Stories of life on our farm in Northwest Georgia where every day is an adventure in this beautiful spot that God has entrusted to our stewardship.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Our Chicken Feed Dilemma

First, a little history:  In March 2009, when I got my first batch of chicks at a local feed store near Chattanooga, I asked the proprietor if their chick starter was vegetarian, and he assured me it was.  (As you will see, I should have read the label!)  I bought their Tucker Milling chick starter, and the chicks prospered.

When we got this batch of chicks, I had picked up a bag of Dumor Chick Starter at Tractor Supply because I was there, and it was convenient.  Then the chicks got diarrhea (see this post on that subject: ) and I decided they needed  medicated feed.  So I went to the first feed store to get another bag of the Tucker Chick Starter.  The diarrhea went away in two days, and the chicks prospered.

Recently Herb and I were checking out a new-to-us feed store nearby to see what was available.  The chicks were about 7 weeks old and ready to get non-medicated feed.  I asked about chick starter to check on prices, and the man showed me two kinds they had.  In trying to see whether they were medicated, we started reading labels.  There are paper labels sewn into the bottom seams of every bag of feed.  Sometimes the way they're sewn on makes them hard to read, so we were peering closely.  Imagine my surprise when I read the Tucker label and found that the fifth ingredient was: "Pork Meat and Bone Meal"!  The other brand had no animal products in it, but it was medicated.  Needless to say, we left without buying any chick feed.

As we drove home, Herb and I ruminated :) on how wrong it seems to feed pigs to chicks!  As soon as we got home, I went to the barn to check the labels on our bags of feed.  I can't find the label for the chick starter, but sure enough, it contained pork meat and bone meal.  I literally felt sick.  We're raising our own chickens to have healthy, natural meat, and here we've been feeding them pork!  Next I looked at my laying hens' feed (at left).  Ah, relief!  "Wholesome Nutrition the way Nature intended!" 
Having learned my lesson, I read the label anyway:
It's a bit hard to read because the seam was right on top of the pertinent part so I had to tear it off and tape it back together.  But if you look closely, on the second line under the word "Ingredients," you can see two blurred words which are "Pork Meat" followed by "and Bone Meal, Salt . . ."

Gag!  ALL my chickens have been eating pigs all along!  I'm not sure about you, but I don't think "Nature" intended for chickens to eat pigs!  Have you ever seen an angry mob of chickens attack and devour a pig?  Or have you seen a nature documentary where a wily rooster hunts down a pig and rakes it to death with his spur?  If you have, please send me the link!  Meanwhile, if we don't want our chickens eating pigs, what do we do?

For our layers, the solution is easy.  We'll switch to feeding nothing but scratch, which is just grain, to supplement their free-ranging.

The only problem that can arise is that in some bags the corn has not been adequately cracked, and the chickens won't eat it.  (Of course, both the corn and soy, and probably the wheat, are genetically-modified.  I know from my research that it's almost impossible to find any animal feed that doesn't use GMOs.)
Our biggest problem is finding chick starter that does not have any animal products in it.  Herb found this bag of Purina chick starter at Tractor Supply.  Unfortunately, it's medicated, so it won't help us now.
Fortunately, it contains "No Animal Proteins or Fats" so we'll save it for the next batch of chicks in case they get diarrhea.

Unfortunately, Herb got it at a good price because it's being discontinued.  We don't know if we'll be able to get any more, but at least we know to look for Purina.  Way to go, Purina!

For now, we're tapering off the chick starter and increasing the scratch, and the chicks love it.  That's the good news!

The bad news is that new hatchlings can't eat scratch, so we still have to find an unmedicated, animal-product-free chick starter.  If you look back at the Dumor label (first photo), you'll see that--like the others--it says "Ruminant Meat and Bone Meal Free."  All that means is that there's no sheep or cow product in it--a lesson learned the hard way after mad cow disease resulted from feeding sheep products to cattle.  There's no animal product listed on this label, but there are an awful lot of unpronounceable ingredients that I have no clue about.  All I know to do is call the 800 number to see if they will tell me what's really in there.

Depending on the answer, we may have to start from scratch!


  1. How frustrating--maybe the people at Countryside Natural Products can help..Zach used to buy from this place when he was growing a market garden. Apparently they do ship. . .or you could come pick up what you need. . .we provide free lodging and meals!!

    The second link lists all the ingredients if you click on "details."
    Oh, gross, Bruce was reading this over my shoulder and said the pork in the other stuff you found was probably pork entrails--
    Gag! :O
    Maybe if you put your ear up to the bag and listen carefully, you will hear the "squeal" as well! Barbara

  2. Thanks so much for the links,Barbara. This place looks really impressive! Is it near you? Tell Bruce I had taken "pork meat" literally, but as I think about it, I'm sure he's right! You can bet they're not using pork chops in there! All I can say is, I better not hear my chickens oink!

  3. According to Google maps and Bruce (he was in Fishersville just last Sat.), it is about an hour and a half from here. Thompson motel has many vacancies. :) In fact the only booking we have right now is for the first week in Nov. Betty is coming, and I know she'd be so happy to see you guys. Of course, the leaves will be at their peak in Oct. :)

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