The quest for chicken feed continues here in the Midway. More trials and tribulations have been endured since my last post on the topic.
As I wrote before, the feed I am looking for would be organic, wholesome, pelleted and locally sourced and available.
It is easy to find organic feed near the Twin Cities, but its only available in "mash". Mash is ground up grains, sometimes with other suspicious ingredients that form a near powder. Hens scatter mash in such a way that much of the bag goes to waste (not to mention an invitation to rodents). The scattering issue goes away when using pelleted feed. During processing of pelleted feed, the mash is pressed in to little nuggets that prevent hens from being so selective and when spilled, they are easily pecked up. I have learned that the pelleting equipment are expensive where costs preclude many small feed producers from investing in this machinery. I can order organic pelleted feed from larger outstate sources as Eric commented on a previous post. However, this requires paying the dollar and carbon costs of shipping individual bags. Ideally, I would like my locally sourced feed to also be available in bulk, so that I could bring my own storage bin and fill up. This would eliminate having large quantities of feed hanging around the urban henhouse demanding both space and many rodent proof containers.
Lately, I experimented with using a home-made feed called Ronda's Whole Grain Chicken Feed Recipe. A local chicken keeper, Jake, offered to mix a large batch. It contains 14 individual whole grains, seeds and legumes . It is not cheap, even when buying the grains in 50# bags. The reception by the hens was not particularly surprising and they have needed some encouragement. They tend to pick out their favorite grains and spill the lesser ones. I use a hanging piglet trough feeder for my feed and put a tray under it to catch spills. I can return the spills to the feeder, but not at the bird's delight. Much to my chagrin, I have now managed to train the local squirrels to now go into the henhouse and be rewarded by the unwanted peanuts and corn. I have learned that I can defeat the hen's hunt-n-peck by grinding Ronda's mix in the vitamix. It works, but then I am back straight to the mash mess. I can trick the hens to gobbling more of the feed by mixing the feed with meat drippings. Think suet-what is offered to wild birds in backyard feeders. This solution is a great way to use up meat drippings, however probably should be limited to an periodic treat. Cooking the grains in water also seems to entice them to consume them more completely too. All-in-all, these solutions are more work than a henkeeper needs on a regular basis.
Other Twin City chicken keepers report their hens are eating most of the feed, leaving behind the peas and a few of other grains. They also report that less feed is needed due to the high quality food value. Ronda's webpage says hens may need to transition into the feed. Some users mentioned that hens need to get hungry in order to eat it all up. I will keep trying, but it seems my quest continues. In the meantime, my next batch of feed may again be conventional pelleted feed, obtained after a long drive to the Anoka Ramsey Farm Store.