Feeding Chickens

I’ve been changing the way I’m feeding my chickens over the last couple months.  While I was doing my research on fodder systems for the rabbits I realized that I could feed my chickens fodder as well.  It was a bit of a revelation to me, I just hadn’t thought about it before.  The reading I’ve been doing seems to say that they like sprouted feed a bit more then actual fodder, so that’s what I’ve been doing for them.

My system looks like this:


It’s just shoe boxes stacked on top of each other.  Each one has holes drilled into the bottom on one side.  I water the top one and the water trickles down to the bottom, empty, box.  I alternate the side the holes are on in each box so the water has to flow the length of the box on the way down.  The lids have a hole in them so the water can flow through:


Each box has 1/4 cup wheat, 1/4 cup barley, and 1/4 cup peas.  I have eliminated the peas starting today, since they don’t eat them.  I’m not sure why they don’t seem to like them, but they’ve been picking around them for a month now, so I don’t think they are going to start eating them any time soon.  I am feeding 5 chickens right now, 3 hens and 2 “hens” that started crowing today.  I will be feeding 3 chickens very soon….

Since I will be going down to 3 chickens in a couple days, I have started putting 1/4 cup wheat and 1/4 cup barley in to soak:


I soak the grains anywhere from 6 to 12 hours, I haven’t noticed any difference in growth depending on time I’ve soaked them so I don’t worry about it too much.  I stick the grain in in the morning, and rinse it really well in a strainer in the evening:


It rotates through the system and on day 7 it looks like this:


This is when I feed it out to the chickens.  I have tried various days of sprouting up through fodder, and my chickens seem to eat day 7 sprouts the best. 

I also feed the chickens fermented feed:


This is organic layer ration.  It is a mixed grain feed that I get from Thayer Feed and Seed.  I didn’t care for it too much when I was feeding it out dry to the chickens.  It seemed like it was ground too fine, and almost seemed to be dust to me.  Now that I am fermenting it it seems to work really well.

I started my fermented feed with kefir whey.   I have an ongoing milk kefir culture that I drink as well as feed to the animals so I strained out the whey and mixed it with some of the layer ration and water, then left it to ferment for two days.  Every day I feed out about 4 cups of the fermented feed, add 2 cups of dry layer ration, some water, and stir.  It seems that the two cups of layer ration I put in there turn into about 4 cups of fermented feed. 

The chickens really like the fermented feed.  They took right to it.  I have noticed a reduction in smell in the coop, not that it smelled to begin with, but it smells like nothing now.  They also get scraps from the house, occasional kefir, and alfalfa scraps from the rabbits.  They have a big area to free range in, as well as having access to the whole garden during the winter.  I’m not sure how much nutrition they are getting out of free ranging in the winter, but they sure do like to get out and scratch around.  I’m dumping all the rabbit cage stuff into the garden as well, and they like to pick out the grains and fallen alfalfa from there as well. 

I’ve been reading a thread on backyardchickens.com about feeding fermented feed to Cornish cross meat birds.  It is supposed to make them better able to absorb the nutrients in the feed and therefor grow better, move around better, and not sit around in a pile of their own poop, so there for reducing smell.  I am excited to try it, I refuse to ever again butcher meat chickens that smelled like our last batch of Cornish cross…..I couldn’t even eat them, I kept smelling that smell, even though no one else could.

After our dog died this year we got a female aussie.  She was fine with the chickens right up until she wasn’t…..she ended up killing all but three of my chickens.  We re-homed her,  I can’t have a dog that kills my stock.  Right now I have 2 Buckeye’s and 1 Black Marans…..as well as two “hens” we held back from our last heavy meat bird order, that turned out to be roosters.  I saw one of them crowing today.  So, today I ordered 5 female Buckeye’s and 10 Cornish cross meat birds, they will be delivered the week of March 17th, from Meyer Hatchery.  I will be raising my new girls in the house so I have pet laying birds, which I want, being just a backyard flock.  I like my super friendly birds, and I’m in love with the Buckeye’s.  The Cornish cross will be an experiment to see if I can raise them on fermented feed and get a better smelling free ranger with a heavy breast.  I don’t mind the Cornish cross as meat birds, but man I can’t stand the smell!!!!


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