Wednesday, 23 September 2015

optimum food for free range hens - sprouting wheat for vitamins

It is clear to me, having kept 'free range' hens, that layers pellets are not the only food they need or like. They clearly like grass, especially young short shoots, but in the winter the grass either doesn't grow here (Cornwall) or it is drowned and the hens turn the whole plot to mud if they have access.
free range chickens

I also feed mixed poultry corn: 90% wheat and 10 % maize, but several facts have led to ideas ...

Although many people have problems with wheat - wheat gluten intolerance, for example - wheat that has begun to germinate or let grow to produce green leaf clearly possesses nutrient value that wheat seed doesn't.

Medical Doctor advises on how to take wheatgrass for best results




The agricultural feeds industry adds many vitamins and minerals to their layers pellets, including iron:
1kg of layers pellets has the following additives:
vitamin A 6000 iu
vitamin D3 3000 iu
vitamin E 10mg

ferrous sulphate 133 mg
calcium iodate 2mg
copper sulphate penthydrate 40mg
manganese oxide 129mg
zinc oxide 69mg
sodium selenide 0.44mg
but iron isn't easily used by the body without the presence of fresh food vitamins. (link). My hens have free access to layers pellets fortified with iron, but the yolks are very pale if they eat nothing else. Grass, maize, free-range access to the soil all help, but the most vivid improvement in yolk colour and taste (everyone's opinion, not just mine) is when they have sprouted wheat.
Sprouting seeds turn on enzymes (link) which increase availability and quantity of vitamins, notably vitamin C. Vitamin C isn't added to layers pellets.
The agricultural feed industry processes compound animal foods on such a large scale that this poultry food, which contains very nearly all the nutrition a laying hen needs, is about the same price as the cheapest ingredient (wheat)!

To make the hens diet complete, all they need is sprouted poultry corn (90% wheat, 10% cut maize), or plain wheat, if you can get it, and access to grass.

Sprouting the wheat for a few days is so little trouble that it seems crazy not to do it. The difference in the eggs is astonishing: Yellow, watery yolks  are deep orange bordering on red. Everyone that has tried some wants more!
Some poultry keepers recommend growing wheat grass for hens, suggesting that this turns a tiny amount of food into a lot. This is misleading because the corn is a concentrated source of protein and energy, and wheat grass is not. The typical laying hen can only manage 4 ounce daily diet to produce 2 ounce egg so keep your 'fodder' wheat for herbivores, or very limited.
When the grass is in short supply, in the winter, there are many choices for the keeper of a few hens.  winter greens!
With the advent of super-efficient LED lighting, solar PV and treble glazed polycarbonate cold frames (!) there are all sorts of interesting projects waiting to dispel the winter blues ...

tags:

 agriculture, books, freedom, poultry, self-sufficiency, vitamins, education

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