Gluten Free Chicken Feed II


My Elvira, my first layer. Maybe extra love helped her produce.

Yes, you can easily raise your chickens on your own homemade gluten-free chicken feed, have healthy hens, and get very good eggs. I am so happy to write that. Especially that easily part.

Those of you who joined me at the start of this adventure back in February may remember my fears the chickens would all die under my inexperienced hand and choice to make homemade gluten-free feed. But here we are, I’m still healthy, and the girls are not only still alive, but thriving in a beautiful manner! They have at last begun laying fine-formed eggs with good hard shells. We believe we may have even gotten an egg from our little Princess Puny.

Thank you to all who wrote to encourage me, to all the people online who shared their knowledge– you can see the links in the previous posts on our chicken adventure.

They are still wet from rinsing. Our first day to get 4!

Now, there might be some question as to whether or not gluten goes through the feed to the egg, but, astonishingly, (my people might say, “Well, shut my mouth!”) it has been shown that soy is present in sizable amount in the yolk of eggs from hens fed heavily on soy. I saw the research paper online, but have lost the link — Google it for yourself, I don’t have time right now. Suffice to say, there are now producers of organic soy-free eggs, and I did save that url– Soy-free eggs here. As I find I’m sensitive to soy, I’m grateful I decided not to bother with adding soy to my recipes.

Here are my current recipes:

Basic Gluten-Free, Soy-Free Grain and Seed Mix
16 cups cracked corn
16 cups milo
6 cups rolled oats
13 cups hulled sunflower seeds

The above recipe makes approximately 30 pounds. I put a few cups in their feeders about twice a day, and they throw it all around (I think they holler whoopee!) in order to peck it off the ground.

Morning Mash
8 cups of the Basic Mix
1 heaping cup white rice, cooked (makes about 2-3 cups)
1 cup green split peas, thrown on top of the rice to soften while it steams.
1/2 cup brewer’s yeast
1/2 cup powdered milk
3 Tablespoons unsulphured molasses stirred into a cup of warm water, then added to the mix.
I make this in a Kitchenaid mixer about every 5 days. The stainless mixing bowl holds the amount comfortably. I make it up, put it in a large plastic zippy bag and store it in the refrigerator. I then feed approximately 3 cups each day to 8 chickens.

I theorize the Morning Mash provides extra protein and nutrients. I cook the rice because, well, the chickens seem to like it, and I’ve read some stuff that indicates maybe cooking makes the nutrients more available in digesting. I use white rice bought in a 50 pound bag from Sam’s. I’ve been using hormone-free, fat-free, powdered milk but want to find whole- fat powdered milk. Molasses is listed in a number of commercial starter feeds. I discovered it excellent to bind the milk powder and the yeast to the grains, and it contains good amounts of iron and calcium and other nutrients. I long for feed peas for my basic mix like another woman might long for diamonds. Peas are far superior to soybeans, but not easily available in my area. I make due with the green split peas, bought from Walmart, and put it only in their Morning Mash. Peas with the other grains make a whole protein. The girls like the green, I think.

If you can get organic in all of these ingredients, do so! I cannot, and we see that we’re all still here.

In addition to this feed, the hens receive vegetable and fruit kitchen scraps. For a time, I had raw fish for them. Me and Sweetie-Pie love watermelon, and so do our girls. Often I have raw goat milk, or goat yogurt– they love it! The girls also free range each evening for a couple of hours. Once they form the firm habit of laying eggs in the hen house, I’ll be letting them free range often throughout the day. They adore the compost pile–worms and bugs, yumm!

Big Sister, our Ameraucana, who lays the blue-green eggs.

Today we have retrieved three eggs from the hen house. The excitement remains. It is like getting little jewels. The incredible, edible egg…out of a chicken’s butt. Amazing.


The Radio, The Egg, and Writing

Discouraged, I had been wailing to Bigstreetrod: “Why aren’t we getting any eggs? Everyone is getting eggs. Why aren’t our chickens laying? What is wrong? Could it be their feed?” I tend to think everything is because I’m doing my own feed.

We researched and found conflicting advice. People said eggs would come in 19 weeks; people said it would take 5 to 8 months. Our chickens were nearing six months old, and nothing yet. I kept looking and looking in the laying boxes and under bushes, and returning to the house with the slumped shoulders of disappointment.

Then I remembered what I had been told about a radio in the coop. I had been assured by several sources with farm experience: “Keep a radio going in the coop and chickens will produce abundantly.”

Did you know you can no longer buy a small portable radio? I’m talking about one of those boxy kind with a handle so you can hang it up. It’s all iPods and such now. I was then wailing at how I could not find a simple radio. Bigstreetrod, likely wanting to shut me up, brought home a small clock radio. It fit perfectly on a board high up in the coop. I turned it face-out so that the chickens could not see the glowing red digital numbers. I was afraid it would drive them crazy trying to fly up and peck at it. I tuned it to a today’s Best country out of Mississippi, figuring chickens would prefer that type of music. The sound from that teeny-tiny speaker was an amazement.

That evening, when I let them out to roam the yard, I discovered that sometime in the hours after the radio installation, one of the dear girls had thrown the blue plastic egg from a laying box and deposited this small but beautiful jewel in its place!

The power of country music radio–a gluten-free, soy-free natural egg.

This all reminds me of my early years of writing novels. Back then, it was my habit to play music as I wrote. My favorite, very naturally, was country music. It helped to put me into the setting of my story. In fact, I’ve gotten a lot of themes for my novels from country music songs. Once I took the first chapter of a rough draft to a friend to read and give feedback. She said, very gently: “I’m sorry, but I found it just…boring.”

I came home and thought about it. I had been playing Don Williams ballads over and over. They soothed my soul, but likely did not help me to get conflict rolling. I changed to country music with a fast, swinging beat. The book picked up after that, and I’ve been careful of what I listen to while writing ever since.

The chickens can have their radio. These days when I work, I want quiet. Although when needing to lift my spirit while around the house, I will play music– more often than not these days I prefer Swing. Hmmm…likely that’s why the novel I’m currently planning is set in the late forties.

Wordless Wednesday — Gluten-free Chickens

My heart’s on fire for my Elvira.

Bigstreetrod made me a water fountain for the girls. Just a bucket with these handy little nipples poked in the bottom. Keeps the water clean, and gives the chickens something to peck.

My girls at 21-weeks. Doin’ fine on gluten-free ration.

Shush– I’m sneaking in words. I’ve made a Chicken tab in the menu above. Just mouse-over the Gluten-Free Life tab, and it appears below. I’ve had a number of inquiries about my gluten-free chicken feed. You can find my first recipes and links to other chicken feed recipes/info at my post: The Chicks and Me, Gluten Free. I will be posting my current gluten-free chicken feed diet soon.

My girls are healthy, so the first goal realized. I have not yet gotten eggs. Waiting with high anticipation!

Grace and Peace,

Backyard Chicken Adventure Turns to Experience, or…

how I changed my mind about many things in 15 short weeks.

Adventure is something you seek for pleasure, or even for profit, like a gold rush or invading a country; … but experience is what really happens to you in the long run; the truth that finally overtakes you.–Katherine Anne Porter

I have alternately worried and wondered at how my chickens were progressing on the homemade gluten-free feed. It is not like I went into this knowing anything about a chicken. All the information in the entire world written on the subject is not going to equal hands-on experience. My chickens seem quite healthy and actually happy little critters, but I still wondered. Last night I found a video on YouTube of fourteen week old pullets. Mine look just like them! Whew. We’re doing okay in the growth department.

We have 2 each: Barred Rock, Ameraucana, Buff Orpington, Rhode Island Red.

With fifteen weeks of experience under our belt, we’ve learned a lot of things we would not do again in regards to our chicken house and run. We would have built a bit bigger, and perhaps a lot more simple. We changed our roost setup inside three times, have now hit on what the darlings really like, which is up near the top, enjoying the air through the hardware cloth screening.

It is nice that the run is fully covered, and the chickens have access to under the coop, too. We plan more fencing beneath the trees.

One of the things we did that has turned out to our great satisfaction is to use sand in the bottom of the run. We used fine sand, like play sand. I was going to use coarser sand, sometimes called patio sand, but my dear son helped out by bringing home a great trailer load of river sand, which here is fine. It keeps everything dry, and the chickens love to dust themselves in it. We got the idea from this article.

Inside the coop I started with thick pine shavings, however, it tends to make a mess when the chickens toss it out the door and down onto the sand. I’ve discovered grassy hay much more to my liking. It smells sweet and can be scattered in a thick bedding, too, that tends to stay put. I am a firm believer in sprinkling diatomaceous earth (DE) all around the inside of coop, too, before I put in the hay. Supposedly it helps deter mites and bugs, but I’ve found wherever DE is nothing sticks and clean up is easy. (FYI: it doesn’t kill fire ants. I tried.)

Air. I’m so very glad we built a wire screen high up on the wall of the coop, facing into the run. Then I read about open-coop method and we decided to open the west access door, too. We may even yet put an opening of hardware cloth in the north-facing wall.

The door is divided in half, covered with hardware cloth. Each half can be closed or opened with a screw-off panel. We left the bottom covered until warm weather, but it is off now. A continual breeze blows through. We learned that chickens can much more easily warm themselves than cool themselves. Their body temperature is about 103 degrees–got that from an ‘expert’ in an article, not any experience.

Rocks of this sort are not naturally found in Lower Alabama. We brought these from Oklahoma. We put them all around the edge of the coop. They hold down the chicken wire we put beneath sand and dirt on the outside, to deter predators from digging. So far so good.

Hubby had these old metal pieces, actually were car ramps for a trailer. Work perfectly at each door. Nothing’s going to dig through them. Oh, that is not snow– that is white sand from the Mobile Bay.

Our little flock is allowed outside now every evening, while dear husband and I sit beneath the pecan trees, acting as designated roosters. Life is good.

National Celiac Awareness Month– and the Gluten-Free Chicken Adventure Continues

May is National Celiac Awareness Month. I don my celiac advocacy hat. Darlings, do you have migraines? Tingling hands and feet? Gained or lost a lot of weight. Chronic fatigue? You have my prayers, and urge to get yourself over to check out the info on celiac disease at the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness website. You can read my own compelling story about discovery of my celiac disease here.

Do gluten-free chickens look the same as other chickens when they cross a road? Or in this case, sit on a perch?

I had a letter from a reader, Miss Deb, who is gathering information for starting up her own gluten-free backyard chicken adventure. Below is my response. (I never want to waste good writing or advice.)

Hello, Deb. Thanks so much for writing. It is always heart-warming, dare I say instant-friend-producing, to meet another celiac/gluten-intolerant person and backyard chicken enthusiast. I know you know, as no other person can know. Everyone in my household is either celiac or gluten-intolerant, too, so I maintain a gluten-free haven.

You have asked for my thoughts on the matter of keeping gluten-free chickens, and here they are: As far as I know, neither eggs nor chicken meat contain gluten. What might be happening to you and your family is a not at all uncommon allergy to eggs. Eggs are one of the top 8 allergens. I am not only gluten intolerant, but also soy intolerant, mildly dairy intolerant, and I am find I can be sensitive to chicken meat, too, a fact which may be caused by all the eggs I do eat.

My dear hens are 13 weeks old today. I don’t know how the darlings compare in size and maturity to same-age hens fed commercial wheat-containing feeds, but they and I are perfectly happy. I get my hands in the grains and seeds when mixing, and never have a worry that I’m going to be ‘glutenized’ by dust or anything under my fingernails or on my clothing. Certainly my hens show no harm whatsoever. My little Princess Puny, who seemed to have a deformity and I did not think would live, has grown and is feisty as all the others. I do not find making their feed a chore; it is quite simple, and I suspect the whole grains and seeds may be instrumental in keeping the hens parasite-free.

Thanks so much for writing. I will keep posting my gluten-free chicken raising adventure on the blog. Do let me know how your own adventure in gluten-free backyard chicken keeping goes. As far as I know, we’ll be the only ones.

Princess Puny, moving fast at eating breakfast.

Chicks at Nine Weeks– Princess Puny Grows!

Princess Puny at breakfast

Princess Puny is not so puny anymore. Her growth and strength have surprised, and proven once again that we only think we know what is down the road. We never really do know, and only by hoping for the best, making a try for it, can we get anywhere near it. I still recall observing Princess Puny’s withered looking foot when I separated her into a small cardboard box. I, melancholy that I tend to be, was certain she would die in the night. I was certain I would find her dead all those weeks she seemed weak and to spend most of her time sitting. I then became convinced she might never roost– once again I am proven wrong. We have–ta-da–even caught her roosting in the henhouse, on the second perch!

Princess Puny on the left, Big Sister right. not quite the size of Big Sister, but she is most definitely growing and getting all of her feathers. I'm going to have to learn how to put bands on these girls' legs so I can identify them.

She reminds me of the famous Sir Winston Churchhill quote: "Never Give in, never give in, never, never, never..." I shortly may have to change her name.

My dear husband spent a couple of mornings happy as a dog with two tails building his version of a feeder he found on the web. Simple plumbing pipe.

Feeder made with sewer pipe and pipe caps. Dear Husband made a number of them, a small one for oyster shell, too.

An update on the cage, too–

We are grateful to Bryan Edmonds in our Mobile Bay Backyard Chickens Club for showing us his design of a cage with no bottom. Used as a brooder, we put it on a tarp, layered the bottom with a bit of sand and wood shavings. To clean, we removed the chicks to a box, lifted the cage and hauled the tarp out as a bag to throw the dirty litter into the compost pile.

Now the chicks are in the chicken house with a run. We use the no-bottom cage as on occasion as a temporary lawn cage, to let the chicks scratch in the grass, until they are large enough to be safe from the cats for a bit of free-ranging.

The no-bottom cage protects young pullets on the lawn.

My thanks to all the input and encouragement from so many of you. I’m looking ahead to our first egg!

Starting Monday Out Right with the Now Two-Legged Midget Chick and Her Big Sisters

The chicks turned seven weeks old on Thursday, and I breathed a sigh of relief. They were not only still alive, but thriving. I had read weeks ago on a forum someone's tale of their chicks up and dying at seven weeks and they did not know why. This sent me at high speed into dark imaginings. I then and there quit reading on chicken forums.

Our little Princess Puny, special needs chick. At about half the size of the rest in the flock, she nevertheless continues to grow, at her own pace and time. She uses both legs now, walks and runs around the extended area of the chicken run, although she does not perch. Managing the ramp to the hen house was a slow challenge for her. She finds it best to fly up and down. She remains smaller and, well, puny, but there has been no picking on her by the other chicks at all. For a time one of the Buff Orpingtons seems to be a companion by her side.

A better picture of Princess Puny and her Big Sister, to show their differences in size, as well as the shape of their heads. Puny's head remains a round ball.

We enjoy all the chicks, but little Princess Puny is a special delight. She reminds me of the power of just keeping on, and then laying down when you’re tired, getting up again and pressing on, doing what you can do, being a blessing as just who and what you are.

Commitment to our unique way of life, then is our task today and every day. It is not to be undertaken for our self-improvement, nor for salvation of the world or society, but simply because we can do no other if we are to be true to the individual hypothesis of our lives. ~Helen M. Luke

Starting Monday out right…
Dear God, help me to see see clearly my talents and all the magnificent possibilities extended before me. Give me the courage to use them, day by day. So it is. Amen.