Having begun this journey with shipped hatching eggs last spring, I am about to come full-circle by shipping hatching eggs from my own flock as part of an egg swap on Backyard Chickens Forum. While these will be a “backyard mix” of eggs from various hens, most likely covered by Lazzie, my Speckled Sussex, (unless the Silver Ameraucana rooster managed to tread some hens without Lazzie’s knowledge) I still want the resulting chicks to be as healthy and productive as possible.
This, of course, begins with the parents. Like any parents trying to conceive, nutrition is of the utmost importance for both the dam and the sire. The Countryside Organic layer feed is a good start, especially considering that it already contains supplements such as Nutri-Balancer and kelp, but there is certainly more I can provide. The flock gets sunflower seeds for protein (22%) as well as Manna Pro’s poultry conditioner everyday to try to address the feather picking issue we have had. I recently began feeding Ultra-Kibble and Happy Hen Treats‘ dried mealworms (56% protein) for additional nutrients and protein.
Greens and forage are important. They do pretty well with this, judging by the yolk color, when free-ranging. I’ve also been giving them kale and cabbage when I can. I usually put apple cider vinegar in their water, which contain some nutrients, and I’ve added some electrolytes and vitamins to their water this week as well.
I candled their eggs to check the shell quality. Some were spot-on, but because some were a bit porous, I decided to add some crushed egg shells to their scratch ration. (There is also calcium in their feed and free-choice oyster shell, but apparently that’s not getting the job done.) I usually give them a mix of a few things in the morning before I leave for work, so I put my supplements in that. They get about two cups of sunflower seeds at noon, so no need to include those again.
So, my breeders are getting ACV and electrolytes in their water, sunflower seeds, and a morning mix of:
- scratch grains (corn, wheat, oats)
- the last bit of poultry conditioner
- crushed eggshell
- red pepper flakes (to encourage laying)
Some people feed fish to provide their breeders with additional protein, as well as other nutrients such as Omega-3s. Interestingly, “sawdust,” or the tiny ground bits of meat and bone left over from butchering meat, was traditionally given to chickens to provide a boost of both protein and calcium, a great choice if you can get it. Many breeders also feed gamebird breeder feed during breeding season. All in all, most breeders employ some combination of these techniques.
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