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Feeding Real Animal Proteins

Feeding hens on a commercial scale often seems like quite a complex endeavour, especially for someone who was a chicken nutrition novice. Over the last few years, I have learnt a lot about chicken health nutrition, and it is quite a science but what always strikes me when it comes to farming and food is a simple back to basics approach works best. 


When I started out, I fed my laying hens a typical diet of a pellet feed consisting of mainly, wheat and soya, the vast majority of eggs produced in the UK are from hens fed this diet. The hens did well, alongside their pastured lifestyle which also saw them eating vegetation and any insects they found. The eggs produced from those hens were nice eggs and the hens were quite satisfied with their meals. 


It follows the nature of the business of pasture poultry to be as sustainable as possible when it comes to production and use methods of rearing that work towards regeneration and agroecology. With that said the biggest protein source in most typical chicken feeds is soya which is more often than not from across the globe and not a very sustainable product. This has led me down a path, like many chicken farmers I’m sure of figuring out how I can provide my hens with different types of feed whist still being cost effective. 


Through my research I'd seen examples of people using fish meal as a protein source and heard they'd had great results. Ideas were formulating in my mind of the composition of ingredients I'd need to make my own feed. However, as it turns out I know Jon. Jon is a trout farmer just a couple of miles up the road the farm. I first met Jon as a customer when he bought one of my chickens a couple of years ago. It turns out that the only waste coming from Jon's whole aquaponic trout and herb operation was his trout carcasses. Fantastic, here I had fresh organic fish right on my doorstep and by taking his carcasses I was closing the loop on his last waste product meaning he was now completely waste free. 


I didn’t do any processing with the fish simply hung them up and waited to see what would happen. The hens hadn’t seen fish before and it took them a couple of days to really pluck up the courage to dig in properly but within a week they had a taste for it and would wait for their daily fish intake with much eagerness. 


I can't remember exactly how long it took but the hens and their eggs changed. Combs went from a fairly generic red colour to a beautiful deep vibrant red. The hens had a slight uptake in their laying rate but best of all the eggs got better. Most eggs you can buy have a deep orange or yellow colour to the yolk because the hens that laid them have been fed a highly processed form of colouring such as paprika or marigold. I have never fed my hens those ingredients, opting for natural-coloured eggs. After eating trout the colour of my yolks went a beautiful deep yellow and the taste was delicious. The best eggs I’ve ever had. I perfected my favourite breakfast of scrambled eggs on toast. Customers couldn’t get enough of them, and the poor hens couldn’t produce eggs fast enough to fill demand.



Fast forward 6 months or so and a new laying flock have arrived. Originally barn reared hens with some lack lustre eggs to match, I have been gradually introducing them to the Yorkshire Pasture Poultry diet. That includes their usual wheat-based grains alongside real animal protein coming from the trout carcasses and fresh green vegetation. Its fingers crossed to see if i can get similar results over the next few weeks but already the pale limp combs of the hens that came of out of the barn are looking in better health and getting more colour to them and the hens are loving their trout breakfasts. 


Going forward I still want to play around formulating my own layer feed using bulk grains but it’s safe to say feeding animal proteins has been a game changer. 


You can find Jon and his trout at burnthillherbs.com and you order my beautiful chicken eggs through my online shop here: https://ypp.localline.ca/onlinestore 









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