We have had the chickens now about four months and they are getting to the point we should be seeing some eggs shortly. I must admit, was a little afraid to order day old chicks, but we got through that fear and got them raised and ready to go outside. Now they have been in their coop and run for a while they are coming to their next stage in life. I have roosters crowing and the girls are starting to check out the nest boxes. To get here we have pretty much just given clean water and fed them a good quality feed. We have also added some extras like sunflower seed sprouts and grown some wheat for fodder. Not being one, when starting out, of making things difficult.. I have bought what was available at my local tractor supply for feed, then gradually added the sprouts and fodder keeping it simple all along the way.
Being new I thought chicken feed was all pretty much the same with the distinctions being organic or not. But I have learned that is not always the case. After the medicated chick feed was gone, I started the chicks on a grower feed called Nutrena Naturewise Chick Starter/Grower crumbles. I started fermenting with this feed and was pretty much pleased with it. I have 17 birds and they get one of my “cups” .. a sour cream container .. in a gallon jar fermented every day. To that I add another cup that has not been fermented and it soaks up some of the fermenting juice and together I get a nice mash for the birds. One bag lasts me an entire month.
The Nutrena was the first feed I fermented and it fermented very nicely. But Tractor Supply was out the next time I needed the feed and I so I purchased the Dumor brand of crumbles. It looked about the same nutrition wise and had about the same price point.. so I thought it should be a comparable feed and would be fine to offer the flock. Boy was I wrong.
The first thing I noticed was the color of the feed was “dirty” looking. The above photo shows the Dumor on the right in the bowl. It was more grey in color and seemed to have more powder than the Nutrena. I also did not like the smell as it too seemed to have more of a dirty smell to me. The higher dust type texture did cause me to cough at times with this feed as well.
I measured out my cup of feed into the gallon glass jar and added the fermenting liquid thinking tomorrow it would be pretty much like the previous feed. Since the feeds came from different companies with different processing methods I decided to overlook the physical appearance and the smell of the feed. I concluded that since they were the same price point .. basically they were going to be the same feed.
After fermenting the feed overnight I noticed a lot of funk floating on the top of my fermenting liquid. The feed itself seems dirty, and when fermented this “dirt” floated to the top and created a bit of particulate foam in the fermenting bubbles. Ugh… I did not like that. The odor of the fermenting liquid was also different and not the sweet sourdough smell I got from the Nutrena. At this point I was becoming a bit annoyed with the new feed and was now wondering if the chickens would notice the different feed and turn their beaks up at it. Would be seriously peeved if I had a bag of feed I could not use.
The next morning I poured off the fermenting liquid and added the fermented feed to another cup of the dry crumbles and stirred to make a mash.. but not the firm mash I was used to in the photo above. I had to add another half of my sour cream cup or more of feed to get it to firm up like I was used to. Choices now were to either ferment less so the one dry cup made the proper consistency or just feed more of this feed all together. Though about the same price as the Nutrena this feed was going to cost me more to feed. It was going to take more of the feed to get my desired results making it less cost effective for what was spent. And we still needed to get the chickens opinion ..
I took the mash out to the run and scooped it into their feed trough made from some 3″ PVC pipe with the top half removed. The chooks ate the feed but it did not seem as aggressively as they ate the Nutrena. Even with the addition of the fodder and sprouted sunflower seeds, they cleaned their feed up every day. At least I was not stuck with a bag of feed and nothing to feed it too. Was a bit concerned with the girls almost ready to lay eggs and here I was feeding what appeared a less optimally nutritious food. Not one to throw away a bag of feed.. I finished it out. I did made sure to throw them some additional things, like my Thanksgiving turkey bones, for them to pick meat off of and get some good protein during the month.
Finally.. the month was up and I once again got my Nutrena Crumbles. I was pleased to see it ferment nicely and the chickens have been very aggressive again with this feed. Though they never refused to eat the Dumor, their preference is definitely the Nutrena. I wish I was in a position to create my own feed or spend a ton and get the organic feed that is offered along side these two at Tractor Supply. Since I need a well balanced feed that is nutritious and economical I will continue with the Nutrena. Because I have roosters I will not change to a layer formula, but instead, will offer oyster shell for the additional calcium the hens will need. The two feeds I have experienced in my short time as a chickie mama are pretty much the same price point.. but the Nutrena gets my, and the chickens, vote as the better feed.