Renewable/Low-Cost Feed for Laying Chickens?

Discussion in 'Managing Your Flock' started by Simeo, Jan 25, 2013.

  1. Simeo

    Simeo Out Of The Brooder

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    Jan 22, 2013
    North Georgia
    Hello, wasn't quite sure where to find my answer so I'm hoping I could find a little help here.

    In short... we love having chickens! My wife loves to play/hug them. Some follow us around. Most of them come when I call them (because they think I have food). And they're just neat animals. But.....

    We're not raising pets and while they are a joy, they need to pay for their feed. ;)

    We eat a LOT of eggs in our little family. About 10/day plus baking and buying eggs at Wal-Mart (eww....) was getting super expensive. Plus I noticed many of the eggs had thin shells and pale pale yolks. We felt like eggs, being the staple of what we eat every day, needed to be top grade and a 'renewable resource' on our property.

    So we built the coop, have awesome chickens and all is well. Still not getting all the eggs per day but most of them are young and we have chicks on the way in a couple days. The eggs we DO get have a much better flavor and a richer color.

    My question/comment is this:

    Our number one cost in the future of our chickens is feed.

    1. What is the lowest cost solution we have to give them quality feed?
    2. Do we need to always use layer feed from the feed store or could we allocate a part of our (1 acre) garden to grow grains, corn or other veggies to use as feed? What should we grow?
    3. Does anybody have experience in making your own feed?
    4. Are there other cheaper solutions besides $14/50lb bag of layer feed? Perhaps mixing other grains in?
    5. How much do y'all usually spend on feed and how long should a bag usually last on 24 layers ?
    Any help would be very appreciated.
     
  2. maidenwolfx80

    maidenwolfx80 Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I ferment feed for them. This makes the food more nutritious, it adds probiotics and vit/mins. They get alot more from the feed this way and dont need to eat as much. There is less waste with this method as well. I dont use layer because I have a mixed aged flock so I use unmedicated grower mixed with a bag of gamebird feed and offer oystershell on the side.
     
  3. ChickensRDinos

    ChickensRDinos Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Your chickens do not need to eat layer feed. There are lots of feed options and it might be good to look at what else is available. Layer feed is just chicken feed with a higher amount of calcium and generally a lower amount of protein (16% ish). Look at all of the options your feed store carries. Generally a grower, flock raiser, non-medicated starter or game bird feed will have a higher amount of protein(18%-24%). You will just need to provide an outside calcium source like oyster shell.

    If you are going to try to make feed or supplement feed you need to make sure that you maintain a proper nutrition balance. Chickens are omnivores with complex needs so I would reccomend doing some reasearch and make sure you understand what all of the those needs are. Starting with a higher protein feed may give you more room to supplement grains without dropping their protein intake too low.

    Free ranging is a huge help. I would also recommend reading about fermenting feed and growing fodder and farming healthy renewable snacks like mealworms.

    https://www.backyardchickens.com/t/713334/growing-fodder-for-chickens

    https://www.backyardchickens.com/t/644300/fermenting-feed-for-meat-birds (can be for any birds, not just meat birds)

    https://www.backyardchickens.com/a/how-to-raise-mealworms
     
    Last edited: Jan 25, 2013
  4. ChickensRDinos

    ChickensRDinos Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Also assess your flock and make sure you have the most productive birds possible and have a plan for culling birds that are not productive. If they are pets they are expensive. If you are trying to make them pay for themselves then they have to be thought of differently than pets.

    The other thing is that you can't compare what you are spending to walmart egg prices because you are not getting walmart eggs. High quality eggs are not cheap.
     
    Last edited: Jan 25, 2013
  5. WalkingOnSunshine

    WalkingOnSunshine Overrun With Chickens

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    ChickensRDinos has some good advice in both posts. I wanted to caution against just adding grains to layer feed--if not done carefully, you'll throw the nutritional balance off. I used to buy Purina Layena, which runs close to $17/bag here. Found a local feed mill that will sell me a layer mash meant for a layer house for just over $11/bag. Because I sell eggs and my customers want eggs from hens that are not fed animal by-products, I had to compromise and I buy the local mill's "vegetarian" feed--still a couple bucks cheaper than Layena, though, and higher protein, too. So ask around, look for a feed mill rather than a place like TSC, and dont' be afraid to use the cheaper animal by-product laden feed for your own hens. I personally believe that animal protein is good for chickens, and would feed it if my customers would still buy my eggs.

    We don't cull around here, only because I really, truly, HATE gutting and plucking chickens. But we can sell our three year old hens on Craigslist for about $7/each. That helps with the bottom line. We also are moving towards hatching all of our own replacement hens, which saves $3 + shipping per chick. Finally, we live within driving distance of Meyer hatchery, which sells started pullets for $7/each. We've done the math, and we can't raise a pullet for less than $12 (includes price and shipping and feed and electricity) so that keeps costs down as well. If you are near a hatchery, you might check out started pullets. They are super expensive to have them shipped, but very reasonable if you go pick them up.

    Finally, expect your hens to be MUCH more expensive in the winter. In the winter, we use at least 3x the feed and bedding since the hens aren't foraging and are spending so much time inside.

    Oh, and as ChickensRDinos said, you have to compare your eggs to the premium eggs in the store, not WalMart eggs. Our local market sells our eggs for $4.65/dozen, if you can believe it!
     
  6. Simeo

    Simeo Out Of The Brooder

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    Jan 22, 2013
    North Georgia
    Wow, $4.65/dozen? Around here 'farm-fresh' eggs go for about $3-4/dozen. I do understand the difference between Walmart and premium eggs. I understood this morning when I looked at a fresh maran egg in the pan next to some 'filler' wal-mart eggs! Almost made me not want to eat the wal-mart eggs.

    Thank you for your tips. I feel closer to formulating a plan to cut feed costs.

    I planted a mulberry tree in the chicken run and I'm going to plant some raspberry bushes along the outside of the run fence.

    After doing some internet scouring I might grow some millet/sorghum/corn which I'll allocate for chicken scratch. We also have several apple trees on the property so once they give in a few years that might help offset costs.

    I might invest in a chicken tractor to move around the orchard on our property and rotate a few girls weekly in the tractor(?) so they have fresh grass/bugs to scratch up.

    "Growing earthworms" seems like a good idea for just about everything on the farm. The worms could provide compost for the garden/orchard and feed for the chickens. Is there another way to get protein into their diet? Maybe beans?

    I read somewhere as well about covering some of the run with leaves/hay to provide a place for chickens to pick through for bugs underneath so I plan to divide the run into 3 parts with two grass sides to allow grass to grow on one while they are pasturing on the other. Here's a little drawing I made up not to scale, the run is 20x100ft

    [​IMG]


    Does this seem like a good system to help give them a balanced and renewable diet?

    Some links that might help others who are looking for the same thing I am (in addition to the above links):

    https://www.backyardchickens.com/t/588166/trees-bushes-for-chicken-run

    http://www.motherearthnews.com/Sustainable-Farming/Grow-Poultry-Feed-What-Chickens-Eat.aspx

    http://springpad.com/#!/K9Mom/explore/sustainablelivinglivestock/blocks/note/homemakechickenfeed

    http://paulwheaton12.wordpress.com/...u-dont-have-to-buy-chicken-feed-ever-again-2/

    I'm going to try fermenting feed once the temp warms up. Don't know about growing fodder. It looks a little complicated a first look but I never thought about that before.
     
  7. LFchixranch

    LFchixranch Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I read the majority of the fodder links. It is actually very easy to do and econimcal, they quote a 50# of wheat or barley seed for like 12-15 bucks, they also talk about making mixes of wheat barley BOSS (black oil sunflower seeds) lentils, they even use cheap bird seed if you cant find the wheat/barley seed. You put about a half inch of seed in a seedling tray, rinse with water and a touch of bleach to kill mold, then soak overnight, drain in the morning and some of the folks are rinseing once a day others twice depends on your area I think. You start a pan every day and the cycle is 7 days, day 7 you feed the fooder to the birds as a treat. For a supplement they recomended 1 sq inch per bird some people give more some less. They mentioned that one of those seedling tray will feed about 40 birds. They also mentioned stating the seeds in burlap bags, you dunk and soak the bag and leave it sit. It is a really good thread you should read the whole thing. I have about 50 chickens and are planning this as well as the mealworms and growing some corn come spring.
     
  8. Simeo

    Simeo Out Of The Brooder

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    Jan 22, 2013
    North Georgia
    I read your post about 3 three times. It does sound like a great idea. I wonder how many pound of seed goes into each tray per growing and how long it takes for 25 (or 40) birds to consume. I'll read through the links more.

    I guess because I never thought about it seems complicated to do. My wife wants to do mealworms but they seem a little gross to me. Maybe I'll get over it and try growing them. Seems very easy.
     
  9. WalkingOnSunshine

    WalkingOnSunshine Overrun With Chickens

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    Mealworms are a LOT cleaner than earthworms, and don't harbor parasites. If you dig earth worms for your hens, be prepared to de-worm them.
     
  10. Simeo

    Simeo Out Of The Brooder

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    Jan 22, 2013
    North Georgia

    I was NOT aware of this. Thank you so much for the heads up!
     

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