However, to make sure your birds stay healthy, you have to mix the correct balance of nutrients for their age. If the balance is wrong they will grow slowly, stop laying, or even get sick. A flock of chickens will eat your kitchen scraps, but they cannot survive off of them. Making your own feed is a big responsibility that requires prior knowledge. Let’s look at some of the things you need to know before you start feeding your animals yourself.
Proteins are the building blocks of life. Without sufficient protein, animals will grow slowly, act lethargic, and have reduced immune defenses. The good news is that all whole grains have some protein content, and with a little knowledge and mathematics it is easy to measure the protein content of feed.
Protein is measured in terms of a percentage. That is the percent of the dry weight of the food that is protein. For example,soybean meal, the most common protein source in US animal feed, is 51% protein.
Carbohydrates give your animals all the energy they need. Cereal crops like corn, wheat, barley, and oats are classic. Other less common options include triticale, buckwheat, and rice. Rye can be used as a feed but only insmall quantities as it contains toxinsthat make other nutrients difficult for animals to absorb.
Conventional animal feeds often contain just one source of carbs and one source of protein, usually corn and soy. This is an effective feed mix. However, in my experience, animals thrive with more variation in their diets. If you have the ability, try mixing two carbohydrates, like wheat and oats, or oats and corn. Again, you can test the protein content in your grains to get a more accurate protein ratio in your feed.
Every type of animal needs a different mix of minerals, and they are not interchangeable. For example, pigs and poultry needhigher levels of copper, which can actually poison sheep or goats. Chickens need different mineral concentrations at different ages also.
You can also approximate a chicken nutrient mix usingkelp meal, which is high in vitamins, minerals, salts, and oyster shells as a source of calcium. If you decide to go this route, watch for fatigue, reduced laying, reduced appetite, and other symptoms of nutrient imbalance.
对蛋鸡来说最重要的矿物质是钙。Sufficient calcium is the most important factor to ensure strong, healthy egg shells and preventhealth problems like osteoporosis. However, to be properly absorbed into a chicken’s body, other nutrients includingphosphorus and vitamin Dneed to be in balance and the calcium needs to be in a chemical form that is bioavailable.
Young chicks do not need as much calcium as laying hens. Up until about 15 weeks, chicks need no supplemental calcium, other than what is already in their mineral mix, and too much can actually causekidney damage. If you are buying pre-mixes, look for a “chick mix.”
While it is not technically a nutrient, chickens also need indigestible grit in their diet – literally small pieces of gravel. These get stored in their crop and help grind up grains and leafy greens. In my experience, chickens that are free range in the dirt will find enough grit themselves, but if they are contained in a small area, indoors, or if you have particularly fine soil, you can buy chicken grit and allow chickens to free-feed.
The Formula For Chicken Food
Each flock of chickens requires a different mix of food. Here’s how to figure out what your birds need.
- A laying hen needs15-18 percentprotein in their feed. If the protein ingredient is, for example,wheat at 12 percent protein, then out of 100 pounds of feed, 12 pounds of it will be protein.
- If you wanted to make the feed 18 percent protein, you’d need to add six pounds of protein to it.
- 6 lbs./.51 = 11.75 lb. soybean meal. This is the amount of soybean meal you need to add. But now you have more than 100 pounds of feed—your protein ratio isn’texactly18%。
This is why protein requirements are always given in ranges—there is room to fudge a little. Always aim high. A little extra protein is unlikely to hurt a chicken.
If this math seems challenging or non-intuitive, check out thePearson’s Square model用于计算进给比。它最好与两种饲料成分，但可以使用多个步骤更复杂的混合。
All whole grains and cereals contain some protein, and beans and legumes are particularly good sources. Animal products like whey, fish waste, and mealworms are also a great source of protein if you can come by them cheaply. To correctly formulate a feed, you need to know what percent protein your ingredients contain. For an excellent starting place, tryFeedipedia, a great online resource for learning more about feed ingredients.
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Weekly chicken food mixing is one of my true highlights. Yes, I am that lady! I treat my chickens well with lots of good quality food. Organic feed pellets, organic oats, organic Chia seeds, organic flax meal, organic crushed corn, dried meal worms, cayenne pepper, sea kelp, crushed egg shells, and crushed oyster shells. My chickens lay the most beautiful and tasty eggs. And knowing that I am feeding my girls the best food and in return providing my family with organic eggs means everything to me. #chickenmama #chickenfeed #homemixedchickenfeed #happychickens #healthychickens
Every grain and legume crop has variation in protein depending on the nitrogen content of the soil. Nitrogen is the key element in protein chains, so grain crops that have been more heavily fertilized will contain more protein. You can test the protein content of your feed at an agricultural laboratory. Contact yourlocal extension serviceto find out where in your region you could order those tests.
Young chicksneed more proteinin their feed than adult animals. For efficient growth and the best results, feed your younger birds separately from your adult flock.
营养失衡或缺乏蛋白质的症状可能很轻微，很容易与其他疾病的症状混淆。Check outour article here on chicken diseases.The first symptoms you will see are likely to be lethargy, weight loss, and reduced egg production, potentially followed by diarrhea, and feather loss in extreme cases. Unfortunately, those symptoms also occur in just about any kind of chicken illness.
In this case, feed the bird separately and then try to upset the social dynamic by moving the coop, introducing another “underdog” chicken, or separating the flock into several smaller groups.
Getting started mixing your own feed can seem overwhelming with all of the details to track and math involved! It may take some trial and error to find the right grains, proteins, and nutrient mix.
As always, your chickens will be the best indication of your success. Watch their behavior, and as long as they are healthy and happy, all is well.
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