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velacreations

Feeding Poultry without grains

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This is basically feeding poultry on compost, which most old farmyards did.  It can be optimized with certain materials, like rabbit and cow manures, slaughter waste, algae, wood chips, weeds, etc to increase the amount of poultry per unit of compost.  I don't see why this won't work with other poultry, and I have my quail run on the earthworm/rabbit manure bin, and they do fine.

I don't know specifics on how many chickens per m3 of compost, but I think if you could supply about 80 l of compost material per chicken per week, you will probably be find.  Itn should have the right balance of greens/browns.

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-W_WPMm8Bxw

 

Sorry, I don't know how to embed video.

 

 

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 Hi Abe,

 

Great video! 

 

It's amazing the amount of quality livestock food that goes into the garbage.......and that comes out of the backend of inefficient food converters like horses, donkeys and mules.  Chickens should always follow other livestock in any food production system.  It's recycling in its most fundamental (and most cost-effective) form.

 

Gary

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Ok, I've been doing more research into this, and from what I can tell, they are giving ~1 m3 of raw material (manures, food scrap, straw) to 30 chickens every week.  The chickens have access to the last 3-4 piles, as well, but the majority of action appears to be in the newest 1-3 piles.

 

So, if you can find enough compostables (and I think sludge from aqua filters would be great, also municipal wood chips), you could raise a lot of chickens for pretty cheap.  I could see someone collecting manures from other local operations to feed a big flock of poultry.

 

And then, of course, you have the compost, which has some monetary value.  I need to get a chipper!

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Hi Abe,

 

The success of this compost feeding idea may depend on the composition of the compost.  While there may be no grain being fed directly to the chickens, if the compost contains a large manure component, then it's being fed indirectly because horse, donkey and mule manure will contain undigested grains.

 

Having said that, if the compost contains a substantial proportion of food scraps, then the grain requirement for the chicken's diet will come in the form of bread and other baked goods.

 

If the chickens can be sustained by the organisms that drive the composting (mycelium, bugs, etc) then it's particularly interesting.  As Geoff Lawton points out in the video, feeding grain to chickens is a relatively recent idea.  Prior to broadacre grain production, chickens ate what they foraged - and they still do in thousands of villages throughout the world.  Mind you, a chicken's diet needs to be of a certain standard just to sustain egg production.

 

Gary

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yes, the composition of the compost is important.  I think most herbivore manures will be fairly high in protein, similar to rabbit and cow manures.  They may have some grain, but they'll have digested plant matter that the chickens and bugs can feed on. 

 

I think it would be beneficial to pre-digest all wood chips through mushrooms, if possible.  This, like the digestion of animals, will make a lot of the nutrition of the wood chips available to chickens and/or bugs.  Algae and weeds could be tossed in, too.

Food scraps and slaughter wastes can help fill the gaps.  Maybe sprinkle some grains in the pile, if you need it.

Another possibility would be to include pigs as part of the process.  They can dig deeper and get to things that the poultry miss.

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When we moved our male goats and female donkey to the pasture behind our barn, a group of our laying hens immediately moved from the 'barn pasture' beside the barn to the pasture with the donkey. Given a choice, our older, wiser hens, will always choose what's in and around a manure pile than what's poured into a feeder.

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I think that has to do with the fact that there are bugs in the manure and the nutrients there are pre-digested. If you feed whole grain to herbivores, digestion is about 40%, so 60% of that nutrition passes through the animal, but it may be a digested/fermented a bit along the way.  This would make the nutrition more accessible to poultry and pigs.  I've seen pigs literally dive into manure piles, especially cow and horse manure.

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It's amazing to me how far from this we have come. Most of the people i know would be repulsed to think that the chickens were eating out of a manure pile. Yet, this is a great way to close the loop and recapture the nutrients coming out of the back end of the horse or mule. I just got my first six chickens 2 weeks ago and am looking forward to trying some of this out.  I was wondering how the baby chicks are raised without the grain. I guess they probably just follow mom around and eat the same stuff she is. Thanks for sharing Abe!

 

Jens

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you know, here in Mexico, most chickens are raised like this, though unintentionally.  No one buys chicken feed, though they may throw out some grain every now and then to keep the chickens tame.  They do throw out food scraps and the chickens naturally make their way to the manure piles and corrals.  It makes for some tasty eggs.

 

The chicks are raised by their mothers, and I assume the mothers teach them how and what to eat.  I do know that no one uses incubators or brooders aroudn here, and the chickens manage themselves just fine.

 

It's not just the manure they are eating, but everything else that feeds on manure.  It will help keep flies down, too, cause chickens are experts on eating maggots.

 

I'm interested in doing it intentionally, and tweaking the system to output the most per lb of waste.  There's likely a sweet spot of the number of chickens per unit of waste that produces the best compost and the most eggs/product.

Edited by velacreations (see edit history)

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It has been a long time since I have had chickens. I always had to lock them in at night, when they sleep they are almost in a catatonic trance very easy prey if they are outside in this area. It was explained to me that chickens have very small crop/gizzard/stomachs, they need to eat every few hours, if they slept lightly they burn so much energy that they almost starve before dawn.

 

My chickens had grain feeders and very good quality grain ad-lib but they would only eat a few grains in the early morning because the knew they would be let out just after first light and wanted to leave room for the good stuff. As soon as the lock was opened on the door 20 chooks would sprint the 400 metres to the compost and piles of garden waste. Ten to fifteen minutes later they would be all parked up for a rest and to grind their food after their first meal for the day.

 

Some nice sharp rocks for their gizzard and calcium (not in the feed) so they can use it when they need, and good forage and they will eat very little grain, stay nice and lean, never get eggbound and they may even lay eggs while they moult. Mine were still laying 3-4 eggs a week as 15yo hens and down to 1-2 per week for 6 weeks at the start of winter.

 

I would like to have chickens again but my garden waste is not enough bulk and grubs and insects to support a healthy flock....yet.

My opinion is the feed value of compost changes with the season, there will be lean times where the chickens will need alternatives like slow compost or green manure/ weed seed plots unless there is far more material than the chickens can eat. Hot compost should still work fine without chickens but I am not confident that I could keep fresh compost rolling for the full year as chicken feed.

 

Oh, and perhaps an auto door opener for the mornings would be nice, so I can sleep-in and the chooks still get an early breakfast.

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Abe, thanks for this thread. It's changing my whole way of handling my composts and scraps.  I've been keeping my compost next to my greenhouse and garden, but tend to keep the chickens out because the like my garden way too much.  I'm moving it now to an old pig wallow I need to cover up to keep the ducks out of.  The chickens and ducks will both have access to the pile. The turkeys won't because I had a couple of turkey hens come down with blackhead two years ago, so they roam a different pasture, but still have plenty of access to fresh donkey poo.

 

Man, I love this forum. You guys are awesome.

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Sam, I think a similar system could work with pigs, too.  Based on the little information I can gather, they are supporting about 68 kg (150 lbs) of animal on a cubic meter (cu yard) of waste a week.  That should give you a rough idea of how much material you need.  Even with a few chickens, some kitchen waste and barnyard manures, you'll have a decent food supply for poultry.

 

I've thought about this a lot lately, and if you have other animals, you could probably increase performance.  One such idea was adding goats to the mix.  Now, don't give goats access to the new manure/compost, but instead, see if you can get all the tree trimmings in your area.  Dump these tree trimmings for the goats, they will devour them quickly.  What's left is basically just branches.  Chip these branches for mushroom production, and add the goat manure to your chicken/pig compost pile.  Once the wood chips are spent from mushrooms, add them to your pig/chicken compost with everything else.  They will greatly increase the nutrition available. Slaughter waste, all animal manures, and bedding could go to this pile, as well. If you have a fish system, clean your filters and add that to the pile, too.

 

You'll end up with mounds of quality compost, and several other products (goat milk, eggs, chicken, pork, mushrooms, fish, etc), and you'll have a nice waste cycle forming.

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I feed slaughter waste to chickens and pigs directly.  It's there for about 15 minutes.  Not enough time to compost. :)

 

the laws on feeding offal and swill are pretty strict here.

 

pig swill pdf

 

Technically the animal manure in newly laid compost would be pushing it, if it was fresh.

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you can cook it or pass it through BSF, if you have to. We don't have any restrictions like that, and I take precautions to prevent any issues (feed to breeders, not fatteners, don't feed sick animals, don't feed animals that share parasites/diseases, etc)

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Hi Abe,

 

Our swill-feeding laws are the consequence of people not taking appropriate precautions or even thinking things through in the way that  you do.  

 

The result is that Australia is largely free of many of the nasty diseases that afflict some countries.

 

Gary

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Some of these laws are also the result of misinformed public and intentional efforts by plant-based protein industries (soy, in particular, lobbies extensively for regulations like that).  A lot of the disease prevention is also due to general hygiene and vaccinations, not necessarily due to swill laws.  Many places that have these laws will allow slaughter waste to be fed to bovines, which is a lot more dangerous than feeding slaughter waste to omnivores.  Like most govt regulations, there were probably a few people not doing it right, but a whole lot of people that did it correctly, yet everyone gets punished.

Still, if it's a problem in your area, compost or cook the waste first.

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I dont know about heat treating on site. Any previously cooked meats are on the do not feed list in Oz and anything that has touched it. Ive just mentioned this for the local audience, if you are getting food scraps from businesses they will need to know that you are doing things by the book or the stuff will just go to landfill.

 

I have friends that feed food waste to pigs, they manage to work within the rules easily, the gear they get is picked up, sorted and checked or seperated everyday. The unsuitable items are composted in a seperate pile away from the oinkers.

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I dont know about heat treating on site. Any previously cooked meats are on the do not feed list in Oz and anything that has touched it. Ive just mentioned this for the local audience, if you are getting food scraps from businesses they will need to know that you are doing things by the book or the stuff will just go to landfill.

 

I have friends that feed food waste to pigs, they manage to work within the rules easily, the gear they get is picked up, sorted and checked or seperated everyday. The unsuitable items are composted in a seperate pile away from the oinkers.

 

We have more or less same laws/regulations on food "waste" here.

So some 15-20 years back, when I had pigs, and fed them with "waste", from one of the big burger chains, we had to follow the rules or go by the books.

You can legaly buy fastfood, pitza or any other restaurant food for that matter to your pigs, here.

So all the food that was not sold (a lot), over the counter to the public, was dumped in a spesific 20 litre bin, in a plasticbag that was sealed when ful, put in another plasticbag, and then in to the freezer.

All this had to be done when the food still where "fresh" meaning it still filed, all the hygenic criteria for human consumption (bacteria, temp etc.).

Also the bags with the food needed to be stored in a dedicated area of the freezer, with no dangers of cross contamination........  maximum storage time etc. (they wrote a time tag and stuck to the bags)

And finaly I payed 1kr (20cents) for "fresh food", I did not pick up waste, to my pigs.

The county vet(public food inspection) had to aprove of it, they did inspect the burgerbar prety intensiv, for a time period, but they allways passed with no remarks, so they stoped in fear of being charged with harasment.

 

cheers

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As far as feeding offal to pigs, I seem to remember the concern came about the Mad cow disease scare that was going around for a time years ago.  It's been awhile since I watched the documentary (and I've slept since then)  but I think the concern was a virus that would not be killed even by cooking.   I suspect that was the reasoning behind the regulations.  I was not even thinking of farming/gardening at that time, so only paid minimal attention other than beef got very expensive for a while.

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Mad Cow comes from feeding bovines slaughter waste from other bovines.  If you are not feeding slaughter waste from the same species and not feeding it to an herbivore, you won't have an issue.  That being said, there are some species (poultry) that can tolerate a level of cannibalism without issue.

 

You are right, though, Mad Cow (CJD in humans) is caused by prions, which are notoriously hard to destroy.

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I find this on net :

 

Before delving into traditional homemade chicken feed formulas and modern alternatives, I wanted to take a look at what chickens would eat in nature.  It turns out that Jungle Fowl (the wild ancestor of the domestic chicken) feed primarily on insects.  Scientists who cut open the crops of wild Jungle Fowl found that half or more of the mashed up food in there was typically insects and other invertebrates (especially termites.)  Various plant matter was also represented, especially fruits, berries, bamboo seeds, nuts, and young leaves.

The upshot is clear --- if we want to wean ourselves off a dependence on store-bought chicken feed, we shouldn't be planting rows of wheat and barley.  Instead, we need to find ways to provide our chickens with copious insects, or at least some sort of feed high in protein.  Stay tuned over the next few weeks as I highlight the options.

 

link for more :  http://www.avianaquamiser.com/posts/What_do_chickens_eat_in_the_wild__63__/

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Hi Caca,

 

I'm entirely supportive of attempts to cut the agribusiness corporations that produce livestock diets out of the backyard equation but it should be noted that, while the Jungle Fowl lives on an entirely natural diet, it is nowhere near as efficient (in terms of meat and egg production) as modern breeds fed properly formulated rations.

 

My point is that substituting diets (and ration ingredients) should be carefully thought through.  The major ingredients in poultry rations are grains, animal and plant proteins and green feed…….and a carefully formulated vitamin and mineral additive.  The total ration has to provide prescribed amino acids without which productivity can be seriously curtailed.

 

Gary

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