October 13, 2010

The Secret's in the Feed....

I have mentioned on here a few times in the last 2 or 3 months, that we had been having trouble with our egg production.  We had 30 chickens and were getting any where from 3-5 eggs a day!  So we switched feed a few times, we tried feed from 2 different mills in the area, and from a farm supply store.  Not that these don't work for other people!  But, for our chickens for some reason the production dropped to one egg!  And I know the ONE chicken that was laying that egg too...

Then we just went to straight cracked corn and sunflower seeds, and the productions stopped all together.  We had been without eggs for about a month, and people told us that they were just molting.  But, I'm not convinced.  Getting 5 eggs from 30 chickens isn't great either!  There was something going on.

I had read the book, "You Can Farm" by Joel Salatin, and he mentioned that he doesn't get special feed from feed stores, or spend the money on organic feed.  He mixed his own.  I then bought his book, "Pastured Poultry Profits".  This book is basically showing you how you can make really good money on raising poultry.  He is very open about all of the things that they do on their farm, and says he doesn't want to take over production for the world, he wants to help other people raise good local foods for their own communities.

In "Pastured Poultry Profits" he gives a food mix for his broilers, and in the section for layers he gives a food mix for them as well...

Because I do not have permission from Joel Salatin to write quotes from his book, I will tell you what I have mixed so far...  But to find out percentages and exactly what Mr. Salatin has perfected over many years, you will have to check out his book. (I want to add here that I am getting no compensation from this! )

Yesterday, and the day before (after feeding this to our layers for 1 1/2 weeks) they have layed 7 and 8 eggs!  At 8:30 this morning, before feeding them, they had already layed 4 eggs!

Here is what we are feeding our layer chickens... I hope to add a few more things but haven' done it yet:

Cracked corn, oats, soy bean meal, sunflower seeds (this was one that Joel hadn't suggested but I add because our chickens LOVE them!), oyster shell, kelp, and I occasionally add a vitamin supplement from Molly's Herbals.  This supplement can be used for all of your livestock.

That is what I use!  I have been able to test it now for a week and a half, and the results have far out weighted those of the different commercial layer feeds we have used.  And it's getting better each day!

The cost is ABOUT the same for the feed.  Except you have to buy more at one time, but you don't have to run to the mill as much!  The kelp is a little more expensive, but you don't use much of it, this goes for the oyster shell and the herbal supplement as well... But it is helped by the lower cost of the cracked corn , which is the MAJOR ingredient in this mixture.

In his book, Joel outlines why he uses each one of the things that they do in their feed.  He also gives you story examples of why they have had to add different ingredients!  I cannot retype all of these great part of the book, unfortunately.

For the past few day, I have been excited to go to the coop again!

Here is a little of our "Routine" with the chickens also:

In the morning, the chickens have been closed up in the coop all night, I go down at about 8:30 or so and feed them and make sure their waterer still have plenty of water (and is clean!).  I close the coop door behind me so no one wants to jump out, and I feed them their breakfast.  If there are any eggs, I gather them so the egg peckers in the group don't get any ideas (and if they DO, they would probably have rude awakening at the golf balls that we have left out there for them!).  This also keeps the eggs cleaner, so we don't have to wash off the "bloom" and poo when we get to the house.  I leave the chickens in their coop until around noon, then I go and open their little "chicken door".  At that time, I check for eggs again.  Then, I don't check on them until around 5 pm, when I go down and feed them (and check the waterer).  I call them, "Heeeere, Chick-chick-chick-chick-chick- chick- chickERS!" (trust me, they come RUNNIN').  They all jump inside, and start eating their dinner.  When they do, I check on last time for eggs (sometimes there are some later layers), then close them up for the night.  They DO have a light that is on a light sensitive timer, so when it gets darker out, the light comes on.  One thing I DON'T like about it, is that it stays on all night.  I have been looking for a reasonably priced alternative, and haven't found one yet.  The next morning, we start all over again.  I have a routine with my children, why wouldn't I have one with my animals as well???  :)

Well, that what I can share with you!  Hopefully that helps you, but I would suggest borrowing the Joel Salatin book for the library or a friend OR buying it yourself ( I bought mine by saving up my Swagbucks for Amazon.com!).

I will keep you updated on how the chickens progress!!!  (PS- After I wrote this, I went down to let the chickens out, and gather eggs again.  I found 5 more eggs, pictured above!  That brings me to a total of 9 eggs, and I still haven't gathered from the late layers yet!)


Anonymous said...

Having rasied chikens for approx. 50 years i can offer this piece of advice about the light. Use a timer if you must have a light. The extra light (up to 3 hrs /day) will increase production, but leaves the girls a bit stressed when they've been laying for 9-12 months straight.
They do need a time to rest from production to keep the stress hormone levels in the eggs low.

As for feed, I've been using a :Poo Cake" for mine. (not made of it)
3 cups cracked corn and 2 cups flax seed, with 3 cups water, cook until softened, then pour into a flat pan. Cut it into 4" squares and feed enough so all get some of it.
Increases the Omega-3 in the eggs.

Kim said...

I get 12-14 eggs a day from my 17 first year hens but the eggs aren't nearly that big!

Love the song on your blog by the way. I always have to listen through even if I'm finished reading your post.

Sarah said...

Anon- Yes, it is good to give them a break, however, mine have had a pretty long break! So I am prolonging the daylight hours!

Also, eggs from pasture-raised chickens can have as much as 10 times more Omega-3's than factory chickens. That's enough for me, and it's cheaper too! Maybe supplementing in the Winter would help? Check out EatWild.com. Lots of good info on the amounts of vitamins and minerals that the eggs, milk and meat of pastured raised animals, produce.

Kim- these eggs are definitely big! And you can hear the ladies complain about it sometimes from the coop! :)

I love that song too... one of my favorites!!!

Sonja said...

Lots of great info! Thank you for sharing. I actually have Pastured Poultry Profits checked out from the library now. Great resource. And what beautiful eggs!

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