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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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#71569 - 10/17/07 05:15 PM Re: Crumbles, pellets, oysters and scratch
C. G. McCary Offline
Coop Keeper

Registered: 04/04/07
Posts: 613
Loc: Alabama
I've always felt the same, that a hen would take only the oyster shell its body actually needed. Maybe the topic needs its own thread? Misc. go I. CHRIS

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#71570 - 10/17/07 07:47 PM Re: Crumbles, pellets, oysters and scratch
Dee Dee Offline
Coop Cleaner

Registered: 11/19/02
Posts: 174
Loc: Maryland
Hi Barnyard Jenny, I have ameracaunas too, along with turkens, wyandottes, rhode island reds. I like the my turkens the best, but everyone else feels they are ugly. I am now raising some cuckoo maran and australorp chicks. I like lotsa different colored eggs! And Cgmccary, I feed cat food too, they love it just about more than anything. I don't bother to soak it though, they have no trouble eating it.

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#71571 - 10/18/07 06:41 AM Re: Crumbles, pellets, oysters and scratch
Upback Offline
Coop Keeper

Registered: 06/04/07
Posts: 457
Loc: Maine
Funny, after reading about the cat food thing before, I tried it once when we ran out of grain and I couldn't get to the store until the afternoon. They just looked at it stupified! I was expecting them to just gobble it right up. If I do it again I will try soaking it. Maybe the kibble wasn't the right size, maybe my girls just were not used to it yet. Maybe they would have prefered chicken flavor over salmon? Different tastes, maybe.

That's interesting Chris, about the high protein/calcium possibly shortening their lifespan. I had never heard this before. Do you remember where you read it? ( nevermind- just came back to edit. saw your post in misc. with reference ) Sadly, a lot of people probably don't care because they do not expect their hens to live long anyway. I imagine when chickens are completely free ranged in abundant pastures they are always adjusting the ratio of seeds, bugs and greens they eat based on the current needs of their body - laying, molting, building reserves for winter etc... I wonder.

RenB - Yeah, I would offer grit. Oyster shell does not help with the grinding of the food. The only reason I only offer those in winter is that since my birds have a dirt run and daily ranging time they can eat all the dirt/ pebbles they need for minerals/grit. Lots of animals eat a little dirt for added minerals. I have thought about some sort of mineral block for chickens this winter. Not that they would lick it like a horse or deer, but maybe I could crumble or crush it? Does anyone else offer some sort of salt/multi-mineral block? There is something called Grazer's Choice with kelp, rock phosphate. mineral salts, vit. E, selenium and DE. Maybe I'll just offer kelp meal this winter.

It's so interesting to me all these different things we do because we all live in different places/situations with different birds and differents ends in mind. But if we are observing happy, healthy birds that lay many strong shelled eggs then we are doing something right!

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#71572 - 10/18/07 08:00 AM Re: Crumbles, pellets, oysters and scratch
Joachim Dippold Offline
Lord of the Fowl

Registered: 02/28/06
Posts: 1823
Loc: Austria
Hello,

just some info on cat food, in short: it is NOT good, the salt in it is poisonous/unhealthy for chickens! This issue comes up every now and then, there are several posts about it, here are the 2 which I think contain the most info:

http://www.the-coop.org/cgi-bin/UBB/ultimatebb.cgi?ubb=get_topic;f=3;t=001716#000006

http://www.the-coop.org/cgi-bin/UBB/ultimatebb.cgi?ubb=get_topic;f=12;t=002416#000007


Hope it´s of interest and best greetings,

Joachim

Amy, I just read your idea of the salt block and was shocked! Please do NOT do this, it would kill your birds rather fast, seriously! Common salt blocks over here contain around 40% Natriumchlorid/salt. Hope I didn´t sound rude!

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#71573 - 10/19/07 05:44 AM Re: Crumbles, pellets, oysters and scratch
Upback Offline
Coop Keeper

Registered: 06/04/07
Posts: 457
Loc: Maine
Hey Joachim,

Nope, not at all! That's why I asked. You know I like you and want to hear what you have to say.

OK, so lets talk salt. I claim to know next to nothing about salt and chickens but I have been doing some research ( the question on this post asking if others do a mineral/salt block being part of it ) since I wouldn't start something new like this with the birds without checking it out some. This is something I am considering for the winter months only, since the rest of the year there is abundant variety in greenery and bugs and I don't feel it would be necessary. But I always feel a little bad for my well-fed birds in winter so I try to get a little more creative then. I got the idea looking through my Fedco Seeds catalog and they have an offshoot called Organic Supply that sells everything from soil amendments to OG poultry, hog, cow feed and supplements. The company that makes the mineral supplements is called Fertrell, I believe. The Grazer's Choice product I mentioned does not specify for poultry, so I went to the Redmond Mineral Salt ( in the grazers mix ) website and they do mention the mineral salts for poultry as well as other livestock. They also make a specially formulated one for poultry called Poultry Nutribalancer that contains "...12-14% Ca, 10% P, 10-12% NaCl with trace minerals, vitamins, beneficial microbes. Formulated with kelp meal, not methionine." Being that there is kelp meal in it, I know it contains salt - maybe not as much as in the redmond mineral salts in the Grazers Choice - I'm not sure.
Both Fertrells website and the Redmond Mineral salt site mention feeding to poultry, all livestock actually. So I googled "salt for chickens" and aside from recipes I got some information from the Salt Institute regarding the subject. Basically saying what I'd read - that salt is a necessary, essential nutrient for poultry. They mentioned certain ratios and said that if these are exceeded that salt toxicity would develop. Also the website I've mentioned on here before ( www.themodernhomestead.us ) set up by a gentleman who writes for Backyard Poultry and Mother News and has had chickens for years mentions salt and kelp meal as ingredients in his homemade chicken scratch recipe. He also used the Poultry Nutribalancer, but if I remember correctly started to question using all of those supplements together as he pastures his poultry and they should be getting all the minerals they need. But he also states that salt is a necessary nutrient.

So is this a case of a little is a good thing, but more is not better - would in fact be toxic? Is it a case of maybe you are thinking refined table salt and they are thinking more along the lines of residual salt in the kelp, or that in the Redmond salt, or Dead Sea salt or where ever it is sourced that the unadultered salt combined with the host of other minerals work together symbiotically and without such toxic side effects?

If I were to do this it would be as a free choice supplement in winter ONLY - just like oyster shell and grit - so if it's free choice, would my chickens actually ever eat too much and overdose and die? I'd like to think not. That would shatter my whole system of beliefs - that if you offer good things or if they are on open range they will know what their body needs and find it and eat enough of it. I would not expect them to overdose on salt in a free choice ( not mixed in their feed )mineral supplement anymore than I would expect them to overdose on anything else they seek out and eat. I suppose there are always exceptions, but I am a firm believer in an animals intelligence to feed itself the right things in the right quantity when available. Many wild animals go to mineral and/or clay deposits and lick the earth to get salt as well as other things. Parrots are one that comes to mind right away ( yes, I know chickens are not parrots, just making a point that salt is good for some animals, birds too ).

So, I guess I'm a bit intrigued and want to hear again what you have to say and why you think this as there are two companies that I've found that are selling mineral supplements for poultry with salt, and a couple testimonials that warn of over feeding it due to toxicity but in small amounts tout the health benefits and say it is an essential nutrient. Maybe this is not so black and white? My body needs vitamin A, but it's fat soluble and builds up in my body and too much could kill me. Will I ever get enough vitamin A in a food source I'm eating to kill me -highly doubtful. Could I take enough to kill me through overdosing on vitamin A supplements? Probably. Maybe this is similar? I am sure that as I watch my birds digging worms out of the raspberry patch they are eating a little dirt too. That dirt contains minerals and maybe a little sodium. That is probably good for them, but if I start mixing high amounts of table salt in their feed that would not be so good.

As for the cat food - I would not feed it on a regular basis because we do not buy a "top of the line" cat food. Our cat is a great mouser and always welcome inside but is semi-feral by choice and sometimes in summer we will go a month without seeing him. He's about 7 and we always think he's dead only to have him show up again. We buy him regular cat food just to supplement his diet of mice. I don't trust what's in our cat food bag anymore than I trust what's in the pelleted poultry feed. I tried it in a pinch a few months back when we thought we had another bag of scratch, but did not and I needed something to offer until Billy got home with another bag. For whatever reason, not one of them went for it - so I just let them outside to forage for themselves that morning and cooked them some whole wheat pasta. That they went for!

Looking forward to your response my buddy!

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#71574 - 10/19/07 07:14 AM Re: Crumbles, pellets, oysters and scratch
Joachim Dippold Offline
Lord of the Fowl

Registered: 02/28/06
Posts: 1823
Loc: Austria
Hello Amy,

as for cat food: well, it´s designed for cats, not for birds!LOL! Seriously, chickens need other minerals and vitamines than cats. I asked our vet about it, the superb vitamin-A for chickens is harmful for cats for example. You should read what´s in your cat food, BTW;-) I wouldn´t want our birds eat the "common" stuff, it´s junk! Only few labels offer high-quality cat/dog food with REAL meat and without "waste" in it. In all labels of dry cat food they put in extra salt to make the cats drink more, this is what our vet told us and it makes perfect sense to me. He says since they switched to salted cat food the cases of cats with kidney failure dropped dramatically. So it is good for the cats, but bad for the chickens, they simply cannot use the extra salt in the food. Like dogs on the other hand cannot use the extra protein from chicken food, BTW. What´s good for one animal might be harmful for another animal, see what I mean?

As for salt, I think that chickens were never built to be able to "use" a huge amount of salt, they simply lack the organs! So they accumulate the surplus salt and finally die of renal/kidney failure, this is NOT a nice death, BTW;-( Your vet can clearly tell you more on this if you ask him, I also found little info online, unfortunatly I don´t remember any medical details. But I remember I searched for "chickens urine" and found a few interesting papers including more exact keywords for further research. I´ll see if I have bookmarked a few and tell you later!

Time is fleeting, solong,

Joachim

EDIT: Didn´t find any bookmarked sites about this, sorry!

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#71575 - 10/21/07 05:54 AM Re: Crumbles, pellets, oysters and scratch
Upback Offline
Coop Keeper

Registered: 06/04/07
Posts: 457
Loc: Maine
Well, I agree with you about the cat food. I was making a joke before when I said that maybe they would have prefered chicken flavor. I have read the ingredients, that's why I said I don't trust my cat food any more than some commercial poultry feed - vague by-product ingredients. But if in three years I tried to use it once when they ran out of grain until the afternoon, I don't think that's doing any harm, do you? Not all cat food is created equal and mine is just the regular stuff so I would not use it even as a treat. It tells me something that not one chicken tried it in the first place.

I also agree with " huge " amounts of salt being toxic. But my question for you is - do you think there is a place for mineral supplements formulated for poultry that contain some salt - fed free choice? If this were killing people's chickens why would there be products from reputable organic suppliers containing kelp meal and certain mineral salts? Isn't there a world of difference between feeding some high sodium feed on a daily basis and just putting out a free choice mineral mix that is advertised for poultry during the winter months. I think so, but maybe I'm wrong. As I said before, all the research that I came up with DID say salt in high amounts can be toxic to poultry, but also said that it is an essential, necessary nutrient. I guess I want to know if you believe the latter. If you think there is absolutely no place for a supplement like this, maybe I will re-think my idea. What about just kelp meal? That must contain trace amounts of salt from the sea.

I just want to do a little something extra for the birds in the winter when the food choices don't include bugs and as much greens. I'm not set on any idea, just fishing around for ideas before the cold weather comes. Let me know if you think there is grey area here. I think you know that I value what you have to say and will take it to heart. Just the other night we had a good friend over, a Brahma lover, and we were showing him all your geogeous birds at your Krasses Rudel site. smile

If there is anyone else out there still reading this - what are your opinions ( if any ) on salt in mineral supplements or salt being both deadly and necessary? CJR? Chris? Foehn? Anyone? If everyone is in agreement with Joachim then maybe my idea is not such a good one and I'll do something else...

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#71576 - 10/21/07 06:53 PM Re: Crumbles, pellets, oysters and scratch
Dee Dee Offline
Coop Cleaner

Registered: 11/19/02
Posts: 174
Loc: Maryland
Don't know much about the salt issue and definitely going to look into it re cat food. But did want to add that it is my birds absolute favorite treat, I don't feed it often, just as a treat occasionally. And if I would feed it to my cats I don't hesitate to feed it to my chickens as an infrequent treat. Also there are so many foods that my chickens have shown no interest in at first but did like later that I don't take that as an indication that something is bad for them. That said, I think I will limit the cat food even more now, thanks for the heads up on salt.

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#71577 - 10/22/07 03:23 PM Re: Crumbles, pellets, oysters and scratch
C. G. McCary Offline
Coop Keeper

Registered: 04/04/07
Posts: 613
Loc: Alabama
I think I checked the NaCl content in the dry catfood I supplement to my birds esp during these molting times. It had less than the canned cat food I feed my cat. The cheap dry catfood had a higher protein (double) content than the canned catfood [I've noticed the same difference betweem the canned & dry dog food I feed my dog].

As with anything that I or any animal eats, moderation or less of any one single thing, is probably better. Gosh, one week I read the feed may be killing my birds and now the dry catfood I supplement them with will cause sudden death. On top of all this, there is a lot of plants that grow in the run that are supposedly poisonous. Mushrooms, those sneaky things, are coming up all the time. I hope the birds "know" to leave them alone.

My birds eat such a variety of things (greens, figs, persimmons (still falling from our tree), but I keep their primary diet, their chicken feed. Thinking, maybe, I need to check the NaCl content of the couple of slices of bread each morning or maybe NOT! CHRIS

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#71578 - 10/22/07 06:03 PM Re: Crumbles, pellets, oysters and scratch
Dee Dee Offline
Coop Cleaner

Registered: 11/19/02
Posts: 174
Loc: Maryland
Hi Chris, mine are very busy wolfing down the persimmons too, another big favorite of theirs. A somewhat invasive shrub called Russian olive also grows in my yard and it has little round dull orange red fruits they love. I won't let my husband cut them down for this reason, the poor man has to work around the chickens in so many ways. I follow your routine, chicken feed mainly, but alot of different treats and of course they free range also.

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#71579 - 10/23/07 06:29 AM Re: Crumbles, pellets, oysters and scratch
Upback Offline
Coop Keeper

Registered: 06/04/07
Posts: 457
Loc: Maine
Yes, I agree that variety and moderation are key! In my older age ( 35 ) I find I have to remind myself not to be too militant about anything!

Deedee - I'm glad to hear that your chickens like the Russian Olive. We've thought about planting some near the pen as part of our edible hedge. There are already chokecherries there, high and lowbush blueberries, apple trees and we've just planted mulberry trees for them as well. I'm envious that you guys have persimmon and fig trees!

So I agree with what I think you guys are saying- given enough range time and and a variety of food choices they will LIKELY pick what they need and not overdose on anything.

Chris - we had a Faverolles who ate a mushroom and got sick. They were just chicks then and I let them out in this fenced, woody, grassy area on a sunny day. Later that night one Faverolles was very ill. I went looking around the area where I set them out. Little purple mushrooms everywhere! I hadn't noticed them before. We separated her with her own food and water and two days later she pulled out of it. It's actually the one we kept - Rufous - I joke that her hackles are so red from the mushroom poisoning! There were 25 other chicks out there that day and she is the only one who got sick.

Maybe I will start a new post regarding salt because I am a bit confused and very interested in this. There must be some people on this board who feed Fertrell Poultry Nutribalancer or something like it. I don't think supplementing with kelp ( again, this must contain salt ) is any new radical idea either - so I don't understand why Joachim would be shocked that I would consider this stuff. You still there Joachim? If so, did you mean that chickens really lack the ORGANS to process salt, or that their organs just do not process it? Because now I'm wondering what organs exactly do chickens lack?? I really want to get to the bottom of this salt thing. I was considering the Grazer's Choice ( containing the Redmind mineral salts ) as something in the future when there are more than just chickens grazing in the pasture. I figure if they need something in it they can peck a little. If not, they won't. I didn't imagine that there would be any danger of sodium toxicity this way. I know of others do it with out killing their birds- Harvey Ussery's homemade scratch mix contains ( or did ) the Nutribalancer, kelp and salt! He is a homesteader who has had chickens for years. If I remember correctly he stopped using the Nutribalancer after questioning if it is necessary for his pastured flock. He has a great way of keeping them in winter ( from memory of his website, could be slightly inaccurate) - under a portable greenhouse with loads of hay. I think there is enough hay to keep the soil from freezing (plus the warmth from the birds ) and the worm population remains active for the chickens and the birds eat all the seeds from the hay as well. He continues to toss in the scratch mix and come spring his birds are well-fed from their supplement of hay seeds and worms and he has a nice plot to garden. This sounds ideal to me but for the time being I'm thinking my birds might need a little something during the variety-challenged time of year.

Yeah, maybe I'll start a new post. When I hear completely conflicting information from trusted people who know a lot more about chickens than I do I want to know why! Is it an over-simplification to say "Salt is bad for chickens" OR "Salt is good for chickens" ?? I'm hoping for some grey, muddy area to move around in...

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#71580 - 10/23/07 07:40 AM Re: Crumbles, pellets, oysters and scratch
Joachim Dippold Offline
Lord of the Fowl

Registered: 02/28/06
Posts: 1823
Loc: Austria
Hello Amy,

sure, still there, just little time for posting, sorry!;-) Yes, I mean they actually lack these organs, they are called salt glands. Here´s a table:

http://jeb.biologists.org/cgi/content-nw/full/206/18/3273/TBL1

I don´t understand it all yet, need to research further, but just look at the ERPF of domesticated chicken, it´s rather high! All the "work" is left to the kidneys as far as I understood it, hope to clear this up today with our vet;-) Will keep you updated!

Here´s the whole paper from which the table above is, in case you´re interested, maybe you find better/more/other keywords for further research there? http://jeb.biologists.org/cgi/content/full/206/18/3273#TBL1

Gotta run for now, enjoy your evening!

EDIT: Just called our vet, here´s what he says: First, he´s not familiar with those salt-stones for chickens, he would use them only after LONG TERM research of the effects have been done. He doesn´t know everything, he´s open to new ideas. Nevertheless he has not heard of any study on the long term effects of salt on chickens.

He says chickens don´t have a salt gland and therefore their kidneys must "absorb" all the surplus salt, that leads to the final result that the bird dies of kidney failure. He says chickens don´t need extra salt no matter what time of the year. He recommends mineral mixtures for birds for Magnesium and Zink and such if you want to "boost" your birds, but he does NOT recommend salt mineral stones or such. He recommends reading long term studies BEFORE offering salt stones, he says chickens die of extra salt, to put it simple. Puh, straining writing, hope that helps!

Here´s the quote for salt from our chicken health book, BTW:

Quote:

Die Aufnahme von 5 bis 8 Gramm Kochsalz sind für eine ausgewachsene Henne tödlich.
roughly translated:
Deadly dosis for an adult hen: 5 to 8 grams of common salt.
source: Hühnerkrankheiten, von Dr. Werner Lüthgen, OERTEL+SPÖRER, ISBN: 3-88627-502-7, page 46, line 6

If as little as 8 grams of salt are deadly for an adult hen, then there must be something to it, see what I mean?


Joachim

PS: Where are all the poultry students? Maybe they can explain this whole stuff to us?;-)

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#71581 - 11/20/07 08:40 PM Re: Crumbles, pellets, oysters and scratch
C. G. McCary Offline
Coop Keeper

Registered: 04/04/07
Posts: 613
Loc: Alabama
My better half is much better at math and medical issues than I and explains the salt content of cat food as follows:

Hi all. I read the above referenced article in full and believe I understand it properly. This type of study is very similar to the studies of renal clearance and drug toxicity I have to read for nursing school. With out bogging everyone down with terminology like "tonicity", "hypervolemia" and "bolus dose", let me establish some basic principles at play and some cogent observations made by the paper.
First, there is salt. Water follows salt in most metabolisms and this holds true for chickens. Too much salt in you're bird and it'll kill 'em because the fluid balance gets whacked.
Second, there is the kidneys. Metabolically speaking, they are the equalizers for fluids and electrolytes in the body (of which salt is a primary player). Most kidneys will process approximately 1/5 (that's 20%) of a body's circulating blood per minute. Impressive organs to say the least.
Third, there is clearance. That is the rate at which the kidneys of the bird are able to process and eliminate exesses, wastes or toxins (in this case salt).
In chickens, according to the paper, the kidneys can clear only so much salt at a time. There is a threshold where the salt concentration becomes too high and the kidneys shut down. The circulating salt draws the water from all the tissues to the vascular compartment and the bird dies of congestive heart failure secondary to salt intoxication.
By using the percentage by volume of the listed salts in the cat food formula (sodium salts, potassium salts, calcium salts), I determined a volumetric percentage of salt (15% give or take a tenth of a percent). So in the 250 grams of dry cat food being fed to our chickens, I determined that about 37.5 grams are salts. I then devided that by the number of birds consuming the cat food (20) and determined that each bird would get 1.8-1.9 grams of salts-- well with in the safe dose range.

Now for the curious part-- the safe dose ranges (as far as I can determine) are based on the clearance rate for a bird receiving an intra-venous bolus (all-at-one-time) dose, not a by mouth and absorb-it-over-time dose. Granted a dose is a dose no matter the route, but the route has a lot to do with how a metabolic system can cope with or adapt to changes introduced to the system. Eating a salt pill and having salt injected into your veins are two very different things although it is possible that the 'lethal dose' was extrapolated by employing the functional capacity for renal clearance.

PS: 5 grams of salt is a huge dose even for humans! Human cardiac patients are placed on a diet that permits no more than 2 grams of salt per day!

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#71582 - 11/21/07 06:03 AM Re: Crumbles, pellets, oysters and scratch
Upback Offline
Coop Keeper

Registered: 06/04/07
Posts: 457
Loc: Maine
Thanks for taking the time, Chris' better half!

As for the point of "...if as little as 8 grams is deadly for an adult hen, then there must be something to it.." I would say that 8 grams is not a little, but an ungodly amount. All the salt we eat in our food is measured in milligrams, not grams. People should only consume around 1,500 - 2,500 milligrams per day. 8 grams is really a lot.

Second, I would say that there are a number of things, even water, which are essential to our life, but will kill us in large quantities. People have actually died from drinking too much water. So while I see the point, I just don't buy it.

Yes, where are the poultry students? I wonder what how much sodium hens get from a commercial ration, salt is added to all of them, I think it's 1%, sometimes .5% - ? I wonder how many milligrams per day that would work out to, generally speaking?

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#71583 - 11/24/07 05:24 PM Re: Crumbles, pellets, oysters and scratch
Rogo16 Offline
Coop Keeper

Registered: 10/14/05
Posts: 439
Loc: Arizona
=== Crumbles, pellets, oster shell, scratch. ===


I've fed various poultry menus, meant for poultry, thru the years. Egg production has always been high. But I wanted to get away from soy. Looking at the bag of dog food I feed, I decided it was the healthiest bagged feed I could feed my birds.

No chemicals, corn, soy, wheat, wheat gluten, overseas products, and the company has never had any recalls on any of its feed. The dry kibble is beak size.

I free choice feed, and as I've always done, I mix DE into the feed, so no need for oyster shell. Hay is still free choice fed, and is about 1/3 of the diet.

I don't feed grit since the birds roam free and get what they need from the acreage.

Egg production is still high, but the birds look a lot better.

Experimenting paid off! :o)
_________________________
Rogo

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#71584 - 11/25/07 12:37 AM Re: Crumbles, pellets, oysters and scratch
Joachim Dippold Offline
Lord of the Fowl

Registered: 02/28/06
Posts: 1823
Loc: Austria
Hello Chris, Amy and Rogo,

thanks for the info! Yes, haven´t thought on this: "Eating a salt pill and having salt injected into your veins are two very different things". Thanks also for your calculations!

I agree on the diet of 2 grams per day for cardiac patients, but in general "we" consume much more: in Germany around 8 grams per day per human for example, I think it´s 6 grams per day in the UK? Sure, this doesn´t sound healthy, I agree;-) But since 10 grams is only 1 spoonful, 8 grams don´t sound this much to me.

Let´s take a 50 lb bag of food containing 1% of salt, that´s about 220 grams salt per bag. How long does a bag last? Let´s say 150 hens eat 150 grams food = 150 x 150 = 22500 grams = 50 lb, approximately!;-) So if 1 bag last for 1 day for 150 hens that´s 220 grams salt for 150 hens = 1.5 grams salt per hen per day. Just an example, hope it´s correct!

We also try to avoid soy since first our birds don´t like it (really!) and second I have read some links from Rogo that were quite, ermmm, interesting;-) I agree on the 1/3 part green food idea, have read this several times here.

You say "People have actually died from drinking too much water" Amy. I agree, I have read a child died in Germany from eating an oversalted chocolate pudding, look:

Quote:
Frankenthal -
Ein Mädchen (4) schüttet versehentlich Salz statt Zucker in den Schoko-Pudding. Die Stiefmutter entdeckt das verstreute Salz auf dem Küchenboden - und zwingt ihre Tochter, den Pudding zu essen. Das Kind stirbt daran.
translation:
Frankenthal -
A girl (4) poured accidentally salt instead of sugar in the chocolate-pudding. The stepmother discovered the salt scattered on the kitchen floor, and forced her daughter to eat the pudding. The child died from eating it.
source: http://www.abendblatt.de/daten/2005/07/16/459992.html

Best greetings,

Joachim

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#71585 - 11/25/07 02:18 PM Re: Crumbles, pellets, oysters and scratch
Barnyard Jenny Offline
Feather

Registered: 08/27/07
Posts: 27
Loc: North Carolina
Rogo16- What brand dog food, if I may ask. I think it is an interesting idea. Do they gobble it up?

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#71586 - 11/25/07 07:38 PM Re: Crumbles, pellets, oysters and scratch
Rogo16 Offline
Coop Keeper

Registered: 10/14/05
Posts: 439
Loc: Arizona
=== Rogo16- What brand dog food, if I may ask. I think it is an interesting idea. Do they gobble it up? ===


All my critters - house pets, large livestock, poultry - are free choice fed. When fed this way, critters don't gobble their feed, they nibble periodically.

Interesting that a couple of days after I started feeding the dog food, I put out some of the whole grains I had left. The birds wouldn't touch it. Poultry refusing grain! -LOL- It went into the garbage.

Also, there's no added salt in the feed, just what's naturally in the foods used.

I feed Strongpoint Senior. I found out years ago that if I go over 20% protein my dogs fight and have behavior problems. The senior feed is 20% protein and fed to all ages of dogs and poultry. It's only sold in the southwest U.S.
_________________________
Rogo

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#71587 - 12/30/07 08:08 AM Re: Crumbles, pellets, oysters and scratch
C Mom Offline
New Egg

Registered: 11/20/07
Posts: 4
Loc: Florida
My girls are nearly 12 weeks old. I have been treating my girls with oats I get from one of my local feed stores. They love the oats. I also threw in a piece of alfalfa bale which they pick at and have scattered over a portion of their run. Also I grow lettuce. Every once in awhile I throw a head in and they devour it. I feed them vegetable scraps except raw potato peels. They all seem fine. I recently purchased some scratch. I have been reading in some different forums about chick scratch which appears to be just regular scratch that is more finely ground. Do they need grit and are they old enough for grit? I have a 500ft net that I use to net off an area they can range in that connects to their run. I have a gate that I can close in the run. This is all movable including the coop which I do about every three weeks.

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#71588 - 01/02/08 08:23 AM Re: Crumbles, pellets, oysters and scratch
Lifelong Learner Offline
Chicken

Registered: 10/27/06
Posts: 126
Loc: Louisiana
I love this forum; I always find what I need here. I only have two hens, both young, both laying. I feed only Layena pellets in their feeder, but they are completely free-range all day (in a protected coop only at night).

While they are out, they eat everything including cat food, which my husband puts out for a stray he's coaxing. (From the size of the stray lately, I think someone else must be feeding him too.) They also love scraps -- everything from strawberry tops to cooked rice.

I put a few cups of pellets in their feeder each week and it takes them the whole week to eat it, so the girls must be pretty self-sufficient. There are lots of bugs and grasses, etc. out there all day.

I have recently been wondering if I should make some oyster shell available. We get an egg a day from each of them and the shells seem perfect. Should I leave well enough alone or is it just a matter of time til I get weak shells?

I've never had chickens before.

--Angelle

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#71589 - 01/02/08 12:14 PM Re: Crumbles, pellets, oysters and scratch
CJR Online   content
Coop Master

Registered: 07/16/02
Posts: 8489
Loc: Montana
Why wait until shells get thin, as sometimes the Shell Gland will not return to normal production? Thin shells do not usually appear in eggs of first year layers, but keeping the Calcium (etc.) mineral in bones and organs that produce the shells is just good management. Offer Oyster Shell in a separate feeder, near their Pellets. They will eat what they need--it may be very little, but don't let that concern you--just do offer it. My older hens eat lots, some of the younger hens eat little--a sack lasts a long time! Good luck, CJR

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#71590 - 01/05/08 09:24 AM Re: Crumbles, pellets, oysters and scratch
Lifelong Learner Offline
Chicken

Registered: 10/27/06
Posts: 126
Loc: Louisiana
Thanks, CJR. I'll get right on it.

--Angelle

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