Thursday, February 25, 2010

Feeding Chickens

My father has made the move away from buying feed from the feed store saving himself a bundle. I have been researching if his methods would work in our situation. He has horses, buys and feeds a few steers to have butchered. We on the other hand have a McDonalds farm and so when he told me about the feed he was buying in bulk I hit the internet to see if it was feasible to use it on our own variety of animals.

Since he knew of a successful feed operation that was thrilled with the results, I knew it worked great on cattle. My brother also heartily agrees since he's been feeding it to his calves and has had no scours with the impressive weight gain. So what is this wonderful feed well, its wheat screenings. If you aren't familiar with what that is, it's simply the smaller kernels and some of the chaff that seperates out when they are cleaning the wheat. My research says that it is higher in protein than the larger kerneled cleaned wheat.

I knew I could feed it to my beef but presently they have been on strictly hay for omega balancing purposes. But at around 60 dollars for over a thousand pounds I'm going to run the numbers and see if feeding the beef some of these wheat screening would be cheaper than the hay we buy. I just might combine the two but it would have to be a good move as far as the omegas in the meat. It might be cheaper to combine the two but if it gives us a higher cholesterol level then the health risks aren't worth the money saving initially. We'll pay for it in the end in doctor bills.

Wheat screenings

With the goats only being milked once a day the cost of their grain isn't too bad either so I'll put off rethinking their feed. The pigs are going into the freezer beginning tomorrow and since we don't plan on raising any pigs this year the problem of the outrageous cost of raising them is one for the future. Though I did see some sites that advocate using wheat screenings as part of their diet. What I really want to change right now is the cost of the feed for the chickens. I'm not interested in just cheap feed but nutrition as well since my health, not just theirs, is at stake. They're diet goes into the eggs I eat.

This is the first bucket I took to the chicken coop to poor into their feeder.

So that's where I began. What was the nutritional value of wheat screenings for chickens? The chicken scratch we buy has some wheat in it but what would happen if I raised the amount dramatically? I found a number of studies done with broiler chickens and they recommend from 20% to 50 % of the feed can come from wheat screenings. I've noticed that the ingredient portions in my chicken scratch changes according to what is the cheapest grains available. So why can't mine home-made version do the same.
Then I looked at the label on my most expensive feed which is Layena, some brands call it laymash. The first three ingredients of protein 16%, Lysine .55 %, and methonine .25 % were comparible to wheat screenings. Then I read below in the ingredient section and the first words were processed grain by-products, grain products. That is exactly what wheat screenings is a grain product and would a processed grain by-product be referring to wheat screening, possibly so. Why not skip the middle man I thought do it myself. Remember I never have left the "I do it myself" stage of development.

So what was left on the label was calcium, phosphorus, salt, manganese, Vit A and Vit E. How much the wheat screenings had of those I don't know but since the chickens needed Vitamin E and I was already feeding black oil sunflower seeds to the goats I looked it up to see if it was a good feed for chickens. I found out that feeding them to horse was a good thing and I already knew that feeding that some feedlot operations fed them to cattle. Well sure enough feeding them to chickens is great too. They have a decent amount of Vitamin A 222.48 IU and the Vitamin E at 340.50 IU was much higher than the Layena. Black Oil Sunflower seeds also had a smathering of Vitamin B6 and Vitamin K, along with some Vitamin C which wasn't on the Layena label. As for Calcium it had 527.43 mgs and I could also feed them goat milk, but it didn't say anything about manganese which was the other thing listed on the layena label. What the black oil sunflower seeds did have was a whopping dose of maganesium 1609.57 mg, phosphorus 3205.50 mg, and potassium 3132.75 mg. The Layena didn't say anthing about those nutrients.

Next I went to my dad's and scooped out a couple buckets of the screening to take home and see how the chickens liked them. I fed them exclusively for a week. They ate them well but were more aggresive when presented with a grain mixture. From this I knew it would work as part of my feed program.

I found out in my research that the striped sunflower seeds were the kind meant for humans. They're shells are much harder and the digestive system of animals and birds can not break down the shells and digest them. So I'm going to be on the internet looking up the black oil sunflower seeds and choosing a kind to grown. How many plants it takes to get enough seeds to make a difference in the cost of my feed for the chickens, I don't know. I don't know if it is conceivable to raise enough to make a difference since I know I can't raise enough for the chickens and goats. I'm about to find out since the old red raspberry bed against the fence will become the sunflower patch and the raspberries will be moved to the main garden. I figure the fence might be handy to tie up the sunflowers to.

Then I plan on putting the two, over a thousand pounds, feed bags of wheat screenings in the back yard on a wooden shipping pallet covered with a tarp when they arrive sometime this spring.

My dad and I talked when I picked up the two buckets of wheat screenings about how we were going to have to continue to keep up with different ways of feeding our stock. Maybe wheat screening won't be major cheap next year. Maybe we won't have someone who just happens to make trips to North Dakota and can pick them up for us. Things are ever changing and we need to be alert to ways we can too. What's available to us in our area may not be in yours. We don't live where we can buy locally grown products unless your referring to cattle or sheep and gardens are few. Organic is something you do yourself or buy at the store.

Each of us lives in a unique area with different opportunities and we need to search them out. I have few resources but I do have a garden and I plan on raising more than sunflower seeds for my chickens but I'll discuss that further next week. Meanwhile, I'm going to go check on my huge seed order I placed. It has many of the goodies I want to talk about and I'm waiting for it to arrive so I can photograph them for you.

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