Avian Aqua Miser: Automatic, poop-free chicken waterers

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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 chicken 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 The 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 pastured livestock operation and let us get in on an order of high quality feed from Sunrise Farm.  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 water.

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I've got chicks coming the middle of this month and I've been thinking about how to handle this - I get an organic feed from my (raw) dairy but he doesn't have anything for the chicks - Can I just grind it up finer for them? It's oat groats, pigeon peas, black sunflower seed plus fish meal and minerals from Fertrell. Can't tell you the proportions but the oats are the biggest amount.
Comment by Jenifer S at teatime on Friday, April 6th, 2012
What you'll want to look at is the percent protein and the amount of calcium. Typical layer feeds have too much calcium for chicks and too little protein, but both of those things are quite tweakable. (Your goal should be about 18-20% protein, but I don't have a percent off the top of my head for calcium.) Once you get those things right, just grinding the feed a bit finer should make it perfect for your chicks!
Comment by anna late Sunday evening, April 8th, 2012
Southern States in Bristol has an "all grain" layer feed that is labeled "no antibiotics or animal products". It still has a long ingredient list with some weird stuff (Aztec Marigold?!), but I am happy to see that. They gave it to me without me asking for anything special too.
Comment by joey at lunch time on Wednesday, April 11th, 2012
Joey --- Layer feed is rarely medicated (at least not at the consumer level.) It's the broiler feed that seems to come with medication nearly mandatory. But we figured we'd go ahead and get the higher quality layer feed too since I figured it'd be fresher (and was just curious how our hens would respond.)
Comment by anna Wednesday evening, April 11th, 2012

I have used this product and has worked very well.

NatureWise® Meatbird Feed

  Expertly designed and formulated meatbird feed to provide natural, balanced nutrition for healthy growth and enhanced muscle development in broilers, turkeys, ducks, geese and pheasants. Write the first review Follow this product A complete, nutritious vegetarian meatbird diet—no need for supplementation 22% protein and fortified with vitamins and minerals to support strong, healthy birds  Contains a proprietary blend of nutrients to naturally support the immune system and overall health of the bird NO added antibiotics or hormones Added marigold extract to improve skin coloration Added prebiotics, probiotics and yeast culture that support digestion Formulated for multiple species of meatbirds, including broilers, turkeys, ducks, geese and pheasants Crumble form encourages consumption

Comment by PA terribly early Thursday morning, April 12th, 2012
PA --- I'd be curious to see what's on the label more specifically. Care to take a photo and add it in a comment (or email it to info@avianaquamiser.com)? I've found tags for related products online, but they were all medicated and didn't seem to have ingredients much better than our cheapo local feed option.
Comment by anna late Saturday evening, April 14th, 2012

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