Raising Chickens Organically

Discussion in 'Feeding & Watering Your Flock' started by cchin, Feb 12, 2016.

  1. cchin

    cchin Out Of The Brooder

    Jul 20, 2015
    We had been raising our chickens organically for the past 1.5 years, since chicks. Our chickens have always had feather issues. They molted and basically never grew back their feathers. We tried every suggestion that was brought to us on how to help our hens regrown their feathers and it just continued to get worse.

    Two months ago we decided to try switching them to the regular feed rather than organic to see how they did. Within a month they had all their feathers back, they look incredibly healthy now and bulked up. Before they were very skinny and frail looking and were missing at least 50% of their feathers.

    Anyone else raising their chickens organically faced this issue? We would prefer to feed them organically but this switch to non organic and the instant change in their health has shown us otherwise...
  2. donrae

    donrae Hopelessly Addicted Premium Member

    Jun 18, 2010
    Southern Oregon
    My understanding is most organic feed is vegetarian. Chickens are omnivores and do better with a feed that contains animal proteins. I've not seen posts about such poor feather quality, but there are lots of posts about organic hens feather pecking each other, trying to get the animal protein they need. If you want to continue organic feed as your base, you might look into an organic animal protein source to supplement your regular feed.
  3. Folly's place

    Folly's place True BYC Addict

    Sep 13, 2011
    southern Michigan
    Feed quality is the issue; is it fresh and balanced? Organic or not, feed needs to have the right mix of proteins, vitamins, minerals, etc, or malnutrition happens. I like to feed an all flock diet with separate oyster shell, Purina Flock Raiser, 20% protein, and everyone does fine. In theory, organic feed will also be wonderful, but only if it's fresh and done right. Mary
  4. poorfarm

    poorfarm Out Of The Brooder

    Feb 8, 2016
    I am a very small farmer and make my living selling eggs from pastured chickens and ducks to a couple of high class restaurants. I can't afford the feed labeled "organic". I feed Kalmbach 20% starter-grower pellets to everybody here, chickens, turkeys, ducks, and geese, and they all thrive on it. It is all vegetarian, but that's not anything unusual, I'm not at all sure that in the US the feed manufacturers are allowed to include anything of animal origin anymore. This goes into the Mad Cow Disease scare, and I think they are forbidden to include the rendering-plant stuff, but I could be wrong. Anyway the protein is from soybean meal.

    I personally, this year, observed in Rural King as an employee filled the feeders in a bin full of turkey poults with a very well known high protein crumble manufactured by a very very large agricultural corporation. The poults immediately went to the feeders and started eating, and within 5 minutes by my cellphone clock they all dropped over dead. I've never seen anything like this before. I had in the past occasionally used this product as chick starter; never again! I'll stick to feed from my small feed mill company.

    I pay $12.76 for 50 lbs. of Kalmbach 20%, which is manufactured by a family owned company in Sandusky OH, and most of what goes into it is local grown in Ohio, so I feel more confident about the quality. Organic feed at the cheapest store in this area (Rural King) is $40 for 50 lbs. My customers aren't going to pay me more than 3 times the price they currently pay for eggs.

    Also, I'm not so impressed with what is "organic". I believe that it's "legal" to fertilize your grain with manure from CAFOs and still sell it as organic. Among other things.
  5. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner True BYC Addict

    Feb 2, 2009
    Northwest Arkansas
    I don’t know what organic feed you have been feeding them. I’ll show the requirements for being certified organic and the link.

    Feed used for organic poultry production must not contain:
    1.Animal drugs, including hormones, to promote growth;
    2.Feed supplements or additives in amounts above those needed for adequate nutrition and health maintenance;
    3.Plastic feed pellets;
    4.Urea or manure;
    5.Mammalian or poultry slaughter byproducts fed to mammals or poultry;
    6.Feed, additives, or supplements in violation of the Food and Drug Administration; or
    7.Feed or forage to which any antibiotic, including ionophores, has been added.


    In this list #2 is extremely important to understand. Chickens need certain amino acids to be healthy. These amino acids come from meat and meat products, not from grain. Some of the amino acids they need are the weird ones that show up on the labels of chicken feed. Even non-organic chicken feeds that contain meat products don’t contain enough of these amino acids to meet the needs of chickens so they are an additive. They are important enough to be on the analysis label. These amino acids cannot be taken from animal byproducts which are not allowed by #5 above. They have to be made artificially. This is allowed by the rules that govern organic production. See #2 above.

    My guess is that your chicken feed doesn’t have enough of these amino acids to meet their basic nutritional requirements. I’m sure you tried to do what is best for your chickens, to me your efforts are not an issue. If organic is that important to you I suggest you look for an organic feed that has the supplements they need. Lysine and methionine are the two I’m talking about. It doesn’t take a lot but they do need some.

    if you look closely at the list of prohibitions above you will see that meat is allowed. Slaughter byproducts are not. Organic does not mean vegetarian..
    Last edited: Feb 12, 2016
    1 person likes this.
  6. Chris09

    Chris09 Circle (M) Ranch

    Jun 1, 2009
    Quote: I used Kalmbach back when it still had animal proteins and fats in it, it wasn't bad then but when they pulled the animal proteins and fat out and changed there mix around I quit using it. My birds didn't do well at all on it after the change.

    In the U.S. feed manufactures are aloud to have animal proteins in there poultry feed, in fact a lot of the better feeds do.
    Bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) "Mad Cow Disease" had nothing to do with the removal of animal proteins and fats from poultry feed since poultry can not get BSE.
  7. shortgrass

    shortgrass Overrun With Chickens

    Mar 14, 2015
    Northern Colorado
    I feed my flock organically, but the feed is easy to come by because we grow most of it ;)

    I mix my own. No animal byproducts in it, never had a feather issue, great immunity, etc.

    All I use is alfalfa, sorghum, corn, wheat, millet, BOSS, molasses or beet pulp, and oyster shell. And then to top it all off, I ferment it. :)

    I'm spending about $25 out of pocket for 250# of feed per month for them, so I always suggest trying to source your own ingredients and mix your own. It can really cut a chunk out of the budget ;)
    Last edited: Feb 13, 2016
  8. centrarchid

    centrarchid Chicken Obsessed

    Sep 19, 2009
    Holts Summit, Missouri
    I can see where formulation of the organic or otherwise feed can be an issue. The qualification of organic involves more than just the feed, it can be other attributes of the environment the birds are exposed to. It is those environmental attributes that can be managed to provide nutritionally where the organic feed comes up short. Even though I do not employ organic feeds, my nutrition management for the free-range birds is such where feeds applied are nutritionally incomplete where forages make the difference. It is not hard to push system enough so forages are not adequate. You can also have genetic issues with birds given a particular set of diets. My games are not so good about eating the plant-based formulation made by our farmers coop although dominiques have no issue and thrive.

    Birds recovering in a month after switching feeds seems fast unless they are very young like less than 12 weeks when feather turnover rate is high.
  9. Cindy in PA

    Cindy in PA Overrun With Chickens

    Jul 8, 2008
    Fleetwood, PA
    I agree that animal protein is best, but what conventional feed has animal protein??? You all talk as if conventional feeds are full of it and they are not. I have fed organic & never had a problem with feathering or anything else.
  10. centrarchid

    centrarchid Chicken Obsessed

    Sep 19, 2009
    Holts Summit, Missouri
    My game bird grower made by coop has porcine meal in it. The game bird grower is then used to formulate a mix with whole grains the birds to grow well on. Has anyone looked up the price for fishmeal? That might be a way around the problem many face where local feeds do not have appreciable amounts of animal protein yet stay good with respect to organic criteria.

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