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#71559 - 10/15/07 02:24 PM Crumbles, pellets, oysters and scratch
Barnyard Jenny Offline
Feather

Registered: 08/27/07
Posts: 27
Loc: North Carolina
My question is What do you all use? I have my 16 hens on laying crumbles-they are 6 months old - 6 are laying. I have seen the pellets and a neighbor of mine uses them. They look so BIG! Also-oyster shell. The pieces I get at the feed store seem big. How much to you give them? Do you throw them in the yard? and the last feeding question-- How much scratch should I be giving them? I have been giving a cup in the a.m. and a cup in the p.m. Is this to much for 16 hens? confused

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#71560 - 10/15/07 03:23 PM Re: Crumbles, pellets, oysters and scratch
Dee Dee Offline
Coop Cleaner

Registered: 11/19/02
Posts: 174
Loc: Maryland
Hi Barnyard Jenny, I feed pellets because there is less waste with them. My hens have feed available at all times, along with oyster shells. Scratch should be just a treat. Could be wrong but I think a cup or so a day for your hens is not a bad thing. What kind of hens do you have?

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#71561 - 10/16/07 05:35 AM Re: Crumbles, pellets, oysters and scratch
Wyattdogster Offline
Coop Keeper

Registered: 09/22/05
Posts: 493
Loc: Virginia
I keep a stoneware dish filled with oyster shell outside at all times, as well as a bowl of grit. I know what you are saying about the big pieces....the bag I am using now is like that. I found if I dig down into the bag with a small scoop, I will get a better mix of sizes including some finely crushed bits. The larger pieces are not taken by my chickens. I think the amount of scratch you are feeding is fine.

My flock of 40+ would commit mutiny if I didn't toss them their scratch every morning when I let them out. I toss around a feed scoop of scratch, probably about a tablespoon or two per bird IF the bullies would lighten up a bit!! I toss it in several locations so the meeker ones get a chance at it. If I am slow to bring it out of the barn, the head rooster flies over their fence and struts into the barn, following me around and giving me the 'eye' until I bring out the scratch. smile
The only time I held off on the scratch was during the extreme heat we had this summer.

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#71562 - 10/16/07 06:35 AM Re: Crumbles, pellets, oysters and scratch
Upback Offline
Coop Keeper

Registered: 06/04/07
Posts: 457
Loc: Maine
Hi Barnyard Jenny,

I love to hear how and what other people feed their chickens. We are all different, that's why this topic is so interesting to me.

Because of the way I feed my chickens, I found pellets to be first wasteful, then stinky! I don't feed in bowls, containers or feed dispensers. I always scatter food in different places around their run ( roughly 40' wide by 65' long ), which is usually covered with leaves we've raked up. Feeding this way with the pellets, if a rain comes they just crumble apart, sit there and stink. I feed 2-3 times a day and make sure what I tossed out previously is cleaned up before I scatter any more food. It usually depends on the time of year. We use a plant pot as our "scoop" and if they clean up quickly what we toss out, we feed more. But if they just clean up the sunflower and corn first, we don't toss anymore until the oats and wheat are gone as well. We have 20 hens and 1 rooster.

When they're outside ranging I will scratch them for the final time outside so they can get all the grain they want before they put themselves to bed and this eliminated feed being left in the run overnight encouraging little critters.

Spring through Fall we feed a Blue Seal Scratch Feed containing corn, wheat and oats. We always buy a lot of black-oil sunflower to add to this. At this time of year I feed no oyster shell or grit because I've observed that they don't need it. Their shells are very thick and strong, and that tells me what I need to know. They are in a large dirt run ( again, covered in leaf-litter ) with free access always in and out of the coop, with lime and diatomaceous earth in their bathing holes. They peck at this and I'm sure get some calcium this way, but the free access out of their run every evening ( I let them out earlier and earlier as the days get shorter ) allows them to peck anywhere and get what they need. It always varies - right now it's 8:30 a.m. and they are out for the day as there is little in the gardens that they can damage anymore. We also have three ponds and use them to trap small baitfish and crayfish for the chickens every week or two. During the summer when the Japanese beetles plague the garden we collect them daily so the chickens get a steady diet of them when they are around. We also feed kitchen scraps like thinly torn banana peels, apple cores, cooked squash skin, carrot tops, and every egg shell from eggs we use go to the chickens. I was just going through my fall kale planting and tossing cabbage worms to the chickens. In addition to their daily outings, I toss in grasses, clovers and weeds in the run so they have greenery in there until they can come out and graze on their own.

Winter is slightly different. I still scatter the scratch feed all throughout their leaf-litter run so they can find and scratch around for grains and seeds. But out of laziness, lack of storage space or lack of funds for more varied seeds and grains, lack of greenery and bare ground for free ranging, we "cheat" and feed pellets, too. Pellets go in a large, round black tub inside the coop because when scattered they would just inevitably get snowed on, crumble and sit there and stink. We also offer grit and oyster shell in winter. Again, at this time they are not getting extra calcium from beetles, fish and outdoor greenery and have less access to small pebbles. We also try extra hard to cook or chop up anything that would otherwise go in the compost pile that the chickens may like. We will also buy alfalfa cubes sometimes in winter and pour hot water on them. Once they have swollen, softened and cooled off the chickens appreciate this greenery in the dead of winter. Our goal is to wean ourselves off feeding pellets even in winter - eventually. My favorite site about feeding chickens is: www.themodernhomestead.us The gentleman who put this site together writes for Mother Earth News and Backyard Poultry magazines. I absolutely love the philosophy behind the way he and his wife feed their chickens - sustainability. My husband and I have tried to mimic some of the things they are doing.

In my mind, a chicken is just built to go out and find it's own food. I want to allow for this as much as I possibly can while still protecting them to the best of my ability. As they are loose right now for the day, with both our dogs outside, the only thing I worry about is a raptor of some sort, but as yet I've never lost a bird to a bird. I'm sure it will happen. As night falls all the birds put themselves in the coop and we just go out and shut the door. No rounding or herding anyone in.

Within the next year or two we will be purchasing electronet fencing, enough for an acre or so. It just does not make sense, to me, that a bird built for scratching up it's own bugs, worms and seeds for food should then be confined to a static run and fed primarily pellets or grains which we've had to drive to the store and buy when we have 25 acres of property we're sitting on. Just about everything our birds could possibly need is already out there. We are not there yet, but that's where we are heading.

Sorry for the long post, but as I said I love this topic and spend a lot of time thinking about different ways to feed our birds. This really opens up a can of worms for me! (ok, pun intended ) smile

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#71563 - 10/16/07 07:34 AM Re: Crumbles, pellets, oysters and scratch
Ren B. Offline
Bantam

Registered: 09/17/07
Posts: 50
Loc: Virginia
What about grit? I feed them crumble and oyster shells - even though the are not laying yet. Should I supplement with some kind of grit for digestion?

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#71564 - 10/16/07 12:38 PM Re: Crumbles, pellets, oysters and scratch
Barnyard Jenny Offline
Feather

Registered: 08/27/07
Posts: 27
Loc: North Carolina
DeeDee-I have 16 Americaunas. I let them have free access to the food in one of those old-timey galvanized feeders that spin on a chain. I love getting everbodys opinions and what they have found works best for them.
Upback- I have noticed are shells are getting very strong. My father had to cut one with a knife. and the membranes inside the shell are as tough as rubber gloves!

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#71565 - 10/16/07 08:08 PM Re: Crumbles, pellets, oysters and scratch
C. G. McCary Offline
Coop Keeper

Registered: 04/04/07
Posts: 613
Loc: Alabama
I use both crumbles and pellets. I keep granite grit available all the time. I also treat in the morning with 3-way scratch and regular loaf bread (small amounts they consume in minutes as in 2 slices of bread and 2 cups of scratch for 19 birds).

My birds have a large run (about 2000 square feet for 19 birds) and so it is much like free range so they catch bugs, mice, lizards. They also have a fig bush and a persimmon tree when in season.

I give them tomatoes as treats when in season too and vegetable scraps. Their primary food is the crumbles and pellets though which I add food grade DE to the feed at 2%. I provide oyster shell. I have over time added lots of dolomitic lime soil and playbox sand to our normal- Alabama, Creteaceous red clay soil in the run. I put DE and Poultry/Garden Dust (for mite prevention) in their dust bath places.

The crumbles I feed are Purina Game Chow Layena (20%) and the pellets are ADM Layena (22%). I have used Purina "Flock Raiser" (19%) in the past with success (but this lacks animal-based protein). I find they eat more feed when I wet it a little bit. I only wet the feed that is in the plastic cups not my hanging metal feeder (it is too hard to keep clean). Once a week or so, I pour some buttermilk from a local dairy in 2-3 of the cup feeders directly mixing it in the feed.

I also give them oats occasionally as a treat mixing it in their food (more in hot weather). I supplement with 30% dry cat food (which I soak until totally soft) every other day and especially during molting. I feed this just before roost and only what they consume in about 10 minutes.

I am questioning the use of oyster shell and layena feed year round after reading that the higher calcium levels (as well as the constant high protein) may be shortening the life spans of our birds leading to early deaths. Interested in hearing anybody's take on this question?

I have not had any problems with weak or thin shells. I have not had any problems with chickens eating eggs. Pullets & hens are laying well, and all have good weight. My experience is limited, and I am open to changing something if I find a better way. CHRIS

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#71566 - 10/17/07 09:43 AM Re: Crumbles, pellets, oysters and scratch
Barnyard Jenny Offline
Feather

Registered: 08/27/07
Posts: 27
Loc: North Carolina
Chris-This is alittle off topic, but what type of birds are Demi and Athena? I have 2 that look just like them. Even the grey-green legs. I have a hard time identifying chicks Thanks

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#71567 - 10/17/07 02:13 PM Re: Crumbles, pellets, oysters and scratch
C. G. McCary Offline
Coop Keeper

Registered: 04/04/07
Posts: 613
Loc: Alabama
Demi and Athena are Easter Eggers. They are both excellent layers too.

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#71568 - 10/17/07 03:33 PM Re: Crumbles, pellets, oysters and scratch
Wyattdogster Offline
Coop Keeper

Registered: 09/22/05
Posts: 493
Loc: Virginia
I believe that free choice oyster shell is just that, a choice! They take only what they need. It seems right now as a large % of mine are moulting I haven't had to refill the dish in weeks.
I wouldn't mix it in with their feed, they might then get more than they need.

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