|It's chicken feed!|
There's a certain gift some people have in seeing a problem and then finding a viable solution.
Problem Number 1: High-quality chicken feed from local suppliers became inconsistent and sometimes downright unavailable.
Chris says, "The stuff I'm seeing commercially, what people label as 'organic', is not what's best for chickens. I wanted feed with fish meal as one protein source, but fish meal is costly, not sustainable, and so a lot of feed producers aren't using it. Another protein source is corn. Because corn is now at or near $7/bushel, due to the idea that corn is fuel, inferior grains are being substituted for a protein source. Several years ago, manufacturers began using terms like 'commodity grains' in the industry and adding 'grain products' to their feed labels, while they began utilizing an inconsistent mix of grains. Also, to appease the organic market, soybeans came into use, not necessarily what's good for animals but it sounds good. For example, when feed producers began using soybeans in dog food, they had to add grease to the feed to help the dog have a shiny coat and look healthier, masking the fact that dogs don't utilize soy protein as well as meat protein." Similarly, he noticed that usable and consistent protein sources in chicken feed were getting hard to find. Using inconsistent supplies of grains for protein, well, "that's just silly when fish meal, ground up whole fish, is a better protein source for chickens," according to Chris, who studied agriculture and used to work in a Purina feed mill. "The argument may be that it's not sustainable and cost is also a factor but, if you plan to keep chickens for awhile, you have to feed them well."
The solution: Mix your own.
Using the formula on the label of the Kalmbach supplement bag, which contains fish meal, and figuring the ratio for 100 pounds of feed, Chris decided to start mixing his own feed for laying hens. The savings is considerable! Instead of using Purina Organic Omega-3 at $40 a hundred weight, his cost per hundred weight will be $17.67. That's based on today's market and some clever trades he managed: gleaning (cleaning out after picking) a neighbor's field corn and bartering dressed chickens for grinding the corn.
|For several years, this heirloom corn sheller adorned our front porch. Now Chris has put it back in service.|
|He dug this antique hand sheller out of the barn to clean the last kernels of corn off the cob so that none would go to waste.|
By using the correct ratio for laying hens, Chris would use the Kalmbach supplement, ground corn, and oyster shell for a feed that would be a nutritional and cost-saving alternative to the best feeds on the market. One hundred pounds would be a good quantity that would stay fresh for his small flock of chickens.
Problem Number 2: Trying to thoroughly mix a batch of a hundred pounds by hand. Mixers he had found for sale were much too large and expensive for small production.
Solution: Since freshness is a factor, Chris knew he had to build a mixer the right size to make a small quantity of feed.
He had access to a rough old treadmill that a renter had abandoned, left outside in the weather when the family moved out. Chris didn't want to bring the treadmill inside our home because of its rough tread condition. Curious, he tore it apart and saw that the inner workings were just what he needed. By shortening it, changing a few things, rearranging the wheels on it, and then adding a used 55-gallon drum, he now has a feed mixer! To top it off, it has a speed dial! The drum rolls at whatever speed you set it.
|The mixer needs an interior wooden paddle and a cover for the electronics. Then it will be ready to use.|
Weighing in at 110 pounds and on wheels, this unit is portable and lightweight enough to do the job and will be functional for 100-pound batches of mixed feed!
|1 to 2 mph works really well!|