Quality chicken feed

Chick feed ingredientsMaybe in a decade, we will
have achieved the chicken feed holy grail — 100% homegrown feed most
of which isn’t based on grain.  But we’ve only been on the farm
five and a half years and are still working up to growing all of our
human food, so what little chicken feed energy we have left has mostly
gone toward putting in
pasture systems

Our flock forages for an increasing percentage of their own food each
year, but we fill in the gaps with plain old store bought grain
mixtures from the local feed store.

This image shows the tag
of the junk food we’re giving our broilers this spring.  I asked
Mark to request unmedicated feed, but the folks at the feed store
looked at him like he was nuts and gave him the only chick feed they
had.  In addition to the unwanted chemicals, you’ll notice the
ingredient list is topped by vague terms like “grain products”, “plant
protein products”, and “processed grain by-products”.  Finally, as
Harvey Ussery explained in
Small-Scale Poultry Flock
, bagged feed could be
several months old, which means the oils in the grain may have gone
rancid — the manufacturers are careful to leave the date off the tag,
although if you call the company, they might be willing to tell what
the code means.  Maybe you can see why I call it junk food?

Sunrise Broiler feedI can’t quite talk myself
into grinding our own grains and hand mixing the way Ussery does since
we don’t have the infrastructure yet.  But some friends of ours
run a
livestock operation

and let us get in on an order of high quality feed from
.  Take a
look at the tag on a bag of their broiler feed — I’d eat that! 
Yes, it is 1% less protein (since Sunrise recommends using this feed
for the whole life span of a broiler rather than switching between a
starter and a grower feed), but I can understand most of the
ingredients.  Corn, roasted soybeans, oats, fish meal, seaweed,
vitamins and minerals, and probiotics.  There are no GMO
ingredients, and the feed is ground to order, so we know it’s fresh
when it arrives.

Of course, the price tag
is higher since we have to get the feed delivered from northern
Virginia (a $2 per bag addition to the $15.75 broiler feed and $15
layer feed).  That’s actually only a hair more than we’ve been
paying for our starter feed, since we buy it in 25 pound bags for easy
carrying through the quarter mile of mud from our cars to our
barn.  Sunrise layer feed does cost 22% more than we’ve been
paying, though.

Some poultry keepers
believe that it’s cheaper to buy expensive feed since the chickens will
waste less and produce more.  Even if that’s not true, we’re
personally eating all of the eggs and meat from our flock, so healthier
birds should mean healthier human bodies.  I’ll keep you posted
about whether I think it’s worthwhile it after the fancy feed arrives.

Our chicken waterer is the other side of
providing for a healthy flock, keeping them hydrated with POOP-free

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