The poultry run has been pretty quiet for the last several months. In autumn we processed all the old birds who were no longer laying. The one long day we spent processing was an unwelcome chore but what a relief when it was all over and the freezer was full of chicken and duck for the winter stock. Last August we bought twenty five laying chicks and our new flock has grown fabulously. Raised on a soured milk diet, they are now almost five months and we expect them to begin laying soon. We are ecstatic to have reached our goal of completely cutting off store bought feed! For about four months we have been feeding a combination of spent grain (fermented non-gmo barley that we get for free from a local brewery), vegis from the garden, organic green bin waste, our kitchen scraps-including fish and meat, and clabbored milk. After doing a bunch of reading and combing the internet for recipes/ratios of homemade feed made with spent grain we really didn't find much useful information so we have been experimenting with trial and error. What we learned is that our birds all love the spent grain but when fed to the younger pullets they had bloody stool within a day. So we kept to the sour milk diet while they were growing with a supplement of organic grower crumble. Once they reached 6-8 weeks they transitioned from the brooder to the run and started on spent grain combined with vegis, etc. They are all looking happy and healthy. It will be exciting to find out how well they will lay on this diet. Since we especially chose high production breeds this time around we are hoping for lots of yummy eggs. I have to admit, I miss all the colors of the old flock. The three breeds we chose are not as bright; white leghorns, red and black sexlinks, as well as our one random Americauna who gives us her periodic green egg.
We have big plans for the run to be an experimental food forest with apple, olive, fig and mulberry trees, Siberian pea shrubs, bamboo, comfrey and several nitrogen fixing cover crops to support the trees and give the poultry a little forage. Everything is so dry, the chickens and ducks will be happy to be surrounded by more greenery. In the meantime we will build a massive compost pile in the run for the chickens to scratch, turn, and feed off of then they will be pastured through our small orchard while we transform their habitat.
Check out this clip of a very cool, inspiring video about feeding chickens without grain.
Other ideas...we're thinking of ordering Bourban Red turkeys and geese in a couple of months. It will be so fun to have a bustling poultry yard again!