Friday, October 12, 2012

Alternative feeding for hens.

With poultry feed prices increasing rapidly, 8% in the last month alone and set to rise even further it is time to have a rethink on the way we feed our birds, certainly the table birds. We have now done the costing of production at the previous feed costs, ten euro for a 2.5kg bird, which compared to the Tesco birds is worth while doing . The Organic bird from Tesco is around ten euro per kg, fifteen euro for a 1500 gram bird.
 I have spent considerable time trying to work out a feed that is possible to produce at home and that is not price and time prohibitive. It is quite easy to produce the required amount of protein by sprouting grain, this can increase the protein content by up to 30% in seven days, plus it increases the vitamin content, the stumbling point is always the amino acids.
This brought me full circle to research  that I had done years ago when synthetic amino acids were removed from Organic poultry rations, there was a good chance that they would be derived from GM sources. Worms seemed to be the answer, but our poultry inspector would not allow us to set up worm banks. Now we are no longer involved with bureaucracy we can do as we please.
 I have found that a lot of research has been done into this subject, Russia and Africa in particular, it also seems that you can even buy dried worms to feed to your hens. Worms will give the birds the essential amino acids that they require. Having worked out that we need to produce somewhere in the region of 20.000 worms per growing season it has become clear that we need to set up a proper wormery, in fact three wormery's and stock them. We could make up our own bins but a company in Northern Ireland has offered us a special deal and three bins plus 3kg of worms so this is what we have gone for. Hopefully they will arrive sometime next week and we can start producing sufficient worms for next years need.
Of course there is the additional beneficent of worm compost plus liquid gold to feed our veg on, it should be interesting.
The feed will consist of spouted wheat and oats mixed with a little cod liver oil , three to four worms per day per hen, plus oyster shell for the calcium.

I have done some seed harvesting in the last week or so, mainly flower seeds, I had hoped that our very colourful sweet peas would set seed but in fact only the very dark purple ones have done so, they are hanging in the sun-room now to fully ripen, I had collected Aquilegia  and Valerian seeds a few weeks back, we also had a lovely yellow daisy growing but I don't know what it is, I think it must have come out of a packet of country garden  seed mix, it had set seed well so hopefully we will have a good display of them next year. they are still blooming after six months.

The veg garden has now had it's final plantings for this year, some spring cabbages, broad-beans. over wintering onions and garlic.
The newly made cloches have been put to good use.
We are still awaiting our tree order, hopefully they wont be much longer in coming.
I will also be planting some Cambridge favourite strawberries, and old variety but they have a good flavour.


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