Are you looking for the healthiest feed for your chickens, ducks, geese, guinea hens or other poultry? This map is designed to help you in finding organic chicken feed from the supplier located nearest you. The map is restricted to providers of either certified organic poultry feed, or feed grown without chemical fertilizers or pesticides.
For an explanation of the different types of chicken feed, scroll down to the article titled "Why Organic Chicken Feed?" below the map.
TO ADD YOUR BUSINESS TO THE MAP:
Click the "view in a larger map" link, located below. Log in to your Google account and type your business’s street address into the search box at the top. When Google suggests the correct address in the drop-down box, click on it and hit enter. If you don’t see the correct address option, continue entering the address text until it appears.
After you’ve selected the address, a green placemark will drop into place on the map. Check to make sure the address is correct and the placement on the map is correct, then click on the placemark and find the “Add to map” link at the bottom of the pop-up box. Click on “Add to map” and a blue placemark will appear in place of the original green placemark. Click on the new blue placemark and a pop-up box will open. Click on the pen symbol at the bottom of the pop-up box and type your business information into the box: Add your business name into field at the top, and contact information to the lower field. Click the “Save” button at the bottom of the pop-up box, and you’re done!
To edit an existing placemark, log in to your Google account and go to the appropriate map. Find your business’s listing in the column on the left and click on it. A pop-up box will appear. Click on the pencil icon at the bottom of the pop-up box, edit the text, and click on “Save” when you’re finished.
By Carol Ekarius
My family eats primarily organic foods, so I don’t see feeding our animals differently than we feed ourselves — particularly when those animals are producing food that we will eat. There are several reasons to choose organic chicken feed. Though the macro nutrients (such as protein and fat) tend to be comparable between industrial and organically grown foods and animal feeds, there are big differences in the micro-nutrients, such as important enzymes, vitamins and minerals, which are routinely higher in organically grown food. Pesticide residues are significantly lower in organic foods, and though the quantities may be minute, I’d rather avoid them altogether. I want to support a farming system that doesn't result in the die-off of the birds and the bees, or bring harm to farmers and ranchers. The organic approach is better for both the planet and people, particularly the people who raise food! Finally, the top reason for finding organic chicken feed if you raise poultry to sell either meat or eggs (or are considering doing so) is that organic should allow you to charge a significant price premium.
The right feed depends on the age of your birds, whether you're raising meat chickens or layers, and what type of birds you're raising — fast-growing hybrids or slower growing heritage breeds. Most chicken feeds are available in the form of a 'mash' — a fully ground and mixed ration that looks almost like coarse flour — though you can also find them granulated or pelletized. Here are the main types you'll choose from:
Chick starter. Just as human babies don't start life on the same diet as adults, chicks also need their own special food when they pop from the egg. Chick starter is like infant formula for poultry — much higher in protein and amino acids, for example, than feed for mature birds. You should feed your chicks a chick starter for their first three weeks or so, after which you should switch to a grower ration.
Grower ration. Poultry grower formula has slightly lower protein and is higher in fat than chick starter. Layers stay on grower ration until they reach 12 weeks of age for the fast-growing breeds such as leghorns and hybrids, and 15 weeks of age for slower growing dual-purpose breeds.
Meat chickens (aka fryers and broilers) are switched to finisher at 6 to 7 weeks for the hybrids, 8 to 9 weeks for traditional meat breeds like the Cornish, and 10 to 12 weeks for the dual-purpose heritage breeds.
After three weeks on grower ration, we like to add some scratch to our chickens' diet, as well as small amounts of kitchen scraps (more about this below).
Finisher. Finisher feeds are specifically formulated to grow out meat chickens quickly in the final weeks before butchering, as fast growth results in a more tender and more profitable bird. The finisher feed has lower protein than grower ration but higher fat and fiber, and is fed right up until butchering. This time span is highly dependent on the breed and ranges from about 8 weeks for fast-growing hybrids to as long as 22 weeks for some of the larger dual-purpose breeds. Fryers are usually butchered earlier (9 to 12 weeks), and broiler chickens are butchered starting around week 15 to 22.
Layer feed. There are a couple of different commercial choices for layer feeds. One approach is to feed a complete feed mash that typically runs about 16 percent protein, or feed a higher protein mash (typically 20 percent) with scratch feed as a supplement.
Scratch. Scratch feed is a blend of grains that can be fed on the ground in the yard, or on a deep bed of hay and straw (that the birds will pick through, and that helps keep their coop clean, dry and warm). It provides them not only with high-energy grains and seeds, but also keeps them doing the scratching — hence its name — which is a natural behavior chickens really love.
Grit. Chickens need grit for their gizzards — a muscle in their digestive system that grinds up grain and other food. Free-range birds usually can find grit — gravel and pebbles — as they roam, but confined chickens will need your help. You can buy poultry grit at a feed store, or you can scavenge your own and place a small bucket of grit inside the confinement area. Some growers offer crushed limestone rock as part of the grit or place limestone dust in large, shallow pans for dust bathing. There's some anecdotal evidence to indicate the birds may be ingesting sufficient calcium via the dust to strengthen their eggshells.
Allowing your birds to range freely on your property permits them to choose a natural diet of fresh greens, insects, worms and such. Studies have shown that eggs and meat from free-range chickens are generally more nutritious than products from birds raised in industrial confinement systems. Unfortunately, predator pressures may make the free-range option difficult for many of us. If your birds are not free-range, then always remember that they are totally dependent on you to provide them with proper kinds of feed.
The great thing about chickens is that they, like us, are omnivores. For small layer flock owners who mainly keep a few hens for personal use, a lot of their birds' feed can come directly from the kitchen and garden. Your chickens will relish all kinds of garden crops — beet tops, spent broccoli, kale, turnips and many others. Cover crops such as winter rye, Austrian peas and buckwheat can be cut and fed to your flock. Even fresh lawn clippings of grass and clover make good poultry food.
Thanks to its wide array of ingredients, the kitchen diet does a great job of emulating the diverse feed that free-ranging birds in the wild would access. We feed all of our leftovers and scraps, and the birds get a small bowl of milk morning and night. Melon rinds can just get thrown into the chicken yard. Leftover pasta, stews and the like can simply be dumped in a pile. The chickens will do the rest, and they'll think you're a hero when you bring out that bucket of goodies each day.
Family flocks fed largely from the kitchen still need some things humans probably don't eat. Layers should have free access to oyster shell — a calcium supplement to help keep eggshells strong (see also "Grit," above) — and, at a minimum, all adult birds need hen scratch. A small container of free-choice layer feed will round out your chickens' diet, but they won't eat much of it when fed from the kitchen.
Water is essential. An egg is 65 percent water by weight, and a chicken is almost 50 percent water by weight. Make sure that your birds have ready access to clean, fresh water at all times. They'll require up to four times as much water during hot weather than cold — and twice as much when they are laying than when they are not.