If you have livestock or raise chickens on a farm or homestead, you’ve certainly encountered some challenges finding the best type of feed for your animals. Research has shown that organic feeds are the best type of feed to give your birds, and they are beneficial for your birds’ health even though they’re a little more expensive than non-organic feeds. In this article, we will explore the best kind of organic feed for small-scale poultry farms, and why it is a good idea to go organic.
Whole grains, whole maize, soft or hard white wheat, oat groats, peanuts, wheat bran, whole peanuts, split peas, lentils, quinoa, sesame seeds, or kelp, to be specific, are often included in organic chicken feed.
Table of Contents
- 1 What is Organic Feed?
- 2 Organic Feed Options for Small-scale Poultry Farms
- 3 Chicken Feed Requirement Basics
- 4 Blended at Home Rations
- 5 Types of Feed for Chickens
- 6 Types of Chicken Feed Mash
- 7 Understanding the Benefits of Organic Feed for Chickens
- 8 Sourcing Organic Feed for Small-scale Poultry Farms
- 9 Feeding Strategies for Organic Chickens
- 10 Comparison of Organic vs Conventional Feed for Chickens
- 11 Can Chickens Survive Without Grain?
- 12 Nutrition: Feed, Supplements, and Additives
- 13 Organic Feeds for Chickens, Why Is It More Expensive?
- 14 Does Chicken Age Affect Your Choice of Feed and Ingredients?
What is Organic Feed?
Organic feeds comprise Certified Organic Agricultural products such as corn, barley, soybean meal, hay, fodder, etc. Natural and untreated ingredients are used to grow organic feeds instead of synthetic insecticides, antibiotics, or hormones.
Organic chicken feed is the healthiest type of chicken feed. It contains whole corn for energy, hulled barley for protein, soft white wheat, and occasionally whole peas. In order for chickens to be healthy and nutritious for food, they should also have a binder and a finisher feed.
Organic Feed Options for Small-scale Poultry Farms
Organic farmers and feed producers cultivate and create feed without using artificial chemicals like pesticides and fertilizers. They do not use genetically modified (GM) components or irradiate food. Animal welfare and environmental sustainability are important issues for organic producers and poultry farmers.
Strict guidelines apply to organic foods, notably to the feed for chickens. It must also contain grain that has been farmed organically, which means no pesticides or chemicals have been used.
However, non-organic micronutrients including vitamins, minerals, salt, and amino acids like methionine can sometimes be found in organic chicken feed.
Chicken Feed Requirement Basics
Every feed is created to have the proper nutritional content for the animal it is fed to. The majority of backyard chickens are fed nutritious grain feeds that have additional ingredients added to them. There are many feed types whose composition varies depending on the needs of birds over the course of their entire lives.
Depending on the bird’s stage of development, several diets are frequently employed. A starter diet contains a lot of protein; a pricey feed component. However, because older birds need less protein, grower and finisher meals may contain less of it. About 24% of a beginning diet, 20% of a grower diet, and 18% of a finisher’s diet are made up of protein. In general, layer diets have 16% protein. For broilers, pullets, layers, and breeders, special diets are also offered.
Blended at Home Rations
To ensure that only “natural” components are utilized, some people choose to prepare their own rations.
Energy concentrations including corn, oats, wheat, barley, sorghum, and milling byproducts are common constituents in poultry feed. Some examples of food that include protein concentrates are: Alfalfa, meat and bone meal, dried whey, fish meal, soybean meal, various oilseed meals (peanut, sesame, safflower, sunflower, etc.), cottonseed meal, and grain legumes like dry beans and field peas are examples of foods that include protein concentrates.
Typically, grains are known to increase digestion. Before feeding, soybeans must be heated – typically by roasting or extruding, to make them easily digestible for your birds. Soybeans are often fed as soybean meal rather than in “full-fat” form. Roasted, whole soybeans are packed with fat, which gives the birds energy.
Soybean meal, a byproduct of the oilseed industry, is typically included in chicken feed. To improve the efficiency of the solvent (often hexane) that is poured through the soybean to extract the valuable oil, soybeans are dehulled and cut into small pieces (flaked) in the industry. For both edible and industrial uses, vegetable oils are employed, such as soybean oil. The soybean is then heated through toasting in order to inactivate an inhibitor that would otherwise prevent the animal from digesting protein.
The full-fat, unextracted soybeans can also be fed to chickens. Unextracted soybeans have the benefit of still containing the oil, which gives the bird high-energy fat. Untreated soybeans must first be dried-roasted, crushed, rolled, or flaked before being included in a diet.
Types of Feed for Chickens
There are four major types of chicken feed in the market which are;
Whole-grain poultry feed
The ingredients that make up whole grain feed are unprocessed raw materials and split grains. Because the feed is still in its natural state, you can see the ingredients in it. Birds enjoy eating them because the chunks are large enough for the hens to grab and have a granola-like texture that supports their natural pecking impulse. Soybean or flax oil is used to bind the vitamins and minerals to the feed, ensuring that the animals are receiving a well-balanced diet.
Mash Chicken Feed
Unprocessed feed known as “mash” is made up of ground-up grains and other materials. Since mashed food is simpler for chicks to ingest, it is frequently provided to them. Mash is usually wasted because it is so finely ground (and chickens are messy eaters!). For a thicker, more manageable texture, many people prefer to ferment their mash.
Chicken Feed in Pellets
The most popular type of chicken feed on the market is pellets. The components are processed into pellets by grinding them up and shaping them into an oblong form. They are simple to handle, and the chances of wastage are reduced by the small cylinders.
Crumbles Chicken Feed
Pellets that have been split up are known as crumbles. It is a little bit simpler to handle because the texture isn’t as fine as mash. In that there are tiny, uniformly shaped particles, it is similar to oatmeal.
Types of Chicken Feed Mash
There are 4 major types of feed in the poultry business these feeds are designed to serve specific purposes in the physiological and metabolic growth and development of the chickens’ bodies. There are;
When a bird is in the brooding period, it is fed a starting diet between the ages of one day and four weeks for pullets and two weeks to three months for broilers. The birds require certain nutrients from the time they are a day old until 3–4 weeks for pullets and cockerels or 3 weeks for broilers. Only the beginning diet can give these nutrients.
A starting diet comprises significantly smaller particles with a larger surface area than other diets, which allows for proper feed digestion and utilization. A starter is more nutritious and provides nutrients necessary for the chicks’ maximum growth as compared to the nutritional makeup of this diet. For layers starter or cockerels, the diet contains 24% crude protein, and for broilers a starter contains 22% crude protein with high energy content.
For the development of their immune systems and the tissues that will keep them fit as they grow, younger chicks need a high crude protein level. The high nutrient content of this meal promotes the growth of the birds.
Grower feed is the food provided to cockerels or pullets between the ages of five (5) and twenty (20) weeks for cockerels, and four (4) to five (5) weeks for pullets. Compared to the starting diet, this feed has a lower nutritional makeup.
For pullets the grower feed contains about 19% crude protein and 20% crude protein and high energy for broilers, the protein content has been decreased to the amount the birds need. The reason for the high energy level is that the birds are now adults and have a tendency to engage in more inherently enervating or habitual activities. As a result, they require additional energy to supplement their existing stores.
At the age of five (5) and six (6) weeks before to sale, broilers get this diet as their final feed. The finisher feed offers the nutrients necessary to meet the birds’ fundamental needs. With considerable energy to maintain life, it has a crude protein content of 18%.
The farmer may try to save expenditures at this point because the animals are now ready to be sold. The high energy content of the diet results from the birds’ extensive participation in natural activities. Since the protein content of the growing birds diminishes and their energy levels rise, the starter’s protein content is higher.
The best chicken feed for laying hens is called layer feed since it is a special diet designed to increase egg production in laying birds. One of the mistakes most poultry farmers make is feeding regular layer feed to laying birds at around seventeen (17) weeks when the birds are on their point of lay or likely just began laying. However, the standard layer diet is given to laying birds from twenty (20) to twenty-two (22) weeks.
A layer diet is strong in calcium and contains 17% crude protein to help the production of the shell. Some farmers feed growing layers; the hens would indeed lay, but not to the extent of their genetic potential. To get chickens to lay eggs profitably, use layer feed.
Understanding the Benefits of Organic Feed for Chickens
Using organic feeds has great benefits for both the flocks and humans that consume them, which include:
The absence of ingredients like animal byproducts, harmful chemicals, pesticides, and fillers is among the biggest advantages of choosing organic chicken feed.
You may improve the nutritional value of your chickens’ diet and reduce the likelihood that they’ll experience diet-related health problems by raising them with organic feed. You should consider the kind and quality of feed, the food that is being given to your chickens, as well as their surroundings, while you are designing your ration.
Compared to non-organic chicken meat, organic chicken meat has up to 65% less fat. This slimmer chicken feed offers a healthier protein option, better value for your money, and quicker cooking time.
Furthermore, studies show that organic chicken actually includes more vitamin A and “healthy” lipids that decrease cholesterol, such as polyunsaturated fats and Omega-3 fatty acids. But that’s not all; according to the American Culinary Federation, the greatest chefs claim that organic chicken has a greater flavor.
Organic feed has a richer, better flavor than conventional feed since it is produced and gathered in a more natural method. Poultry birds tend to enjoy it a lot more and grow with more nutritional content in them.
Another advantage is that manufacturing organic feed is less harmful to the environment. Organic agriculture has a significant environmental impact due to its low cost (which varies greatly depending on the farm, the weather, and the system). Additionally, no pesticides or fertilizers are involved in its production, which is great for the environment and consumers alike.
Organic feed does not pollute and has a negative impact on the local wildlife, water, and soil.
Sourcing Organic Feed for Small-scale Poultry Farms
Finding organic chicken feed for small-scale poultry farms might be difficult, but for those who embrace organic farming’s advantages for both the environment and birds, the work is well worth it. Synthetic insecticides, fertilizers, or genetically modified organisms are not used in the production of organic feed. It can be obtained from feed mills or farmers who are certified organic.
Due to the additional costs of farming the components and the cost of organic certification, it could be more expensive than conventional feed. However, small-scale poultry producers may guarantee that their birds are fed a healthy diet and that their agricultural techniques are in line with their values by selecting organic chicken feed.
Feeding Strategies for Organic Chickens
Feeding plans for organic chickens should be centered on supplying them with a wholesome, nutritionally complete diet. Making ensuring that organic hens always have access to fresh, clean water is a crucial part of feeding them. Water is essential for chickens’ digestion of their food and general well-being.
The provision of a balanced diet of grains and protein sources, such as soybeans, corn, and other grains, is another crucial factor. To promote the health of the chickens’ bones, organic chicken feed should also contain a calcium source, such as crushed eggshells or oyster shells.
Having access to pasture or a backyard area where they may forage for plants, insects, and worms benefits organic hens as well. This not only gives them extra nutrition but also enables them to behave naturally.
It’s crucial to conduct a thorough study and find dependable suppliers of high-quality organic feed. By doing this, you can be sure the chickens are getting a meal that is free of pollutants and contains all the nutrients they need for good health and egg production.
In general, feeding plans for organic chickens should place priority on the use of premium, organic ingredients and a balanced diet that promotes the health and well-being of the animals.
Comparison of Organic vs Conventional Feed for Chickens
Organic feed for chickens is made from ingredients that are grown without the use of synthetic pesticides, fertilizers, or genetically modified organisms (GMOs) while conventional feed, on the other hand, may contain these substances. The organic feed may also come from sources that are certified as organic by a government-approved organization.
Organic chicken feed can be more expensive than conventional feed due to the additional costs of growing the ingredients without synthetic inputs and the cost of certified organic poultry production. However, some people believe that organic feed results in healthier chickens and higher-quality eggs. Conventional feed, while less expensive, may contain ingredients that are not as healthy for chickens or may have been grown using practices that are harmful to the environment.
Can Chickens Survive Without Grain?
Not only is grain-free chicken feeding a viable option, but it’s also comparatively simple. Your flock will thrive if you choose foods high in vitamins and minerals and high in protein. By foraging in birds, chickens are able to consume the perfect ratio of vitamins, minerals, and protein.
Ways to Feed Chickens Without Grain
Chickens are able to obtain their nutrition from insects, worms, and plants, so why not use your chickens to your advantage? If you notice a shortage in the area or have difficulty getting organic, you could try any of the following:
Although most farmers view it as an invasive weed, it makes a great feed for your poultry. In addition to being a favorite with chickens, it is also a good source of protein, fiber, vitamins B12, A, and C, potassium, sulfur, calcium, iron, phosphorus, and selenium.
Comfrey is an excellent addition to your compost pile because it is high in nitrogen. Its inclusion will promote bacterial development, which will hasten the composting process and aid to heat your compost piles.
Nettles are a different plant that is regarded are also considered an invasive weed. This herb benefits your chickens in two ways: as food and as medicine. Iron, manganese, copper, calcium, magnesium, and vitamins K, B, and A are all present in stinging nettle. It has great protein characteristics when dried.
Additionally, stinging nettle includes lycopene, a potent antioxidant, and Omega-3 oil, which is similar to that in sunflower seeds. Nettles’ high carotenoid content contributes to the gorgeous dark yolk of your eggs.
Stinging nettle can be planted and collected in addition to growing naturally. Additionally excellent for composting and mulching stinging nettle.
Pro-Tip: Dandelion, burdock, yellow dock, and lamb’s quarters are some additional helpful weeds.
If you have extra potatoes from your garden, you may feed them to your chickens to make a nutrient-rich diet. Before giving potatoes to chickens, cook and chop them up to make them easier to eat.
Iron, potassium, and vitamins included in potatoes support the development of healthy bones. They also improve fat absorption and have anti-inflammatory qualities. Because they are low in cholesterol and abundant in potassium, potatoes help your flock’s hearts stay healthy.
The poisons solanine and chaconine, which are present in green potatoes, are harmful to hens. Use none of the green potato parts.
Other items include hay, mice, maggots, animals carcass, etc
Nutrition: Feed, Supplements, and Additives
Regarding Forage or Grain, Crops Consider growing a special forage crop, particularly for your chickens that is nutrient-dense. By doing this, you can prevent forage browsing and make sure your birds are getting the best feed possible. Producers that raise forages in the fall and winter could notice that their chicken diet gets heavier at this time of year since forage or insects are a good source of nutrients, like proteins.
If the forage is the foundation of your flock’s diet, you might want to ferment it in a separate tank to make it easier for the chickens to digest. One excellent way to create a nutritious chicken diet is to ferment your feed if your chickens have unrestricted access to forages.
Organic Feeds for Chickens, Why Is It More Expensive?
Organic feeds for chickens are more expensive than conventional feeds for several reasons. The main reason is that organic ingredients are grown without the use of synthetic pesticides, fertilizers, or genetically modified organisms (GMOs). These ingredients are more expensive to produce as farmers need to rely on natural methods of pest control and fertilization.
Another reason is that organic certification is an added cost for farmers and feed manufacturers. Organic certification is a process that ensures that the ingredients used in the feed are grown and processed according to strict organic standards. This certification process requires additional inspections, paperwork, and testing, which adds to the overall cost of the feed.
Additionally, organic feed ingredients may be more difficult to find and transport, which can also drive up the cost. Organic ingredients are often produced by smaller farmers and may not be as widely available as conventional ingredients.
While organic feeds for chickens may be more expensive, there is a common opinion that the benefits of organic farming for chickens and the environment are worth the additional cost. Organic feed ensures that chickens are receiving a healthy diet and that farming practices align with the values of providing sustainable and healthy food production.
In summary, organic feeds for chickens are more expensive due to the additional costs of producing organic ingredients, being certified organic, and potential difficulties in sourcing and transporting organic ingredients.
Does Chicken Age Affect Your Choice of Feed and Ingredients?
Yes, at different ages and stages, the amount of a particular nutrient in the feed and ingredients vary to better suit their needs. Because they are made of grains, chickens cannot simply be fed any sort of feed; day-old chicks cannot consume grower feed, and broiler chickens cannot be fed layers’ feed and expect to perform well. These diets are based on the age of the birds.
Since soya, corn, and wheat are some of the most adaptable plant proteins and are utilized as animal feeds, the great majority of commercially prepared diets include a range of combinations of these three ingredients. Whether they eat organic or non-organic food, chickens can get the right balance of vitamins, minerals, protein, fat, and fiber.