June 1: chicken feed

One of the issues that anyone with pets or livestock runs into is feeding them. Not just the expense of providing them with the best possible nutrition, but also the practicality of it.


The cats, for example. We make up a raw meat mix for them, using human grade beef mince, minced ox heart, minced ox liver, calcium, gelatin, and a selection of supplements. Amusingly, it ends up being cheaper to do that than to feed them commercial cat food, although it does involve an early morning start every month or so to go to the meat market and buy ingredients, and then a couple’ve hours of mincing and mixing.


We do keep commercial tinned food (Ziwipeak) and cat biscuits * (BlackHawk Grain Free) as well, as a backup. According to all my research (even though I am not a qualified animal nutritionist), though, the raw mix is a healthy complete food for them – and they do like it.  I like that it smells inoffensive (plain, fresh, raw meat smell) and is of a quality that I’d be prepared to eat it myself. I have always disliked most tinned pet foods; the smell of them makes me feel ill.


* Cat biscuits should only ever be given to your cat with water; dry biscuits often lead to chronic dehydration and ongoing kidney problems later in life, because cats don’t drink a lot of water even if it’s available and their food is dry. Pour a little warm water over the biscuits and let them soak for a few minutes before giving them to the cat; it’s like cereal.


The chickens are a similar case. I’m not keen on feeding them pellets, because almost all of the pellets contain “restricted animal products” – which means brains and nerve tissue as well as all the other nasties which can’t be sold as dog food. I don’t know about anyone else, but I think that’s asking for prion diseases. Also, my chickens are fussy and refuse to eat the pellets. And once the uneaten pellets get wet, they turn into disgusting, stinky glue which dries to a disgusting, stinky, solid mess of concrete-like .. stuff.


Pellets are, however, the best easiest way to get the right levels of protein. Insects are the best protein source for poultry, but we haven’t had much luck so far with our attempts at farming black soldier fly or mealworms for the birds. “Scratch mix” (mixed grains) doesn’t usually go over 11% protein at best, and chickens really should get 15% – 18%. The Peters Free Range mix has just enough protein, but it’s expensive and often unavailable. What to do?


My answer is, again, mix my own. So I’ve done the calculations, sourced sacks of raw ingredients, and made up my own chicken feed. It’s a mash style feed, meaning that it needs water added to stick it together, because there’s ground soybean meal in there to increase the protein – but the chickens seem to like it.


chicken feed recipeThis recipe provides approx. 18-20% protein, depending on the exact protein content of the grains, which is more than the chickens need for health & growth (show chickens get 18% or 19% feed for healthier feathers). Our chooks do also get kitchen scraps and weeds and whatever grass sprouts in their runs, so I think it evens out.