Thursday 2 January 2014

Hens are destroying the Amazon rainforest : is there an alternative??

Destroying the rainforest
My mother's hens , sixty years ago, were fed on much the same proprietary poultry mash as mine get today. It was high in energy and about 17 - 18 % protein. The energy came from cereals and the protein from; fish meal, bone meal, meat meal and cottonseed meal.

Now almost all of the protein in layers pellets is derived from soya bean meal because its cheap,effective and isn't derived from animal sources like the stuff that caused the BSE outbreak

Much of the world's soya is grown on land that was formerly rainforest,  ergo my hens are partly responsible for loss of biodiversity...... can anything be done about it?

It's been known for some time that chickens have the ability to select a balanced diet, they exhibit "dietary wisdom". Hens are able to select various feed ingredients (energy, protein and minerals) according to their individual needs and productivity. This ability is exploited by smallholder poultry keepers in developing countries, as it was here in the past before scientifically formulated purchased feeds. The birds are scavengers, as long as they can make clear and easy nutritional choices they are healthy and productive. Would such a , "free choice" or "Cafeteria" system work here?

The hens could have free ad lib access to a mixture of whole oats and wheat in one feeder ( A hen's gizzard is just as effective as a hammer mill at grinding whole grains), with ground limestone in another and perhaps lucerne meal in a third. Protein could be further supplemented by insects, worms, slugs and household food waste.

As a former Irish colleague of mine once observed, "that's all very well in practice Tom but will it work in theory?".

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