Remember when I said my hens were going through 40 pounds of feed in 11 days? Well, with a little trial and error, we stretched the next bag to 15 days. With the things I learned along the way, I'm fairly certain we can do even better than that!
I have been feeding them a crumbled food. For a while there, it had the best cost. The other day, I noticed one of the hens spilling quite a bit of the feed while she was eating, so I made some calls and found a better price at a different local feed store. So now, instead of crumbles...
...the girls will be getting pellets. Pelleted feed is supposed to have less waste. Oh, and it's the same color as the other feed - it's just in a bag that's red, and the sun shining through is tinting my photo.
They are also getting a little mixed grain 'scratch' every day. Scratch is less costly than feed. It's lower in protein too, but helps with their need to peck, scratch, search, hunt. I don't want to give them too much, but a little every day is OK.
I've also put a little of this in the water, as a tonic. Just a bit, to help them stay healthy.
The biggest change I've made so far is to give them more raw stuff - pumpkins and winter squashes from our garden harvest, mostly. They eat this well, but not until all the feed is gone, so I've cut them back to a couple of scoops of feed per day, instead of just filling the feeder. The result? So far there has been no decrease in egg production, no pecking or fighting, no problems. They seem to be doing just fine with less commercial feed and more 'other stuff'.
Aren't these pretty?
I found them in the basement, in a bucket, so I'm shelled them all.
Some of them are ornamental popcorn, and it's a bit pointy. I don't want them getting hurt, so I'm going to try sprouting the corn first. Sprouting will increase the protein, and make these an extra special treat. If they don't sprout well, I'll just run them through a hand-crank grinder to make 'cracked corn'. I'll let you know how that turns out!
We're burning the cobs in the wood stove, but the shucks went to the chicken yard, to give them something to scratch through/hunt in. Aww...shucks!
We bought a big bag - 25 pounds - of flaxseed back in May from our co-op. I think we've used about half a pound so far, so I'm going to take one of those buckets from the freezer (yay, freezer space!) and start giving them a little flax every day too. That should boost the omega-3's in our eggs.
Finally, I'm going to be letting the girls out for a little while every afternoon. We've had problems in the past with dogs and other predators (mostly dogs), so I'll just let them out when I can be near. If I open the door when they are just an hour or so from going to roost they will have a little time to forage without too much time to stray. We let them out last night and they had a great time!