Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Chicken Feed

Chickens are hard workers in our barnyard. They work to keep the bugs down (have you ever seen chickens chasing bugs? Hilarious!) They fluff up our composting manure piles in their search for bits of grain and worms.

Plus of course, they lay some of the best tasting eggs you will eat. Don't knock farm fresh eggs. They taste SO different from those store bought ones.
And the colour! The brilliant yellow, almost orange yolks are a sight to behold. So unlike those pale runny eggs they sell in the grocery store. If you don't have chickens at your house, consider getting a few. Even 3 or 4 hens will lay enough eggs to keep a family of 4 happy. And they make great additions to your backyard.

Many towns and even large cities are changing their bylaws to allow chickens in city backyards. A big Thumbs Up to them! In the City of Vancouver, you are allowed to have 2 hens per house. Great! You don't need a rooster in order to get eggs from your hens. That's a good thing, because roosters in the city may be a problem.

You can look on Craiglist for some laying hens. The only thing is, sometimes people will sell off their OLD laying hens. You want young hens, ones that will produce well for at least 2 years. Older hens will still lay eggs, just not as often. The eggs they do lay will be bigger than new layers, so that is a bonus.


If you have a local feed store you can inquire there to see if they ever bring in "Ready to Lay" hens. These hens are probably about 5 months old, and should start laying for you within the month. Our feed store sells them for $10 each, and most years I do order some to add to my flock. You can also of course mail order day old chicks and raise them to laying age yourself.

We feed our layers 16% protein feed. Much of the year, they are outside running around in the yard chasing those bugs and worms. Bugs and worms add even more protein to their diet. If we had a worm farm, we could likely do away with the feed from the store. Our hens also get a lot of our garden waste and veggie tops. We can reduce the amount of store bought feed in the warmer months as the hens are getting protein from other sources.

During the winter months, when our barnyard is covered in several feet of snow, things change for our hens. They get lots of store bought 16% lay pellets, plus hay. Our hens love hay and yours probably do too. Alfalfa hay is excellent and will help their yolks have that beautiful deep colours.

We also give them all our household leftovers and scraps. Except chicken, we do NOT feed chicken to chickens. Just like we do not feed pork to pigs.


Speaking of pigs, when we butcher our pigs each Fall, we trim off a lot of the fat. Now, our pigs do not have as thick a layer of fat on them as straight grain fed pigs, because we feed them heavily on garden veggies. Still we keep all the fat that we trim off.

I wrap it in bags and tuck them away in the freezer. Then during those short, cold dark days of Winter I pull out a package and dice it up for the hens.

They love it!

And it's good for them.

Look around your barnyard and see how you can reduce the feed store food bill. Many people with extra freezer room tuck turnip tops, beet tops etc in there to take out for their hens in the Winter. Cabbages can be kept in a cold room down in your basement to be brought up to the chicken coop during Winter.

Five minutes later, here's what's left of that big bowl of fat and leftovers.

What do you feed your chickens?

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umbrellalady said...

Have you ever thought to render down your pork fat and use it make soap? Mixed with olive oil, canola oil and other natural ingredients, it makes the most incredible soap!

Tim and Kari O'Brien said...

We feed our chickens walnuts, garden left overs, scraps, and this year they are getting the leftover feed from raising the pigs. The hens get to run all over the farm and eat any green grass sprouting along with all of the bugs, especially earwigs around the walnut trees.

Annie said...

Kari, that is fantastic! It sure reduces the feed bill at the store, good for you!

Umbrellalady, do you have a link for soapmaking using pork fat? I actually have some packages in the freezer specially marked, so they get saved for soap and don't get given to the chickens.

Soapmaking is on my list of goals for 2011!

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