Improvements I've Made
About six weeks ago, I started mixing shelled corn half and half with the layer mash. I put a florescent light in the coop to discourage molting. I also started feeding the chickens "treats" (squash, apples, etc.) on a daily basis as part of their feed. Four weeks ago, our hens took off laying and now we are getting 10-12 eggs per day.
In addition to egg production stabilizing, I noticed that there were days when the chickens aren't eating all of their feed. This was good news because it meant I was feeding them enough. Between the mash, corn and treats, we are now going through only one bag of mash per month, and 1.5 bags of corn. Total feed costs for chickens is now $38.50. At 11 eggs per day, that means we are paying $0.11 per egg, or $1.32 per dozen. Last time I looked at Walmart, I could not find any eggs for less than $2.00 per dozen.
While the surplus eggs are wonderful, I am starting to get pullet eggs from our mama-raised chicks and almost a dozen eggs per day is more than we can eat. After we get back from our winter vacation I'll be looking for egg customers. Price will probably be around $2.50 per dozen. Many of the eggs are extra large. Since the chickens are free range (late into December there was still grass out there...#PureMichigan!) the egg yolks are nice and dark, perky and round. I like all kinds of eggs, but you really can't beat those orange yolks. Incredible!
Some New Resources
Since my last post, I've been digging around for information in historical chicken raising methods. In addition to watching BBC's historical farm series (Tudor Monastery Farm, Victorian Farm, Wartime Farm, etc.) on Youtube, I've also bought The Complete Herbal Handbook for Farm & Stable, first published in 1952 by Juliette de Bairacli Levy. I can't recommend any of these resources enough- not only for raising chickens, but also other animals and plants as well. I love learning from historical sources because the methods are low-tech and often cheaper than modern ways to raise animals and plants. Before mass-marketing, people had to be more creative and resourceful, not just go to the elevator or farm store and buy anything they needed. Nowadays most hobby farming manuals direct readers on where to buy things, not how to make things.
Some of the alternative chicken feeds listed in The Complete Herbal Handbook are: bran & chaff with molasses, carrots, potatoes, berries, rose hips, beech nuts, acorns, chestnuts, seaweed, nettles, comfrey, lambsquarter, sprouts, cabbage, mints, peas, parsley, clover, chickweed, plantain, shepherd's purse, dandelion, fennel, dill, wormwood, peas, beans, and mullein roots. One of my readers mentioned that chickens love young curly dock, as well. This is all good information to know, as I'll be better able to put up food for my chickens next summer. It will also assist me in planning a garden for next year. For example, I'll plant more carrots. I may also toss some dill seed out in the pasture, or at least save the dill plants instead of just letting them rot in the garden.
My new book also instructs on how to raise chicks naturally and treat poultry with various diseases without drugs. I'm looking forward to doing a more thorough review of this book and trying more of the ideas in the coming year.
Til next time,