Frequently Asked Questions
What came first, the chicken or the egg? Why did the chicken cross the street?
Whew, enough of these eggsistential questions and on to the ones we can actually answer!!
A: Recent research shows that due to over consumption of soy in our regular diets many people are beginning to develop allergies and other complications. The Weston A Price Foundation provides a great summary of why we should be more cautious with soy in our diets.
- I’ve noticed some powder left over after my chickens eat the grains. What is this and how can I get my chickens to eat it?
A: The “powder” left behind is all the little bits of grain that gets crushed, limestone (calcium), and other nutrients like Camelina meal, vitamins and minerals. Because our feed is as unprocessed as possible we do not add unnecessary binders or heat-treat the feed to get the ingredients to stick together. This powder is all natural and great for your chickens. Help them finish it off by adding to a treat like oatmeal or rice or just add a bit of moisture to it so they can eat it.
The type of feeder you use is also very important. We suggest using a PVC Feeder design to help contain these fines. These types of feeders have proven very successful with our customers!
- What are Omega-3s and do your feeds have them?
A: Omega-3 Fatty Acids are essential for many creatures. Our bodies cannot make Omega-3 fatty acids on their own so we must eat foods that contain Omega-3 to get these essential nutrients. We recently had our layer feed tested and the results showed a high amount of Omega-3 due to the Camelina meal we use. For more information on Omega fatty acids please visit the Omega-3 Wikipedia page.
- What is camelina and why do you use it?
A: Camelina (Camelina sativa), also known as “wild flax”, is a member of the brassica family (along with broccoli, mustard, kale and others). Camelina is rich in omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids with 50% of the fatty acids in cold pressed oils being polyunsaturated. Rich in antioxidants, camelina is highly stable and resists oxidation and rancidity well.
Archeological evidence suggests that camelina has been grown in Europe for at least 3000 years and has been used for a variety of purposes including food, lamp oil, fuel in the form of biodiesel, and even bio-plastics.
Camelina needs little water or nitrogen to flourish and is able to grow in marginal soils. It can act as a cover crop or rotational crop in between wheat plantings.
We use camelina meal as a source of essential fatty acids and protein.
- Do backyard chickens need grit?
Grit (small rocks) aids in the grinding of whole grain or other coarse feed in the gizzard. Experiments have shown that grit should be supplied to laying hens, and that it is best to furnish hard grit in addition to limestone grit or oyster shell. In Ohio experiments, supplying layers with hard grit… (and) oyster shell increased the egg production 9.6 percent and reduced the feed requirement per dozen eggs 7.1 percent.”
- Morrison’s Feeds and Feeding, 22nd edition.
Grit keeps the digestive tract moving. Grit also aids in proper grinding of the feed to absorption size for better utilization. And grit also helps digest the more fibrous grasses and other plants, which is the whole reason for our putting chickens on pasture! Low carcass weights are due to some factor keeping the birds from getting all the food and water they need, or not converting what they eat to muscle and bone. If your birds have adequate feeder and water room and enough high-energy, palatable feed, try adding grit. I have seen the addition of grit to a broiler diet contribute as much as 3/4 – 1 lb of additional growth with no other significant changes to the growing environment.
Our Grit is available in several sizes for different species at different stages of growth: Chick grit, Grower/Layer grit, Pigeon grit, and Turkey grit .
“I feel that grit should be started at day 2 or 3 of life and be offered continuously throughout the life cycle. I often hear “They get all the grit they need from the pasture/dirt.” Unless your chickens are grazing a gravel pit (in which case there wouldn’t be much grass growing), you’re unlikely to have enough grit for your birds on the pasture unless you provide it.”
- Jeff Mattocks is the Poultry Nutrionist at the Fertrell Company. firstname.lastname@example.org
- Are whole grains good for chickens?
Whole grains in their natural state are more nutritious than ground, since oxidation occurs after grinding, reducing nutritional content; the longer the ground grain sits around, the greater the loss.
When changing the diet of adult birds, add the whole grain to the diets gradually to promote gizzard development. The gizzard helps grind feed. Use whole grain for 5% of the diet for the first two weeks to adapt the gizzard, then, over a couple of weeks more, increase the percentage to whatever level you have decided to feed. Birds fed whole grains have significantly larger gizzards. Grit needs to be provided at all times when the birds are not on pasture in order to help digest the whole grain.
- Diane Schivera, MAT MOFGA’s Organic Livestock Specialist
- How much do laying hens eat?
A: You can plan on a hen eating 1/4 to 1/3 pound of feed every day.
- Why is your feed whole grain and not in pellet form?
A: In order to make pellets the grain is exposed to a high heat, steam process which we believe can degrade the nutritional value of the ingredients. We endeavor to offer feeds that are as close to nature as possible.
- Do you put medication in your Chick Starter to aid against Coccidiosis?
Cocci – protozoan that cause Coccidiosis – are found virtually anywhere chickens are found. Chicks in small-scale flocks are routinely exposed to these normal numbers of Cocci. That is good, as it triggers their immune systems to develop natural resistance.
Amprolium is the name of the “medication” used in chick feed to kill Cocci. If chicks need exposure to develop natural immunity we question the wisdom of routinely feeding medication to kill the Cocci.
While chicks raised under highly stressful “factory” conditions would not survive without medication, it is not necessary for the well-managed backyard flock.
Since there is no demonstrated need for such additives we strongly oppose their routine feeding “just in case”. Excess feeding of anti-microbials can lead to resistance on the part of bacteria which in the long run can make them less effective. They may leave residues in future eggs (despite industry reassurances to the contrary) and will eventually disperse into the environment with unknown, long term effects.
The best way to avoid Coccidiosis is to manage the birds’ environment. Keep it clean & dry and maintain feeders & waterers. Our feeds contain probiotocs to help bolster chicks’ natural defenses. Yogurt, buttermilk or raw milk can be used as well to build healthy, good bacteria in their guts for added benefit.
1-2 Tablespoons of raw, organic apple cider vinegar per gallon of fresh water aids in digestion and keeps the water clean of harmful bacteria.
If, by chance, your chicks become ill try offering them raw milk for about an hour each day for 5-7 days. The beneficial bacteria found in raw milk should help them recover.
- What is the value of using Apple Cider Vinegar?
A. Raw Organic Apple Cider Vinegar (ACV) has long been hailed for it’s human health benefits and it can do wonders for your chickens too. It is made from nutritious organically grown apples and retains many of the fruits’ beneficial components because it is not pasteurized. The fermentation process produces enzymes and life giving nutrients that make ACV a powerhouse for you and your chickens! It is best to use raw apple cider vinegar containing “the mother” which makes the vinegar so beneficial. The “mother” is made up living nutrients and bacteria. You can see it settled in the bottom of the bottle like sediment which occurs naturally as strand-like enzymes of connected protein molecules.
Using apple cider vinegar in various ways around your flock and coop can do the following:
• Improve the digestive health of your chickens by maintaining proper pH balance in the digestive tract
• May increase egg production
• Kill germs that cause respiratory illnesses among chickens
• Keep your chickens’ water free of harmful bacteria
• Eliminate mold, mildew, dust, and odors from your chicken coop
• Disinfect your chicken coop and your chickens’ feeding and watering system
• Repel flies and ants
• Act as an abrasive for difficult-to-clean surfaces such as brooders, window panes, and cages.
Giving your chickens apple cider vinegar directly
Adding apple cider vinegar directly to your chickens’ drinking water can help to maintain digestive health by lowering the pH in their stomach. It can also act as an antiseptic, killing any harmful mucus or bacteria in the throat that can cause respiratory ailments. Some folks report that feeding chickens apple cider vinegar increases egg production.
To add apple cider vinegar to your chickens’ water use organic, raw, unfiltered, and unpasteurized vinegar, such as Bragg’s. Use four teaspoons of apple cider vinegar for each gallon of water. CAUTION: Never add ACV to a galvanized metal waterer as it will poison your chickens. Always use plastic!
Using apple cider vinegar to clean your chicken coop, feeders, and waterers
You can use apple cider vinegar to clean your chicken coop walls, floors, roof, windows, feeder, and waterer. Just add a few teaspoons of apple cider vinegar to a spray bottle filled with water. The raw, unfiltered, and unpasteurized apple cider vinegar is always best, but for cleaning purposes, any type of apple cider vinegar will work.
To clean with apple cider vinegar, just spray any dirty surface with your solution and wipe clean with a rag or towel. Frequent cleaning with apple cider vinegar will disinfect any surface and prevent mold, mildew, dust, and unpleasant odors from building up in your coop. Many homesteaders report that cleaning the chickens’ area with apple cider vinegar prevents flies and ants from congregating around chickens as well.
Using apple cider vinegar as an abrasive cleaner
Apple cider vinegar makes a great abrasive cleaner for areas like cages, cracks, and brooders that may get particularly dirty but are difficult to clean effectively. Mixing apple cider vinegar with coarse sea salt will help to safely rub off any build-up on dirty surfaces.
Or try mixing baking soda with a small amount of water to scrub surfaces thoroughly and then spray with an apple cider vinegar solution to disinfect.
- What should I feed my mixed age flock?
If you have several chickens at various stages of development how should you regulate the feed? Chicks and developing pullets (not yet laying hens) can be harmed by the high calcium needed for egg production. Some chicken owners wonder how to avoid harming their growing birds without ending up with soft/no shell eggs from their laying hens. The Scratch and Peck recommendation is this: Feed according to the youngest members of the flock.
If you have young chicks less than 8 weeks old integrated, feed everyone Chick Starter. If your youngest members are Developing Pullets (growing and not yet laying) we suggest feeding everyone our Soy-Free Grower or Naturally-Free Grower. Provide free-choice Oyster Shell to the hens who need the calcium for their eggshell development. They will naturally self regulate their consumption of oyster shell and the pullets will begin eating it as their development progresses.
Once all birds are laying use Soy-Free Layer or Naturally-Free Layer as it contains the necessary calcium for proper egg shell development. Keep offering free-choice oyster shell and ALWAYS offer free-choice Grit to all ages of birds!
When it comes to great information on raising chickens, these are our favorite sites:
Comfy Coops – Handcrafted Chicken Coops