My chicken feed experiment has a clear winner!

Elkhart, IA(Zone 5a)

I wanted to see what feeds my hens preferred instead of buying feed that went to waste on the ground. Feeds not cheap so I decided to do an experiment. Using 3 different feeds (Steamed rolled oats, cracked corn, and commercial layer pellets) in 3 different feeders to see which one was the preferred. Steamed rolled oats was the clear winner. All the hens were surrounding the feeder with the oats and the cracked corn was pecked on a few times and they all turned their beaks up at the commercial feed.

Thumbnail by IowaAnn
Richmond, TX

Interesting! Of course I'd eat ice cream instead of beans or cabbage too if I didn't know the nutritional problems.

Elkhart, IA(Zone 5a)

The girls have 10 acres to roam around to get what they need. They eat grass, bugs, spiders even started eating my cilantro! LOL! I think this commercial feed is a crock. Nature provides all the nutrients they need without depending on some company to grind up a bunch of (who knows what, can't read the ingredients) stuff that the hens won't eat. They know better than we do what they need and chickens survived long before man domesticated them. Winter may be a problem for me since we live in Iowa but I'll figure something out. :)

Richmond, TX

Free range is definitely the best!

Pelzer, SC(Zone 7b)

Oh, I agree, but not everyone can allow free ranging, or has the room for it. I'm starting to have losses again, so need to rethink....

Vancleave, MS(Zone 8b)

Cat it may be from the heat and humidity

Elkhart, IA(Zone 5a)

With this hot weather they really need fresh water. I change my water a few times a day just because the water gets so hot even if it's sitting in the shade. I noticed that my hens drop their wings and pant when it gets to hot for them.

Pelzer, SC(Zone 7b)

Donna, they're not dying, they're disappearing. As in predated. I think. No remains, just gone. The heat where the chickens hang out isn't anything like the area around the house, it's much cooler, and they hunker down in the dirt after scratching a hole. The dogs do the same thing, and I'm considering it....

AuGres, MI(Zone 5b)

What will you feed them in the winter when the ground is frozen and it's too cold to free range? Thanks for doing this experiment. I know my neighbor makes up his own chicken feed but not sure what all he puts in it. I know for protein he buys soy. He said his hens are laying great again.

Pelzer, SC(Zone 7b)

I think I'd find something meat based rather than using soy, but that's just me.Opening a can of cat food finds me in a sea of chickens, and they get all my meat scraps. I simply don't trust soy anymore, but can understand that it may be a cheap, available protein source.
Whatever works:)

Glendale, UT(Zone 5a)

if your chickens are free range, [in an area with grass and buggs to eat] all they need is more energy to lay well, [ grass is too low in energy for chickens to lay well ]-- comercial feed is for caged or cooped up chickens, -- almost any grain will provide the extra energy needed,
Some folks have tried feeding just grain to caged chickens, they will soon start to loose egg production and the chickens will have health problems after a while. I think your experiment was a great idea, -- and a good thing to know, -- what is the cost comparison? between the feeds?, -

Elkhart, IA(Zone 5a)

catmad, did I miss something about soy? That was actually something that I was thinking about for winter feed. If there's something bad about soy I sure want to know about it before feeding it to my chickens. I know that soy is something that is added to commercial feeds for protein.


Loon, I have been thinking about what I would feed them in the winter for protein and one of the things I thought about was soy.....but if soy is bad I'll have to ponder a little more. :) I've been researching about mealy worms and how easy they are to raise as feed. Right now it's just a thought but it's something to think about for the winter. Also gathering dry grass clippings for hay. Strangely enough they do eat dry grass. Go figure.; ) They will eat anything other than commercial feed.

Elkhart, IA(Zone 5a)

Michaelp, The oats were the cheapest by far. The main thing is that even if the feed costs were the same if my hens won't eat it...it's a waste of money. When given a choice they wouldn't eat it and that made me start reading the ingredients...I don't blame them for not eating it. I can't pronounce half of the ingredients or have any idea what they are.

What are you doing up so early?! LOL!

Lewisville, MN(Zone 4a)

Find a good feed mill to grind up grains for you. We buy a mix that our feed company has made for years. It's just corn, soybean meal & other grains. No antibiotics or medications. It is ground, not pelleted. We tried pelleted years ago, you're right, chickens won't eat it.
Our hens laid very well right through the hot weather. I have around 225 hens & get 16 dozen eggs a day.

For water, we got tired of filling 5 gallon things, so early this summer we installed an automatic fountain. Works great, water is always fresh & never empty. Can be adapted to a hose if need be.
http://www.flemingoutdoors.com/automatic-king-size-poultry-fount.html
Bernie

Pelzer, SC(Zone 7b)

IowaAnn wrote;"catmad, did I miss something about soy? That was actually something that I was thinking about for winter feed. If there's something bad about soy I sure want to know about it before feeding it to my chickens"

As far as I've been able to find, the soy readily available is genetically modified, and I try to avoid that whenever I can. There are also concerns about the hormonal effect soy can have, and I just prefer to use something else. I don't feed soy to my mammals, so try to avoid it in the birds as well. Fortunately, the feed I get is locally made, and soy free. If I didn't have that alternative, I suspect I'd simply concoct a mix out of what's available, but I don't use much. Just for confined birds, and that's not very often.

Elkhart, IA(Zone 5a)

Catmad, I knew about GMO corn but didn't know about the soy. :( What are we doing to ourselves!?

CountryGardens, I'm happy to hear that someone else had a problem with pelleted commercial feed. I was beginning to think it was just my girls being picky. ;) I'll have to search for a feed mill that will grind up some grains for me. I'm thinking wheat, corn and rolled oats (they won't touch the whole oat grain).
Thanks for the heads up on the automatic waterer! That would save me a few steps out into the heat to freshen the waterers. It's been a very hot year and if it's not done in the early morning it isn't going to get done. : ) What do you do in the winter? Does that water line freeze up?

Lewisville, MN(Zone 4a)

Sell the hens! We only keep 10 or so for our own eggs. But then we have new chicks in November so it's bucketing water from the house.

Elkhart, IA(Zone 5a)

Ah! I only have 28 mixed chickens right now but hopefully when they start showing who's roosters and who's hens we'll start culling them out. That's the problem with hatching eggs, you never know what you're gonna get. They are just now starting to show their secondary sexual traits and a few are starting to crow so they will be dinner soon. :) Hoping for just 12 hens to keep us and a few friends supplied in eggs and for our entertainment. :)

Glendale, UT(Zone 5a)

I think the idea is great, [if you have free-range hens,] - [feeding oats, ] I think the waste and digestion ratios are good also, - Where I live grain costs are high, -- and I wanted to buy some alfalfa pellets to supplement the feed in the winter when no grass is available, -- the alfalfa pellets were 1/3 more then layer feed, - I don't understand that, --
Most places I have lived, -I could buy my grain and of alfalfa, from a farmer or co-op -for a lot less, --

I get up early most days, -- Sat, I leave the house before 6 to get to the farmers MKT and check in before 7am, -

AuGres, MI(Zone 5b)

We did wind up buying a big bag of soy protein and started giving it to the hens along with their balanced layer mash. They do free range also. We'll see if this makes a difference in egg production. Our layer mash is mad at a local grain and bean mill.

(Zone 6b)

Much of the corn is now GMO. We are not doing this to ourselves, it is being done to us.

Lewisville, MN(Zone 4a)

They used to spray highly toxic chemicals to kill the corn ear worm. BT is bred into the corn. If you research it, you will find it is organic.

Pelzer, SC(Zone 7b)

Yup, Bt is considered organic, and I have no issues with it. My problem is with it being made a "part" of a plant. Genetically altered plants that have entered the food chain without (IMO) sufficient long term trials. We know some of what they are "adding" to the plant, but do we know everything? I doubt it. Aside from the ridiculous practice of allowing the companies that develop these things to sue anyone within range of the pollen from these plants, I think it needs better control of the companies running roughshod over small farmers.
Sorry, hot button...

Elkhart, IA(Zone 5a)

Catmad, I have the same hot button!!

Southern NJ, United States(Zone 7a)

Me too. Thanks for that clear explanation to those who aren't familiar with the concept; Bt sounds so innocuous until you realize how it is being delivered...

(Zone 5b)

Michaelp, when you buy alfalfa pelllets what kind do you buy? The kind made for rabbits?

I kind of remember reading that a certain kind of animal alfalfa pellets have a lot of salt in them so I was wondering what you used.

I tired the horse cubes and my chickens wouldn't touch it, not even if I soaked it in water.

Thanks!

Richmond, TX

Salt is often included in cattle feed to limit intake... The alfalfa pellets I buy seem to be generic; all that is in them is alfalfa.

Lewisville, MN(Zone 4a)

Why do you people want to feed your chickens things not made for them ? Feed people have been running tests for years as to what is best for what animals.

Richmond, TX

Country Gardens, I with you agree generally. I think the point is that free range chickens may not need all the nutrients in the feeds designed for confined hens as they supplement their diets in the pasture. I feed layer pellets anyway just to be sure even though my girls do free range.

Lewisville, MN(Zone 4a)

When they are out & about they will only eat what they need after what they find.

Richmond, TX

Yes, I have noticed that mine eat less feed in the summer months - except this summer when the drought has killed everything they would normally eat.

Anyone know if you can buy non-GMO soybean seed if you wanted to raise your own small plot? This whole Monsanto soybean thing just shows how rich corporations can buy the political influence they want, even if it serves only them.

Mint Hill, NC(Zone 7b)

LAMark- try J.L. Hudson seeds they have many open pollinated seed types. Here is the link---> http://www.jlhudsonseeds.net/VegetablesA-D.htm look under the 'Other Types of Beans' heading about 1/4 the way down.

(Zone 5b)

Actually, I was thinking of the winter months when the ground is snow covered. I buy greens during those months, kale, endive, cabbage,whatever is on sale. I want something that is not only healthy but will keep them busy.

I've never seen pellets at TSC that were any animal except for rabbit or horse. My concern was the salt content in rabbit pellets.

Lewisville, MN(Zone 4a)

Rabbits are a one stomach animal. Chickens have a crop & gizzard to process food. Cows, sheep, goats, deer, etc have 4 stomachs. That's why they are good at grass. Humans, mice, dogs, cats hogs are 1 stomach. That's why those things can eat meat.
Lesson for today is over.
Have a great day!
Bernie

Pelzer, SC(Zone 7b)

Would it then follow that rabbits eat meat? Or that chickens don't? :)
I have to confess that I am less than enamored with what those "feed people" include in their products. They seem to strive to provide what a critter needs to survive, but not was is optimum. Many cats foods contain corn as the first incredients, yet cats are obligate carnivores, with no nutritional need for grains or seeds.
I'll stick to feeding a species appropriate diet, and just feed things I understand. Commercial feeds have their place, but I read labels carefully.
It's a personal choice.

(Zone 5b)

Not to drag out the subject... just curious from my own observations. My chickens will eat voles from the garden, field mice, grass, fruit and berries from the trees, any garden leftovers including pumpkins, just about anything they can shove through their beaks.

I don't think commerical feed is complete. If adding extras makes them healthier, healthier eggs too, they why not supplement?

The thought of a rabbit eating a porkchop just seems so wrong.

Lewisville, MN(Zone 4a)

Feed your rabbit some dairy cow ration. See how long it takes before it dies.
Only reason corn is in dog & cat food is to lower price. Nothing says it's good for them.
Rabbits can't eat cabbage either, they will get the runs, bad.
I could go on, but nobody cares anyhow.

Richmond, TX

I feed the commercially manufactured feeds put out by the big (at least supposedly) reputable companies because I know that they have done enough research to produce a feed that will sustain life of whatever species it is marketed to feed. I also let my animals free range, graze, forage to supplement their diets. In addition I give various beasts household leftovers (waste not, want not). I don't know if their diets are complete, but everyone seems to be doing okay. There are lots of ways to maintain animals successsfully, fortunately, so each of us can find one that suits.

(Zone 5b)

I care, which is why I asked. Bernie, I'm not busting your chops or trying to provoke you. You certainly have much more experience than I when it comes to livestock, especially chickens. I guess I just like to "feed" animals and want to try to make it as healthy as possible all year around.

I'm still not convinced that feed companies know it all----- their goal is to keep animals alive for a limited amount of time until they are butchered. I'd really like to keep my current flock for 3 years. I don't think commerical feed alone will keep them in the best possible condition, especially in the winter when they can't forage. Speaking of winter, it's just around the corner. This summer sure went fast.

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