Question about why we feed chickens corn...

Discussion in 'Feeding & Watering Your Flock' started by ChickieNikki, Apr 5, 2009.

  1. ChickieNikki

    ChickieNikki Chillin' With My Peeps

    Ok, so I want to raise my chickens without any chemicals, GMOs, hormones, etc. I want to know what goes into them, and how they're treated. So if we're raising naturally fed chickens, is it really natural to feed them corn? I mean, wild chickens wouldn't eat corn--I don't think...I mean, I don't picture them climbing the stalk, or shaking the loose corn, or any of that. So what would they naturally eat? Same with "corn fed beef"--cows eat grass, not corn. Seems a similar analogy with chickens, I just don't exactly know what chickens might naturally eat instead of corn. I don't want any soy in their feed, and don't want any GMOs either, and it seems corn is a huge culprit. I can't swing $75 per 50lb bag for organic feed ($40 for the feed and $35 for shipping online--can't find it locally). What can I mix for feed that is corn free? We eat mostly fresh produce, and we are a family of 8, so they will have lots of scraps, our neighbors are willing to donate garden scraps and weeds, and they will have 1/3 acre to free range.

    Thanks for any answers and suggestions...
  2. Indiana hens

    Indiana hens Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jun 25, 2008
    Pendleton, Indiana
    [​IMG] [​IMG] Have you ever grown sweet corn next to chickens? Looks like deer and raccoon damage! Yes, they love corn! [​IMG] They will ride the stalk to the ground! By the way you would not have to feed wild chickens!
    Last edited: Apr 5, 2009
  3. Wifezilla

    Wifezilla Positively Ducky

    Oct 2, 2008
    Hi Nikki,

    That is a question I have been trying to answer in regards to ducks. Given the opportunity, sure chickens will eat corn, but corn isn't available all year unless a person turns it in to feed for them.

    Grains and starches are seasonal treats for wild animals, and the corn chickens ate 200 years ago is not the same corn we get in the store today. It has been engineered to be MUCH sweeter.

    So what do we do? Like you I have been searching for sources of corn-free and soy-free feeds. Unless I am willing to quadruple my feed expenses, that isn't going to happen.

    Next, you try and figure out what you can do on your own. Looks like you and I are at the same point. What can we provide for our animals that is closer to their evolutionary diet?

    Right now I am experimenting with duckweed and growing it in my little pond. I am also planting lots of greens in my garden. I will see how much I can grow. I already know my ducks will eat thawed out frozen zucchini. I gave them some stuff I put up last fall.

    I am also looking for old feed formulas, but most of those have corn. For now, see what I can provide while leaving them free choice on their game bird feed. The better I do, the less of the commercial feed they will eat.
  4. jhm47

    jhm47 Chillin' With My Peeps

    Sep 7, 2008
    Modern day chickens evolved from red jungle fowl. Red jungle fowl are smallish birds that live in jungles (hence the name). They are medium sized birds that eat fruits, seeds, and many varieties of worms, insects, small snakes and reptiles, and even small mammals. They will scavenge the carcasses of dead animals, and especially relish the maggots that feed on these carcasses.

    The modern day chicken has evolved into a much different bird than it's ancestors. The modern chicken grows much faster, lays far more eggs, and has been genetically changed to better suit domestication. A red jungle fowl would survive in a modern day poultry environment, but would be far less efficient than a modern bird. However, a modern day chicken would not survive long in a typical jungle environment. Predators, diseases, and many other dangers would soon cause them to die.

    As to their feed, modern birds need to be fed the diet that they have been genetically engineered to thrive on. Corn is cheap, energy dense, and readily available. It is the primary ingredient that these birds have been raised on for many years, just as the jungle fowl have been raised on their particular diet. However, corn has one big drawback---it lacks some of the amino acids that chickens need to thrive and produce at an optimum level. These amino acids can be provided by allowing them to eat bugs, worms, snakes, small reptiles, and letting them scavenge carcasses. But, this is not practical in most cases, and the proper amino acids must come from another source. This source has become soymeal. It too, is relatively cheap, available, and does a fairly nice job of balancing the ration needed for these modern chickens.

    I often see posts on this board about how bad GM corn is for their birds. However, the same people are allowing their birds to free range. Did you know that the Bt gene is naturally found in bacteria that live in soil? The same bacteria is produced commercially, and applied to organic plants (yes, it's used on organic produce, and you likely have eaten a lot of it).

    The bacteria is called Bacillus Thuriengensis. The substance that causes the larvae of Lepidoptera to die is simply a protein, and it plugs up the holes in the gut of these larvae. This causes them to starve to death. It is totally harmless to mammals, other insects, and birds. I know---you can find dozens of websites on the internet that say otherwise. But---would you rather eat food that has been treated with a naturally occurring protein, which your digestive enzymes break down naturally, or food that has been treated with some of these incredibly toxic chemicals that were previously used? I know which one I'd rather eat, because I've seen the results of birds and animals that have been poisoned by some of these chemicals. NOT a pretty sight.

    I'm sure that I will be chastized by my supposed "ignorance" by some on this board. That's fine. I have lived in rural South Dakota all my life, and have seen the results of these toxic chemicals (Toxaphene, Furadan, counter and I even remember some farmers using DDT). Our world is much safer now due to the genetic engineering that has been in use for the past 15 or so years.
  5. ChooksChick

    ChooksChick BeakHouse's Mad Chicken Scientist

    Aug 17, 2008
    Larry, KS
    My Coop
    I want to show you something one of our awesome BYC'ers posted awhile back:

  6. ChickieNikki

    ChickieNikki Chillin' With My Peeps

    Thanks everyone--this info was great, especially rscrvc-I can always count on the BYC crowd to have all the info!!!
  7. ChooksChick

    ChooksChick BeakHouse's Mad Chicken Scientist

    Aug 17, 2008
    Larry, KS
    My Coop
    Yes, that big post was from Cetawin- incredible info here!

    I LOVE my BYC!!!


BackYard Chickens is proudly sponsored by