Feeding the girls...
I was nervous about feeding the chickens and ducks when we first got them. If you Google something like "make your own chicken feed," you will get a LOT of opinions about how to make a balanced feed ration. Here are a couple of things we learned:
1. Growing ducks need niacin
If ducklings do not get enough niacin, they will have leg abnormalities, failure to thrive, lack of weight gain, seizures, and eventually death. Luckily, it is easy to make sure ducklings get enough niacin by feeding specially made waterfowl starter and grower feed. You can also put niacin in their water or add brewers yeast to their feed.
Calcium is needed in adult chickens so the egg shells are nice and strong. BUT growing chicks can have kidney problems if they get too much calcium. Also, they can get rickets if they have too much calcium. Again, these problems are easy to avoid if the correct starter and growing feeds are used for growing chicks.
3. Protein requirements change for growing poultry.
Chicks need a high level of protein so they can get a good start. As the birds age, they need less protein and that is adjusted in the type of feed they eat (starter vs. grower. vs. layer feeds).
Black Oil Sunflower seeds
We also give sunflower seeds as a treat. I have read that you can feed 15-30% of their daily ration in black oil sunflower seeds. We don't feed quite that much...more like 10%. We bring it out to them in the afternoon and they LOVE them.
Benefits to feeding black oil sunflowers to laying hens include:
The oil in the sunflower seeds is good for their feathers
An increase in egg production
Vitamin E to protect immune system
Great source of protein
Rich in antioxidants
Our birds are all out on pasture right now so they are getting green grass each day. In the winter, we are going to start adding some flaxseed to the chickens to keep the omega 3 fatty acid level up in the eggs. Flax seed is high in protein, oil and omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids
Omega 3'sLet me go down the Omega 3 rabbit hole here for a minute...I am going to try to keep this simple (click on any underlined text for more information)...
Omega 3's are good for you and most people do not get enough of them.
omega 3 and omega 6 are metabolised by the same enzymes, so if there is a flood of omega 6 in the body, omega 3 may not be available to the body in the required levels, even if sufficient quantities are consumed.
Grass fed animals have more omega 3 in their bodies. For example, animals being outside and feeding on grass and plants has a big impact on the fat composition and may increase the amount of omega-3s in meat by as much as 25% while lowering harmful saturated fats. The same is true with eggs from chickens that are out on pasture! More omega 3's!
Take home message: eating eggs from pastured hens are good for you because they have more omega 3!
We purchased feed from the feed store at the beginning. Now, we get our feed from a local grower and supplier. It is non-GMO and does not have soybean in it. I think it is mostly barley and peas.
Not the most eggciting topic but this is something that we think about a lot as poultry egg farmers...have a great day!