product, organic garlic, organic horseradish, organic anise oil, organic juniper berry.
    Guaranteed Analysis: Crude protein min 22%, crude fat min 5%, crude fiber max 5.1%, ash max 8.9%

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