Today I took a ride over to Countryside Organics, a feed store in Waynesboro, Virginia. Countryside produces organic feed that is sold by distributers in a number of states on the East Coast. Luckily, they are nearby.
The set-up is simple and warehouse-style. You go in the front doors and tell the man at the desk what you’d like. He rings it up for you, you go open your trunk, and in a few minutes, he loads it in and you’re on your way. I was glad that I had checked out their online store beforehand and knew exactly what I wanted.
I purchased a 50 pound bag of chick starter for the 3-week old Ameraucana chicks and a 50 pound bag of their broiler/grower for the 8-week chicks. Their chicken starter and broiler/grower feed is the same mix, but the starter is more finely ground. They recommend starter for chicks up to four or five weeks old.
My birds have been on the regular starter/grower from Tractor Supply Company, and they are doing quite well. The feed is pelletized and nutritionally balanced, although I have no idea what is in it or how it is sourced. (I completely forgot to get a picture of it for you before mixing my remaining feed with the organic. Oops!) The organic feed is milled grains and legumes, although it contains no soy. (Soy is high in protein and is a cheap ingredient used in feeds.)
I know that organic food is nutritionally superior because soil contains more than the P-N-K of chemical fertilizer; it contains trace nutrients and all of the living organisms that cooperate to create a balanced system. Further, Mark and I enjoy far better health on a mostly organic diet than we did on conventional food. Of course I knew that it would be better for the chickens (and for those of us who would be eating their eggs), but with the expenses of the incubator, coop, run, and so on, I just didn’t want to lay down any more money. I had been to Countryside’s website and had seen that it would run me about $10 more for a 50 pound bag. But then I read this thread on the local poultry and gardening club forum. They had recently held a butchering workshop and compared the organs of a chicken raised on conventional feed to those of a bird raised on organic feed, and the differences were undeniable. Many members of the club drive a good distance just to purchase organic feed from Countryside. I already knew better, and this pushed me over the line.
So, now both sets of chicks are on mixed feed, half their old feed and half the new organic feed. I haven’t been back up to see how the big chicks are doing on their new food, but the three week olds gobbled down this mix in record time. I think they like it!