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Re: To Polly re: chicken feed

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  • cousinlucius
    Hello Polly, Glad to find you adding to the discussion. Curiosity leads me to want to ask you lots of questions. What kind of farmer is your husband? Does
    Message 1 of 5 , Dec 1, 2010
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      Hello Polly,
      Glad to find you adding to the discussion. Curiosity leads me to want to ask you lots of
      questions. What kind of farmer is your husband? Does he have any experience with any of
      the kinds of field crops that you talk about being interested in or any equipment (a
      combine or more old-fashioned equipment) that you would plan to use? Of course, most of
      the things you talk about can be done in very low-tech, labor-intensive ways, too. Do
      you have ideas yet for harvesting and drying and threshing, etc., etc.?

      As for chickens, if you're wanting to do things the homegrown way, you could grind (not
      necessarily very fine) a little corn for your birds for the first few weeks. They don't
      eat too much until they get a little size to them, so that wouldn't necessarily require
      grinding very much grain. I might also give my biddies some hard boiled eggs (or maybe
      dairy for extra protein...) I've also raised chickens from hatch to maturity on nothing
      but whole grains, though. The biddies can't really eat whole grains, but during the
      growing season the mother hens have found enough little weed seeds or who-knows-what to
      raise their biddies without me feeding them anything at all. They can digest wheat
      before they can handle corn. For all ages complete free range (as opposed to chicken
      tractors or even moveable netting) seems to be very valuable. All I normally feed my
      chickens is either whole kernel corn or wheat (or sometimes barley.) Together with worms
      and grubs and whatever else they scratch up in the woods or the grass they seem to do
      plenty well that way. I probably feed 6000-7000 lbs total of corn and wheat (and
      sometimes barley, which I'll sometimes sprout) to my chickens in a year and in return
      sell 600-700 dozen eggs (not counting what I use for hatching or most of what my family
      eats) plus maybe 60 birds to eat (not including what the hawks eat), plus raising
      replacement layers and selling a few hens. It's not a system that I think I could scale
      up beyond about 100 mature layers, if that, but I feel like it's a lot more efficient
      than feeding complete, pre-mixed rations/laying mash, especially if it's organic -- and
      if you're just feeding whole grains like you can grow yourself, then organic is pretty
      achievable.

      Again, glad to have you contributing to the discussion!

      --Eric
    • polly_goldman
      Thanks, Eric - it s great to see numbers like that, for a reality check: from your numbers, if we wanted to keep a standing flock of just 10 chickens, we would
      Message 2 of 5 , Dec 2, 2010
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        Thanks, Eric - it's great to see numbers like that, for a reality check: from your numbers, if we wanted to keep a standing flock of just 10 chickens, we would need 0.6 acre devoted to grain for them. Seems kind of extravagant. But I guess if I want to eat animal products, I have to face the fact that they ARE extravagant.

        My husband has been managing a mixed crop organic educational farm for the past 20 years; he just retired from it. He has grown some wheat, and we've had fun trying different ways of harvesting/threshing/cleaning it. I really don't feel any particular need to be efficient with the processing, and have been known to hand guests bowls of grain to sort through when they come over. When he does it, he prefers to set up a fan to separate the chaff for him. For our direct eating use only, I was assuming we wouldn't need much more than 1/4 acre each for wheat and for dried corn, but adding in livestock feed would definitely make hand-processing less appealing and would make me start searching for efficiencies. I do hope to learn some methods from this group that would work at the ~1 acre level of crop. I'm assuming that you don't grow grain for your chickens?
        (as for your question about drying the grains - we live in California, and grains tend to dry themselves in the field. Not very fair, I know)
        Polly
      • cousinlucius
        Polly, I look forward to hearing more stories and details from you about what you ve been growing. Have you taken millet from field to table, for instance?
        Message 3 of 5 , Dec 3, 2010
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          Polly,
          I look forward to hearing more stories and details from you about what you've been growing. Have you taken millet from field to table, for instance? That's one thing I haven't done yet. I'm in North Carolina, so we have plenty of warm weather for drying grains in the field, but one problem I've had planting on a small scale is that birds can completely wipe out the little patches I'm dealing with. I'm thinking especially of sunflowers, but Logsdon's book seemed to indicate that some kinds of millet would be the same way. My family eats more millet now than rice, but it's still all store-bought.

          As for numbers, I try to maintain a flock of about 60 layers and raise at least 50 cockerels for the table each year, but that means I'm raising, on average, at least 50 new pullets each year, too. I wind up selling the surplus hens. Bottom line: for much of the year I'm feeding well over 100 chickens. Right now, if you count all ages, I have about 150. So, if all you're feeding is 10 mature layers, and your circumstances are comparable to mine, then I might expect to feed 10% or less of what I feed. If you call that 600 lbs/year, you're looking at about 11 bushels of corn. At 60 bu/acre, that would take less than 1/5 acre. At 30 bu/acre, you're only looking at about 1/3 acre. At 20 bu/acre, you'd need just over 1/2 acre. I think the fewer chickens you have, though, the less competition they'll have for whatever free feed/forage there is around the farm for them, so 10 chickens might produce just as well as 60 with less than 1/6 the supplemental feed.

          I do grow corn, partly for my chickens, but I've also been buying extra corn (or other grains). I've informally contracted with some neighbors to grow some of my corn for me, so I've mostly been feeding an heirloom white variety. I'll mostly sort it very hard for cornmeal -- and sell the surplus cornmeal -- and then save the seconds (anything with any bug damage, minor mold, other imperfections, etc., etc.) for the chickens. Depending on the year, that can be anywhere from about 20-50% of the crop that I call feed grade. Most of those kernels are first quality, but if there are some poorer kernels scattered across a cob, I'll downgrade the whole cob. Last year some mice got into my corn crib pretty early in the winter, before I had shelled and prepared hardly any for cornmeal, so I fed almost my whole crop to the chickens last year (about 1/2 acre's worth, plus another acre's worth that a neighbor grew)

          <polly_goldman@...> wrote:
          >
          > Thanks, Eric - it's great to see numbers like that, for a reality check: from your numbers, if we wanted to keep a standing flock of just 10 chickens, we would need 0.6 acre devoted to grain for them. Seems kind of extravagant. But I guess if I want to eat animal products, I have to face the fact that they ARE extravagant.
          >
          > My husband has been managing a mixed crop organic educational farm for the past 20 years; he just retired from it. He has grown some wheat, and we've had fun trying different ways of harvesting/threshing/cleaning it. I really don't feel any particular need to be efficient with the processing, and have been known to hand guests bowls of grain to sort through when they come over. When he does it, he prefers to set up a fan to separate the chaff for him. For our direct eating use only, I was assuming we wouldn't need much more than 1/4 acre each for wheat and for dried corn, but adding in livestock feed would definitely make hand-processing less appealing and would make me start searching for efficiencies. I do hope to learn some methods from this group that would work at the ~1 acre level of crop. I'm assuming that you don't grow grain for your chickens?
          > (as for your question about drying the grains - we live in California, and grains tend to dry themselves in the field. Not very fair, I know)
          > Polly
          >
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