Organic Poultry Feed Comes to Columbia!

Our very own Bourn Feed is now stocking Natures Grown Organics!

Bourn also sells Purina Poultry Feed, which is what I’ve been using. I’m not sure if I’ll change or not yet.

The organic feed’s selling point for me is GMO cannot also be certified organic. The drawback for me is that the ingredient list reads like a pharmacy. The first two ingredients in all their versions of feed are 1. organic grain products and 2. organic plant protein products. The remaining ingredients are supplements and vitamins.  It’s not that I have anything against supplements or vitamins. It’s just that I know that a complete balanced feed can be closely achieved through a diverse group of plants/seeds/legumes.  The Purina feed ingredient list is pretty much the same. The difference comes in cost. A bag of chick starter and a bag of layer feed of Purina and Natures Grown at Bourn are $17, $13 and $24,  $20, respectively.

So the two combating characteristics are GMO and price. Now $7 for a 50 lb bag of feed doesn’t seem like too awfully much, but backyard eggs (for many people) are already pretty expensive. Many people spend hundreds of dollars on their coops and runs, then the cost of feeders and waters, bedding, and feeding the chicks for the first six months, before they even begin to see a return. For too many first time backyard hen owners the cost of the first egg is more than the cost of buying commercial eggs for the entire household for two years! That said, many backyard hen owners are not raising hens for the cost. Most are doing it for more subjective reasons. Not supporting commercial egg production. The desire to know what goes into the food on the table. Wanting a closer connection to food. Wanting their children to know that food comes from living animals and plants rather than prepackaged in plastic on a shelf in the supermarket. And some, like me, also come to love the hens for themselves and their quirky personalities and crazy antics.

Commercial feed rations aren’t the be all and end all of feeding backyard birds. Many homes have the ability to also feed table scraps to their birds. I rarely have leftovers or scraps for my birds. Certainly not enough to sustain them, not even enough to supplement their diets. During the summer my birds get bugs and worms and I keep a bag of whole oats out in the coop and they get 10-20 ounces of oats scattered in the run everyday. They love to have it scattered around as it plays to their foraging natures. Hens whose only feed source is a feeder will make a mess of it. They need multiple sources of food to keep them entertained. I have a friend, who can’t compost at her location, that brings me lots of food scraps and loaves of bread. I tie the loaves of bread to the fencing in the run and the hens have something to peck at when they aren’t scratching for bugs/worms/oats. In the winter I add whole corn and sunflower seeds to the whole oats. I also sprout seeds for them and give them lots of kale and comfrey from the garden. My hens LOVE kale! And carrot tops! I have to screen off my carrots or they eat them right down to the ground.

So as a recap of how I feed my hens. I give them the option to eat as much of the commercial (read well balanced) feed as they want. While supplementing with grain/seeds, food scraps (including meat and egg scraps), sprouts, and worms/bugs. I give oyster shell (and I smash up their egg shells) and grit free choice as well.

5-17-11 update:

Last Wednesday when I went to Bourn to buy my chicks, my friend bought a bag of the organic chick starter. And I’m sold! It comes in a paper bag!! Purina, switched to polypropylene bags a few months ago.

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