Making Food My Way
by Eric Keith
(Plainfield, IN, USA)
After not being happy with what I could find locally, I decided to do some research (well lots of research actually) and start mixing my own food. I certainly didn't figure it all out overnight; it took over 3 years to come up with what I now use for all of my show birds. I found that just about every available food was all just about the same (very small variations in the necessary requirements).
I decided to choose the least expensive crumble to start with, because I knew I was going to add to them anyway and I was already adding grit and oyster shell to the food mix anyway. The first thing we tried was adding conditioner pellets to the layer crumbles and saw no real improvement at all. I used to feed bagged scratch separately, but they would always eat all the scratch and barely eat the food, so I started mixing the scratch in too. After taking a closer look at the scratch I was feeding, I felt that I could do better than just cracked corn, milo and soft wheat which were the main ingredients in the bagged scratch.
So back to the research I went and found that there are lots of inexpensive grains I could add, to improve upon their diet. Now I use a mix of cracked corn, oat groats, hard and soft wheat, barley, red millet, milo, split peas, lentils, black beans, brown rice and safflower seeds as a scratch seed mix. After they started eating this food combination, I saw better leg, face and comb color, not to mention they seemed to be much more active.
Next we started adding Duravet vitamins, minerals and electrolytes, to their water 4 days a week, apple cider vinegar once a week and water soluble
Probiotics once a month. Egg production went up and their poops became large and solid, all the time.
I was still not happy with body size and molt recovery, so we started daily greens, which got expensive fast, so that’s when we discovered chicken gardening. We plant a 12x12 chicken garden filled with Collards, Giant Curly Kale, Swiss Chard, Zucchini and Roma Tomatoes, but still buy heads of cabbage, because it's just a lot easier to buy them rather than grow them. Last year we added a 20x20 area in the back yard where planted Red Clover and Alfalfa seed as well. During the winter when greens are only available at the grocery store, we use an Alfalfa/Timothy pellet as a treat.
We really didn't see any big improvement, other than they began to eat less of the food mix and they seem to really like the greens. Finally, last year we started to use a product we found at the Crossroads Show and it was the last piece of the puzzle. By adding 18oz of Kick in Chicken to 100lbs of the food mix, we had the fastest molt we've ever had, they also seem to fill out their body size quite nicely and their post molt color is the best it has ever been as well.
I should also say that through this whole process, our hatch rate never changed, it has been and still is, right at 85%. I will also add, we started out with pretty decent birds to begin with. Also, before we started to feed the way we do now, the kids and I, never put a bird on champion’s row. This year, we've put 6 on champion’s row, 9 reserves in class, 30 best of breeds and 41 best of variety, so far this year.