|"These chickens are hungry, mom!"|
The original title version of this post is located HERE and is the most visited post on this blog.
On it are such helpful hints as: feed good food, keep them warm, clean water, blah, blah, blah.
Basically - good animal husbandry will make healthy chickens which in turn lay more eggs.
But here is some completely unscientific data that I have gathered on my hen flock that I have seen increase egg production.
And it's all on the cheap.
|Silver laced wyandottes. My most friendly and best layers.|
I currently have 9 hens and 1 rooster. Silver laced wyandottes, a dominique, a japanese bantam, a red ranger, a gold laced wyandotte and an americauna roo and hen. They range in age from 6 months (roo) to 2 years (7 of the lovely ladies). All typically lay every other day in the summer. The wyandottes will lay generally every day.
1) Lot's of scraps. Vegetable clippings, almond meal from homemade milk, and any odds and ends from the kitchen. What they don't want just goes back into the soil.
2) Bread daily. This is going to spark some mild - severe outrage from some people and I just want to say that in no way do you have to convince me that this is bad. I know that chickens need everything in moderation. I also don't want them to fill up on crap food like bread which makes them not hungry for their layer pellets. I get it. I'm not a complete rube. But hear me out.
My rabbit breeder gives her chickens bread everyday - wheat or white or whatever - and they lay more eggs than any chickens I have seen. Same kinds of chickens that I have, by the way. So I decided to perform a test. In the dead of winter, I logged how many eggs I was getting a day (about 1-2. Out of 9 laying hens.) Then I began supplementing with wheat bread. After 3 days, the egg production jumped up to 4-5 eggs a day. Nothing else changed. The light stayed the same, same access to all other feed, same access to scraps.
Then I stopped feeding them bread. After 2 days, back down to 1-2 a day. Some days none. I think the evidence is clear. So for me - I'm supplementing with bread. For 10 chickens, I throw 3-4 slices a day into the run. On days when it's dry, I drop that to 2 slices. Dry days = less access to nutrient rich bugs.
White bread is basically sugar so that is something they get sparingly and I always accompany any white bread with a grain or a seed of some kind. For instance - today they got 4 white hamburger buns (2 sets). I then gave them pumpkin seed, almond meal and a bunch of greens from the kitchen. It is also raining today so access to worms and bugs will be good.
I go to the outlet stores where you can get it either for free or for such a screaming deal it's ridiculous. I recently purchased an entire cart of bread for 10 dollars. Most of it went in the freezer. It'll last me half a year or more.
3) Diatomaceous Earth in their feed. This is a natural anti-parasitic so that may be why their egg production goes up. For a 2 gallon feeding bucket I put in apprx 3/4 of a cup of DE.
4) Dried Eggshells. What to do with all those eggshells? Dry them in an oven at 250 degrees for a couple of hours, take them out, cool, and then break into tiny pieces and spread occasionally in the run. I spread 2-3 hand fulls every week in their run. I just keep the broken shells in a big re-purposed yogurt container in the garage. If you give them egg shells make sure they are SUPER DRY and BRITTLE. You don't want them getting used to fresh egg shells. Also, break them up small. And there is no need to supplement with additional oyster shell. There is enough calcium in the egg shells.
5) Bugs, bugs, bugs. I have a pile of rotting wood in the corner of the yard. Every month or so I take a stump off the pile and split it in their run. Over the course of the month, I break it down further. This rotten wood is TEEMING with bugs, grubs and other assorted nasty's. And even though I high tail it to the chicken run with the disgusting, writhing stump of wood in my outstretched (and super gloved up) hands, the amount of nutrient dense insect matter in those rotten stumps makes it all worth while.
You can cultivate meal worms (I need to do a post on that.) You can create compost piles that the chickens have access to. You can simply troll around for bugs in your yard. You can set up a worm bin and periodically collect all the potato bugs out of it (potato bugs love worm bins). The only limit is your imagination.
6) Yogurt! Sour Cream! Whey! I will occaionally give them a dish of yogurt if it's just past the date. Or some sour cream. When I make cheese (just fromage blanc - I'm no professional!) I will save the whey for the ladies. They LOVE these things. It is so good for their bones, their egg production and their general well being. The cultures are good for their digestion. As with anything, this should be a treat and used sparingly. Typically I will give them some form of the above 1-2 times a month.
7) Scratch - any way you like it. I pick up some 3 way scratch at the feed store and throw a hand full or two in the run every day. I'll also spread it anywhere in the yard that I need them to pick over. Also on the compost pile. It's a good way to get them some seeds and nuts and good stuff and have them turn up some soil. Oatmeal, millet, rye, etc. It's all good. I'll buy a bunch of the cheap stuff in bulk and just keep it in bags waiting to go out by the hand full.
* * *
The rule I think is most important for treatment of your birds is to keep everything in balance and moderation. Just like we get sick or out of whack when we eat all chocolate and bread, so will the chickens if given too many treats. Keep good access to organic layer pellets or mash and make sure that their water supply is constant and fresh.
If you have any other great tips or interesting treats you have found work, drop a comment down below - I know everyone would really appreciate it!
Happy chicken farming!
|Even cornish game hens like special food!|