As numbers of backyard flock owners grow, the feed companies serving these populations must also be creating increasing supplies of feed. Few companies offer organic feed, while others have only recently begun to offer supplements, feed high in Omega fatty acids, or other specialty feeds for non-commercial flocks. For the most part, the many commercial feeds on the market have vague ingredient listings and little option for thoughtful feed decisions.
A common question voiced regarding feeding backyard flocks is whether the commercial feed is appropriate, optimum, barely adequate, or perhaps even unacceptable.
Recent reports regarding the contents of chicken feed have many poultry enthusiasts scouring the web to find recipes for feeding their own birds. So-called 'acceptable' amounts of arsenic and other questionable or harmful ingredients strike fear in the heart of those striving for a healthier diet, and the FDA admits that arsenic is present in supermarket chickens. Does this also mean it's in the eggs? We are what we eat, right? Mother Earth News studies prove that eggs from free-ranged flocks are significantly more healthy for us than the average commercial eggs. One can assume that eggs derived of chickens fed feed containing arsenic is less favorable for our own family's consumption.
So- what do we feed our flocks if we haven't enough acreage to sustain them by free-ranging alone?
One way to do it is to make your own feed.
Find a local feed mill and ask them if they can mix smaller batches of feed. Most will have to use a smaller mixer for batches of less than 150 pounds. Some won't make a batch ofless than a ton. In these cases it's good to find others to share the batch with, and split it amongst a group. If some ingredient is unavailable at the mill or is hard to find, substitute with a similar grain or ingredient, paying careful attention to fat, fiber, and protein content.
This is a variant of the recipe I use for feeding my breeding flocks. I augment it with fig nuggets, pumpkin seeds, dried cranberries, raisins, currants, and various seeds or nuts that are appropriate and affordable. I use cinnamon, turmeric, cayenne (or crushed red pepper), and dehydrated vegetables when affordable. I also add 5# of milk replacer (kid formula is great) to help the fine items bind to the seeds with the molasses. I add a bit of oregano and rosemary oil sometimes, and dehydrated minced garlic. You can boost the fish meal if you can't get the Ultrakibble in your area.
I take many of the items to the mill with me, but our mill (Perry Milling Company) has most of the following items and they are fabulous! I can fax my order in and they'll have the goods for a ton pulled and ready to go before I get there- then they just add what I bring to the stuff that needs to be crimped (chopped up), then mix that with the grains that remain whole, add the molasses and it's done! It's a lovely, rich, nutritious feed that the birds love, and it's satisfying enough that they don't feel like they have to stuff themselves all day.
When introducing this to your flock, you can take along some of your usual feed and have them mix it-- or just mix it as you go, increasing the quantity of the new feed periodically. It's not necessary, but birds who have only eaten pellets or crumbles may not recognize this as food immediately if they are young. All flocks also need time to adjust the strength of their gizzard to being able to properly 'chew' whole-ish grains. If you don't give them adjustment time you risk having an obstructed crop and this can be fatal.
This works out to a more expensive feed, but lasts longer per 50 pound bag, so it's quite comparable. The benefits are quickly obvious, as you'll be cleaning your coop less frequently, and it's a drier, less gross 'product' to clean.