We have kept chickens for a couple of years. It’s been an interesting and steep learning curve. Mr Baker hadn’t had much to do with animals before, but in addition to building the run and the house, he is now a dab-hand at catching the blighters. (Actually, truth be told, he is crazy about those birds, and is often to be found cuddling them.)
Pretty soon after they moved in we started thinking about how what they eat matters. It matters not only for their health, but also for ours, since we eat their eggs. Layers’ pellets are marketed as a complete nutritional feed. But so is infant formula milk, and we all know it’s second best. I began to wonder whether layer’s pellets are in fact Ready Meals for Chickens. And Organic Layers’ Pellets are the Waitrose (or Tesco Finest?) version.
Now we may have been known to purchase and consume a ready meal once or twice, but we certainly don’t eat this stuff daily, not even weekly or monthly either. My friend Google turned up this fantastic article from Garden Betty (not her real name), and it will for you too, if you Google homemade chicken feed. She has spent many hours researching and figuring out, as best anyone can, what a healthy diet for chickens should look like. We don’t have quite the passion she does, but we have approximated her plan and whittled it down to this:
A trough loaded with…
1/3 wheat for protein and energy.
1/3 black oil sunflower seeds for their high protein, vitamin, mineral and oil content (it’s not known as BOSS for nothing).
1/3 organic layers’ pellets. What?! (Sorry, but I did say we weren’t going all out for the whole grains, just most of the way. The occasional Waitrose ready meal hopefully won’t hurt us, or the birds.)
And a generous sprinkling of…
Millet for amino acids and iron.
Golden linseed (flaxseed) for its whopping 37% protein, omega-3 fatty acids, B vitamins and minerals.
Niger seed, for it’s oil-rich unique tonic.
Mixed grit, which is flint (for their gizzards), limestone (calcium for strong eggshells), and oystershell.
A hopper full of oats, freely available – like the obligatory rice cakes for toddlers to snack on all day long. Oats are an excellent and cheap source of protein (roughly 16%), B vitamins, calcium and fibre.
You can buy all this stuff somewhere amazing like Groves Nurseries, or somewhere more local to you, or of course shop around for the best deal on Amazon. As Garden Betty calculates, it doesn’t need to cost a penny more than it does to buy pellets.
The ducks love it too.