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#8849 - 10/25/07 06:52 AM Mineral Salts
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Coop Keeper

Registered: 06/04/07
Posts: 457
Loc: Maine
I am looking for opinions on the health benefits or health hazards of offering something like Fertrell's Poultry Nutribalancer. I'm not hugely into supplementation, but I was thinking about offering some sort of mineral salt supplement - advertised for poultry - this winter.

I wonder first if it is necessary since I offer DE and in the winter months do feed some pellets and alfalfa. The majority of their feed would still be corn/wheat/oats/sunflower. Second, I wonder if it could actually harm the chickens. I have read about a trusted ( not because I know him, but because he writes for Backyard Poultry and Mother Earth News and I think he knows his stuff ) homesteader's recipe for their homemade scratch feed that contains kelp, Nutribalancer and SALT. But I have also read about sodium toxicity and Joachim was warning me about that as well. Does anyone feed these types of things to their poultry in winter - or any other time for that matter?

I have read in many places that salt is both an essential nutrient for chickens and also toxic in large amounts. I am hoping that if fed free choice that chickens might benefit from the extra minerals in their diet but not eat enough of it to do any harm. I am just brainstorming winter feeding strategies and anyone's opinions, observations and hard facts would be appreciated.

Poultry Nutribalancer is 12 - 14% Ca, 10% P, 10 - 12 % NaCl, trace minerals, vitamins, beneficial microbes - formulated with kelp, not methionine.

Grazer' Choice ( on website does say for poultry ) is kelp, feed-grade soft rock phosphate, Redmond minerals salts, vitamin E, selenium and DE.

Keep in mind this would be free choice in winter only. No adding huge amounts of table salt to their feed. I think it must be a general consensus that everyone loves and respects Joachim. So when he told me he was shocked and I could kill my birds quickly I listened. I don't want to kill any of our birds - unintentionally! So I wonder if people think this could be harmful; not harmful but not necessary; or a boon to their health during the months when they are not able to eat grasses and bugs and such. Just fishing for as much information as possible.

Thanks in advance,

Amy

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#8850 - 10/25/07 09:49 PM Re: Mineral Salts
Foehn Offline
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Lord of the Fowl

Registered: 08/08/06
Posts: 1974
Loc: New Zealand
There are quite a range of salts that are likely to be beneficial for the health of poultry, but from my study, these would be trace elements such as selenium, magnesium, potasium etc. Some of these can already be found in food, especially potasium (bananas and other yellow or orange coloured food), but to be sure of what you need, it would be worth getting a soil sample done to ascertain what your property lacks. I know that NZ for instance, is incredibly low in iodine, and also selenium. Selenium is so low that plants cannot take it up here. Most stock feeds including poultry have it added.

If you dig that kelp (supposing it's the real thing) in under the silverbeet you grow for the hens, that will not only be good for the garden, but will help to provide essential minerals during the growing season. That ought to set up the chooks to take on the winter months in good condition, and then a balanced feed should see them through

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#8851 - 10/26/07 05:49 AM Re: Mineral Salts
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Coop Keeper

Registered: 06/04/07
Posts: 457
Loc: Maine
What a good idea to get a soil sample. It's about time I did it for the garden again, anyway. I had not thought of it from the chicken perspective, though I know that as they are eating worms and bugs they are eating soil too. As you mentioned with the banana, maybe they will be getting enough of what they need between their regular diet and all the kitchen scraps. We always tear every banana peel into thin strips for them to devour and I notice they are more fond of all that kind of stuff in the winter which makes sense.

When you say Silverbeet, I wonder if that is what we call Chard, or Swiss Chard? Mine looks good this morning despite the frost last night - I love that stuff. So speaking of beets, sort of, the same person who I got the mineral salt idea from grows Mangel Beets for his chickens just for the winter time. He puts them in the root cellar and throws one in the coop/greenhouse at a time. I think it takes them a few days to finish one as they all eventually peck it down to nothing and then he throws in another. He said it's great entertainment for them as well and they surely are getting minerals from root vegetables. So maybe if I do things like that - and I just thought of this, I live in MAINE - it would be stupid to buy kelp meal when I can drive 1/2 hour and harvest the real fresh stuff, lay it out to dry and then crush it and sprinkle it in the run for them once in a while throughout the winter. Why didn't I think of that before? I try to be focused on sustainability, but it's easy sometimes to get hooked into thinking you need to purchase a product. If I want some insurance that our birds are getting enough minerals in the winter maybe I will grow a root crop just for them ( next year ) and harvest them some seaweed. We usually make a trip to the coast around this time to get a load of seaweed to top off our compost anyway. I think I just talked myself out of what I originally thought was a good idea. Thanks Foehn!

I am still curious about if and how much salt is necessary and or toxic - but if I am just going with raw seaweed and root vegetables, not a mineral block type product I don't think I need to worry. First- do no harm, right?

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#8852 - 10/26/07 06:21 AM Re: Mineral Salts
Rogo16 Offline
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Registered: 10/14/05
Posts: 439
Loc: Arizona
For many years I've fed diatomaceous earth (DE) to all my critters. I feed it for good health and it also deworms. Most any kind of critter feeds lack minerals. DE has 28 trace minerals. You can't over-dose DE.
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Rogo

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#8853 - 10/26/07 03:09 PM Re: Mineral Salts
Foehn Offline
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Lord of the Fowl

Registered: 08/08/06
Posts: 1974
Loc: New Zealand
Yes I do mean chard or Swiss chard, but we call it silverbeet over here. I am fortunate with our climate that I can grow it all year round.
Often it's the first green feedstuff I introduce to chickens when I have them. They quickly learn to pick little bits off it when "mum" shows them how. (then they raid my garden while they are still small enough to squeeze through the fence!!!)I wonder if mangel beets are what we call turnips? In the orange vegetable line for potasium, I have read on these pages that people in USA feed pumpkins to their hens in the winter. That would be another good cheap "cheep" wink source of food for hens and if your soil in the garden is right, minerals will be ok in them to. The right kind of pumpkin/squash, will keep most of the winter if stored correctly. DE does have a lot of trace minerals too. It's basically the skeletons of tiny creatures (diatoms) that have sunk to the bottom of lake beds etc. If you collect and dry kelp for the hens, you should wash off excess sea salt first, but since you are already putting it in the compost, then you ought to get the benefits from what the vegetables take up.

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#8854 - 10/27/07 05:39 AM Re: Mineral Salts
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Coop Keeper

Registered: 06/04/07
Posts: 457
Loc: Maine
Well, like you and Rogo point out - there are so many trace minerals in the DE that is offered that minerals salts would probably be redundant. It's easy to get carried away when looking through catalogs and the weather is turning cold!

The mangel beet is livestock fodder - it's a large, yellow beet often fed to cattle and pigs, not what we around here would call a turnip though. I thought it was a great idea to grow a crop for the chickens and let them peck away at them one at time through the winter. That idea will have to wait for next year for me, and maybe I will also grow other root crops for them like carrots, turnips and celeriac as well as pumpkins. We are doing so much in the garden anyway that a few rows just for the winter chickens won't be a big deal, and we will have time to sort out storage space issues. I guess this winter we will just go with the same ol' same ol'.

Maybe in a couple winters I can wean myself ( my chickens ) off of the pellets entirely with a combination of stored vegetables, kelp ( rinsed ) and that idea of a dirt bottom greenhouse/coop with good quality hay laid down thick enough to keep the worms up longer. Sustainablility at first seems like more work, but everything is still new to us and I imagine that over the years we will develop a nice rhythm for feeding the gardens, birds and us in somewhat of a circle.

I started this post to find out more information on chickens and salt - now I've ended with deciding to have a separate garden designed for feeding chickens in winter, not just tossing them the culls in summer. Yikes! smile

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#8855 - 10/27/07 02:50 PM Re: Mineral Salts
Rogo16 Offline
Coop Keeper

Registered: 10/14/05
Posts: 439
Loc: Arizona
=== Maybe in a couple winters I can wean myself ( my chickens ) off of the pellets entirely with a combination of stored vegetables, kelp ( rinsed ) and that idea of a dirt bottom greenhouse/coop with good quality hay laid down thick enough to keep the worms up longer. ===


Some in snow country who know how hardy poultry are and don't have to be cooked in a heated coop, make a hoop house out of cattle panels, cover the top and sides with a heavy tarp, leave an exit on one side for free roaming, and fill the inside of the place with hay for the birds to snuggle down in for warmth. The snow also acts as an insulator.




Egg nesting area:

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Rogo

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#8856 - 10/27/07 10:51 PM Re: Mineral Salts
Foehn Offline
Administrator
Lord of the Fowl

Registered: 08/08/06
Posts: 1974
Loc: New Zealand
We've had chicken coops, chicken tractors, and now a chicken eggloo (Iglo) Ha HA! Those chooks look really happy. Permaculture people sometimes use half the green house in the winter for their hens, by fencing it. The hens heat the greenhouse and tempting vegetables grow on the other side of the fence. Nice thought.

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#8857 - 10/28/07 05:14 AM Re: Mineral Salts
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Coop Keeper

Registered: 06/04/07
Posts: 457
Loc: Maine
Great pictures, Rogo! Yes, the greenhouse I read about was actually an UNHEATED ( other than chicken breath ) hoophouse used just as you mentioned! Dirt bottom floor with enough hay to act as litter, mulch to keep the ground from freezing and worms active, and of course the chickens eat bits of hay and weed and grass seeds. He just continues to toss in scratch so things are constantly getting rotated and aerated. He also has a hole/bin in the ground of some sort and keeps worms going in there year-round for the garden and chickens. He might even use more than one to separate flocks and such and use some of the heat from the birds to keep the cold-hardy greens from freezing in parts of the greenhouse as Foehn mentioned. So I guess it's not necessarily a "greenhouse" as no heat other than chicken breath is ever used. He and his wife live in Pennsylvania, if I remember correctly. Someday I would love to have a similar set-up. I just love the way this guy THINKS about his birds, I guess because I'm aiming for a similar goal.

You are so right - most chickens are hardier than a lot of people would think. Our chickens prefer to be outside in all but the nastiest weather. The only thing we do is shovel the deep snow out of their run so they can access the ground and have more space. The door to the coop is a regular house door ( years ago the "coop" was a cabin we lived in on this land with no electricity or running water until our first daughter was 1 year old - total of about four years ) and it is left open all day, all winter and closed only at night. They do just fine - better I think than if I kept them in the coop to retain body heat and "protect" them from the elements. Even their food and water is offered outside in the winter though at night I bring the water in. They just love sunning themselves on the south side of the coop on a cold, bright winter day. And if it's a bad day, they just hang out in the well-insulated cabin-turned-coop.

So Rogo, were those pictures taken where you live now? I know it does snow like that in places in the southwest, maybe at higher elevations, but somehow that does not look like the southwest to me...? I love the haybale fort!

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#8858 - 10/28/07 11:48 AM Re: Mineral Salts
Joachim Dippold Offline
Lord of the Fowl

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

do you happen to have any info on Iodine and chickens? Reason for asking is the very high concentration of Iodine in kelp. I only found out about overdosing Iodine in humans which causes bronchial symtoms, but Id like to read about chickens and Iodine, also. Just another aspect to the discussion, Im currently researching about this, hence my question;-)

Im currently looking through this site, very nice info and lots of tables, maybe you know it already, but T felt like sharing it nevertheless: http://books.nap.edu/openbook.php?record_id=2114&page=25

Solong,

Joachim

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