What do we feed our chicks?
Well when we first decided to breed chickens for meat and eggs, we did our research (although it’s always never enough and there’s only so much you can research, a lot is learned through experience). I formulated a feed plan of assorted grains loosely based on a feeding guide provided by our state department of agriculture. You can find the guide here. We made a mix up of wheat, barley, corn, sunflower seeds, and shell grit. Kel then blended it all until it was ground and small enough for the chicks to eat. We then added a dried molasses and Diatomaceous Earth mix for natural worming and vitamins. We were also hoping they would be on pasture fairly quickly so would gain necessary nutrients from being able to free range.
It was time consuming however we thought it was a pretty good mix. It was missing some items from the guide but we didn’t think it would matter. However it did. We found our chicks were taking a long time to grow. They seemed fine, just small. However then around thirteen weeks, we noticed that the eldest chick had trouble walking. It managed to get around however not with ease. Also some of our other smaller chicks started randomly dying. And then as the surviving chicks started to get to around the thirteen week old mark, their legs went funny too. We knew then that something was seriously wrong. We researched it and found it was possibly a nutrient deficiency that was causing the leg problems however the chicks that were dying – well it could have been any number of reasons.
We knew then that some things had to change because our setup was obviously not working. We figured that the feed was the first thing as we knew now they weren’t getting enough vitamins and minerals.
Now why didn’t we just, from the very beginning, buy a premixed chick feed? The answer: Coccidiosis. Most chick feeds contain a Coccidiostat (chemical) to prevent Coccidiosis. However Coccidiosis is generally caused by unclean living conditions. We didn’t want to feed them a Coccidiostat because we want to be as organic as possible plus we felt that our conditions would be clean so would prevent it anyway. Also there is a withholding period of eating the meat and eggs of a bird that has eaten food containing the Coccidiostat. Usually you only feed chick feed to chicks (that’s a tongue twister) so by the time they are ready to eat and/or lay they will be onto a different feed that doesn’t generally contain a Coccidiostat so is therefore deemed safe to consume. However the fact remains that they had it in their system and we didn’t like that fact.
What to do? Well we prayed for an answer because we tend to pray about most things.
The next time we visited the stock feed store, we asked about chick feed and if they had any without a Coccidiostat. They said they didn’t, and that you can’t really get feed without it however they did have one brand that didn’t have the actual chemical but a herb that is a natural Coccidiostat. We were intrigued so we took down the details and i rang the company and spoke to them about it. They gave me all the information about it and that the herb was actually Regano or Oregano and that it is a natural Coccidiostat. Well we had no problem feeding our chicks oregano for goodness sake! The other thing was that because it was natural, there was no withholding period. Brilliant!
We immediately went and bought a bag of this chick feed and mixed it half half with their current feed (you mustn’t change feed over instantly, you need to introduce it over a couple of days at least). The chicks went nuts for it and as we transitioned over to it completely we found our chicks started growing a lot faster and the leg problems were no longer an issue. We also found that the number of deaths dropped as well (not completely however that was another issue with our setup that is for another post).
We were very happy with the answer God provided for us.
So what is this miracle chick feed? It’s from Vella Stock Feeds, a stock feed company based in Sydney, and it is their Meat Bird Starter crumble mix. They have a whole range of other products that we are interested in trying out as well. It is extremely reasonably priced and we would highly recommend it to anyone breeding chicks who have access to this product. They also have an information guide so you know exactly what’s going into the feed. And no we weren’t paid by them, this post is completely off our own bat. Like everything we post, we just wanted to share our experience and possibly help others from making the same mistakes we have.
Here is a picture of a 20kg bag of Meat Bird Starter from CRT Country Stores’ website, a distributor of Vella Stock Feeds:
Source: CRT Country Stores