Wednesday, 8 May 2013

The nutritional wisdom of hens

The biggest single cost in domestic or commercial egg production is hen food. Layers pellets have been formulated to supply all of the energy, protein, mineral and vitamin needs of the laying hen; assuming the hen is kept in a cage. But my hens spend most of the day foraging for animal and vegetable material so there must be scope for reducing the feed cost, or so I thought.

Layer's pellets
In the literature on poultry behaviour and nutrition there is convincing evidence that given a choice of feeds then hens will select a diet that adequately meets their nutritional needs, that they exhibit, "nutritional wisdom".
So.... I thought that if I offered the hens ad lib access to layer's pellets high in energy, protein, minerals and vitamins alongside  cheaper grain such as oats they would select their optimum diet and that it would be cheaper than layer's pellets alone.

Mixed grain - wheat, maize and oats

Not so!  Its hard to believe but straight grain is actually more expensive than scientifically formulated and manufactured layers pellets. Layer's pellets cost 46.6p/kg , mixed grain 46.9p/kg and oats 50.5p/kg.On close examination the grains in the "mixed grain" are the poorest quality; small, shrivelled and cracked so it must be highly profitable to sell this at the same price as layers pellets. I can't think of any other reason why a manufactured product with imported ingredients, expensive processing and computerised formulation costs less than a basic raw material which is largely unchanged after it leaves the combine harvester here in Scotland? 

I may have to go back to mincing and cooking domestic vegetable waste in a big iron pot; bread, potato peelings and cabbage, to reduce the feed bill.



1 comment:

Ian Bradshaw said...

My uncle Fred Foster(husband to my father's sister Annie) kept chickens in Pemberton and had a small grocery shop.

"Hi there Ian, Dad used to feed the hens on layers mash, mixed with household waste, plus cod liver oil. He also gave them maize corn,mixed with wheat and oats. the bone meal was usually scattered in the litter for them to pick up. He lost the top of his right forefinger when it got caught in the cogs of the machine. He was clearing the pile of bonemeal with his hand when his sleeve was caught up. He powered the bonecutter with an old motorbike engine, run on kerosene. He was a great inventor!! he also grew marrow stemmed kale to supplement the feed. He had a flock of Maran hens that produced a very dark brown egg.These were well sought after when sold in the shop.
Cousin Fred"

Supermarket eggs in the US are always white shelled and the yolks are pale yellow and tasteless. Hardly worth buying. Brits would not buy them.

Not far from where I live is "Egg and I Road", locale for a well known book written in the 40's I think. Author was Betty McDonald I think.

Ian