How do I approach a feeding program for my birds and what are some of the nutritional factors that need to be considered.
I have pondered this for some time and have discussed it with others who in the past have tried a different diet for their birds other that the standard feed mill mix. Most have been happy with the results of the more natural feed mix that they have put together. Others stopped doing their own mix more due to the time consuming effort it took on their part or the total cost of the feed when it was all said and done.
We all have our own individual needs that are required for the type of poultry we keep, what purpose they are kept for and the environment that they are kept in.
I realised immediately that I did not have the time or the space to mix my own feed formula for my birds and logistically it would need to be done at a mill.
After conversing for a few months with a nutritionist at a Vancouver Island feed mill I became more informed on the food I had been feeding my birds to date and what the possible impact would be by using an all natural ingredient feed.
Before touching on the makeup of the natural food formula I want to share some information regarding the standard feed mix that you would most likely be using for your birds from the feed mills. I myself have been using the regular feed mill mix for the last 5 years and have had for the most part no health problems with my birds but I have always felt that there must be a better more natural way to provide good wholesome food for my birds and in particular my heritage birds. Like many of you I have raised both hybrid birds and heritage birds and have come to recognize the vast differences between the two.
Here is what I learned from the nutritionist.
The feed from the mill production line was formulated more or less as a commercial ration to be simply constructed and cost effective. It was designed to cover the large production hybrid birds that have been developed over the years for fast growth rate/ high egg production, etc. Fast cheap and easy.
The hybrid meat chicken is day 1 a chick and 6 weeks later it is on your plate. The hybrid meat turkey is at day 1 a poult and at month 3.5to 4 is on your plate.
The hybrid egg layer lays how many eggs a day? It is spent after a year and egg producers can’t wait to toss it out to the curb and bring in the next. I won’t go further into the immune system and reproduction of the bird as I am sure we have been informed at least once or twice on the subject.
The ingredients of the feed to accommodate this fashion of meat/egg production consists of mainly Soya Bean with added Wheat.
All the nutrients that your adult birds or growing babies require are added to the mix after the fact and are Synthetic. The feed does the job it has been designed to do, fast, simple, end of story.
The heritage bird has a different genetic makeup and as the nutritionist explained they are a slower developing bird with a longer lasting life span and generally a much hardier constitution. The original genetic makeup and overall performance of the heritage bird requires a second look and possibly a different approach to their nutritional needs.
There is all kinds of information on the website and in books regarding heritage birds and hybrid birds that delve much further in depth on the subject. I have touched briefly on the most obvious differences between the two.
The basic feed mixture with all natural ingredients that is being used by a small handful of people managing heritage birds appears to be working very well with proven results observed over a number of years. As more and more people have begun working with heritage birds the question of feed has become an important topic.
The right feed mixture is different for everyone raising poultry as there are a variety of factors that dictate what nutritional requirements your bird needs.
For example do you mainly pasture your birds or maybe partly pasture partly feed. Do you raise your birds in an indoor environment? Do you supplement the birds’ diet with other seeds, grains or treats? What is the weather like in your area, do you have a variety of breeds of birds, etc.
Some of the basic ingredients that can be found in a natural heritage poultry feed are ingredients in varying amounts such as oats, wheat, corn, barley, flax seed, peas, molasses, brewers yeast, calcium source, kelp, salt, alfalfa and these are just a few to give you an idea of the content.
Compare this list of items to the run of the mill feed that I explained earlier and you begin to understand what a vast difference there is.
The other factor involved in consideration of using this type of feed for your birds is cost.
It is much more costly to buy the all natural feed. If you ask your local mill to make it up they will require you to buy it by the 1000kg batch.
This is a lot of money up front but more importantly you must use it up over the 6 to 8 week time period as the feed can go rancid and spoil.
In order to sell extra bags of feed that you cannot use quickly enough the feed recipe must be registered with the Canada Food Inspection Agency which requires a number of legal steps in order to be sold to anyone else. To assist with sharing large feed mixes it may be possible to have 2 or 3 peoples names and signature on the recipe when submitted to the feed mill for processing as it is legal for the mill to make the feed requested by that specific person but not for resale to the public.
I have talked to some people about the feed recipe and have been clear in the fact that for me it is in the experimental stage. It will take a full year of growing, breeding, egg laying and meat producing before I would feel comfortable in fully advocating the feed recipe that I have been working on with the nutritionist. In the mean time I am still in the process of improving the recipe by adding or taking away ingredients as I continue to observe my birds growth and performance.
I have taken the time to write this piece to be able to share the information I have learned and to inspire others to do further investigation and information gathering on the subject to make an informed decision when considering what or how to feed their birds.
Written by Christine Reid
Coal Creek Farm