I had kept all of my chickens on 19% protein grower feed and offered calcium free-choice in the form of oyster shell. Layer ration contains calcium which is damaging to birds who are not laying. Other than the feather picking, it has worked quite well. While two of my girls have not begun laying and are over 8 months old, it may simply be because they were bred more for show than production. Those pullets who had begun laying in the fall continued to lay, if less frequently, through the winter (despite fewer hours of daylight), and have picked up considerably as the days have lengthened. My Ameraucanas have even begun laying more readily, although their eggs are a bit bloody. I hope their bodies adjust to laying soon, because the eggs are otherwise quite pretty.
A week and a half ago, I decided to switch them over to layer feed as everyone – excepting the two overdue pullets and two roosters – is laying at least irregularly at this point. Countryside Organics’ layer feed is 17% protein and contains kelp, alfalfa, and Nutri-Balancer. I hope that the additional nutrients will help with the feather-picking. (The three picked birds are regrowing some feathers and don’t seem to be missing anything new, so perhaps it is. Fingers crossed.)
I had been giving them Purina scratch because it was easy to buy in town and they eat so little of it, but I would rather that their food was entirely organic. So, I picked up a bag of Countryside’s scratch as well, which is just organic cracked corn, wheat, and oats. They were actually playing keep-away with the little grains of scratch, so they must have liked that.
I really like Countryside’s feed, but there are a lot of fines (nearly dust-like, finely ground bits which are hard for the chickens to eat), both in the feeds and the scratch. Still, I don’t have a lot of waste, and the birds show a definite preference for the organic food. When switching to a new feed, I mix the new with what is left of the old. With both the scratch and the feed last summer, the chickens have picked out the organic feed first. I prefer it, and seemingly, so do they.
Here’s to the weekend. I am still relatively free as my final semester is just picking up. A teacher, I am so looking forward to a summer without grad school, the first in three years. But today, I am just going to soak up this winter sun, watch my chickens, and read on the couch. Ahh, the greatest luxury: time.