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Chickens will consume 30% of their calories from grass, if allowed to truly "free range." Since grass is very low in calories, that's a WHOLE LOT of grass! Another thing chickens need is animal protein. Chickens are omnivores, just like the humans they've kept company with for all these millennia.
The new "all vegetarian" chicken is a convenience to the mass-producer, who thus doesn't have to worry about the potential of latent animal diseases in animal sources of poultry feed; and animal protein is very much more expensive for the farmer.
But, strictly vegetarian-fed chickens are potentially undernourished. An all-vegetarian diet is not natural for them ~ they need animal protein. The ideal is for a chicken to be free to roam grasslands and other natural habitats that are not denuded. There, they consume myriad bugs and wild plants, along with their choice of plantlife. If supplemented with a goodly assortment of grains, and especially with fish meal, such chickens will be the healthiest around, and live and lay eggs for many, many years. In England, where fish meal is the major source of protein in poultry feed, country farmers may have a couple thousand chickens roaming on rich grasslands; their chickens can lay for 12 (yes 12!) years, or more.
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Chickens that are free to consume as much living grass as they want, along with the myriad other living things in a natural grassland or meadow, give significant health benefits to the consumer today, just as this poultry diet has done for the thousands of years of domestication of the chicken. Meat and eggs from grass-fed poultry, which is very low in fat, have high levels of Omega-3 fatty acids. Eggs from "pastured" (another form of "grass-fed") poultry, high in omega-3 fatty acids, will lower one's "bad cholesterol" and raise the "good cholesterol." More and more consensus is emerging that grass-fed or pastured poultry eggs are good for the heart, and that not only should they not be avoided, they should be specifically included in the diet.
There are two main kinds of fatty acids, Omega-3 and Omega-6. We need approximately equal amounts of the O-3's and the O-6's in our bodies. But, because of not allowing our feed animals to eat grass (even cows don't eat much grass any more ~ they eat largely corn), we are getting huge proportions of Omega-6 fatty acids, and very little Omega-3.
When we are oversupplied with Omega-6, our "bad cholesterol" rises, and our "good cholesterol" stays low. When we get equal amounts of Omega-3's and -6's, the good cholesterol rises and the bad cholesterol drops. But our diets have been so high in Omega-6 for so long, we really need to focus almost exclusively on eating Omega-3-rich foods to balance the levels out.
Strange to think that eating beef and drinking whole milk is the healthiest thing to do! That is, of course, 100% grass-fed beef and milk. See the Eat Wild website for full clarification on eating Omega-3-rich foods. I myself have reduced my overall cholesterol 40 points, as well as bringing down the bad cholesterol while raising the good cholesterol over the past 2 years (2006-2008), by switching to grass-fed and naturally-raised chicken, beef, and lamb, and adding much fish to my diet. I have eaten 2 dark-yolk eggs a day during this time. Trader Joe's, if you have one near you, offers 100% grass-fed milk (Trader Joe's Cream Top) and butter (Irish KerryGold) and cheeses. If you phone their main number, they can tell you if a product is 100% grass-fed. As for grass-fed poultry and eggs, you really need to go to Farms That Sell Eggs, or find a grocer who has connections with health-minded poultry-farmers.
Also effective heart-health builders are all forms of wild (not farmed) seafood. Why not farmed? Because farmed fish are fed corn, which is, for the first time in the history of the world, putting Omega-6 fatty acids into the ocean's food chains, where they've never been before. Pretty soon, farmed fish might be causing heart disease, just as corn-fed beef has done all these decades of our "advanced" farming methods. TV shows scientists' efforts at creating ideal diets for farmed fish, and I greatly hope that they will re-consider the use of Omega-6 feeds in farmed fish!
Omega-3's come from the green parts of plants, while Omega-6's come from the seeds of plants. The entire food chain of the ocean is based on one-celled, green plankton, which is the "grass" of the sea. Plankton has no seeds, so all wild seafood has only Omega-3 fats. The oilier the fish, the more Omega-3 it has. There have never been any Omega-6 fats in ocean fish, until we started adding corn to the farmed fish diet. We have always known that people who raise cattle in the traditional manner, 100% grass-fed, have great heart health, and have the cleanest of arteries. Cattle concentrate the Omega-3's of the grass. The amount of Omega-3 in green plants is very small; the cattle and other ruminants, which eat huge quantities of grass, concentrate the Omega-3 in their systems, imparting it to us when we consume the meat and milk.
Poultry, however, needs some grain in the diet. It is very difficult to raise 100% grass-fed poultry. Tests show that even greatly-reduced-grain ration in poultry diets, supplemented with very large free-range grass consumption, still produces meat that is relatively high in Omega-6's compared to the meat and milk of grass-fed ruminants. These carefully-structured dietary tests, conducted by our members in Malaysia, showed that adding seafood to the chickens' diet is what raised the Omega-3 levels by the greatest amounts.
Click to read more on Omega-3's at Chicken-Feed
Click to read more on Omega-3's at Eatwild.com
Jo Robinson, author of the EatWild website, and the fabulous book,
Why Grass-Fed Is Best!, describes one study where 23 people ate 2 more eggs than they usually did every day. The study only lasted 18 days. One group ate eggs enriched with Omega-3's; the other ate regular commercial eggs. Among those who added the Omega-3 eggs to their diet, their good cholesterol went up, their bad cholesterol went down, and their total cholesterol count did not change. Not so for those who ate the ordinary commerical eggs; their cholesterol levels went up. What we haven't known until the last few years is that eggs, from properly-fed chickens, lowers the bad cholesterol and raises the good.
Please, you owe it to yourself and your loved ones to find out about grass-fed poultry and Omega-3-rich eggs. We will put as much information up as we can possibly fit onto our Pastured Poultry Page --- please visit often. Above all, get a copy of
Why Grass-Fed Is Best!
The basics of what chickens need to eat, and how you can easily give it to them
Blend some or all of your own chicken feed, whether you're a beginner hobbyist, or commercial grower. Recipes supplied to ChickenFeed by America's leading, health-oriented, poultry nutritionists.
Protein is discussed. How to prepare soybeans is described. A simple, well-known "calculator" for blending feed for correct protein amounts is given, along with a table of the protein content of several feeds.
Detailed instructions on feeding poultry, excerpted from a 1979 book, The Family Poultry Flock (Edited by Lee Schwanz, Farmer's Digest, Inc.) These are standardized instructions in the commercial format, useful for getting started.
Feeding Baby Chicks
Want to start from Day One, to raise the healthiest possible chicks? Here are chick-feed formulas from the farm kitchens of 1912.
This is an informational website only. But our Feed Producers may well be able to supply your needs. Please go to the Feed Producers page if you are looking to buy or sell Chicken Feed products. Alternatively, you may ask hundreds of professional chicken farmers anything under the sun if you join a chicken-oriented group in YahooGroups. The PasturePoultry and the ChickenFeed groups are especially helpful for feed information (note: copy these names exactly when searching at YahooGroups :-)
Feed Producers is a list (continually updated here at ChickenFeed) of producers of natural, "biological" and/or organic chicken feeds and feed supplements
The cream of the crop, in ChickenFeed's opinion. People who come through on questions about nutrition of poultry, sources of farm and poultry products, services and information, practical advice, and anything we haven't thought of yet!
Move the flock across their food ~~~ open grassland ~~~ instead of bringing the food to them. Creates amazing health and quality, besides creating extremely fertile acreage wherever the "chicken tractor" is moved.
Farms Selling Eggs
Farms around the country that sell REAL eggs, and other nutritous things. See pictures, phone them with questions, and best of all, if you find some in your State, visit and buy.
Worms for Feed
Mix your garbage and leaves to make pounds of top-quality protein, as fresh as it gets, too. Farmers everywhere are saying,
"Why didn't we start this long ago?"
List of what's in commercial feeds, according to the label
We all have a choice between getting by with mediocre health, or creating optimum health. This section is for those pursuing the optimum for themselves, their families and their farms.
Research about poultry, from the US Department of Agriculture. Easy to search; tons of info
Everything about chicken feed and feeding chickens found in print: websites, newsgroups, hard-copy articles, even emails.
Some well-written email posts to discussion groups on the topic of chickens and their feed
Join ChickenFeed at Yahoo!Groups
Yahoo!Groups is unique in the world of discussion groups. Unlike Newsgroups, where everything you post is searchable by Google, groups in Yahoo! are private, with only the members able to read the posts. Send an email to your group, and it is instantly sent to all members of that group. Boot up your computer, and there are some emails from other people around the world who are discussing the feeding of chickens. Answer if you like, or just read the discussion. Totally free ~~ no charge.
Click here for detailed instructions on how to join.
Click here to go straight to Yahoo!Groups.
National Agricultural Library
Search the entire United States National Agricultural Library at this site. Incredibly informative.
Virginia Co-op Extension
One of the most active and informative university sites covering the nutrition of chickens.
American Health & Nutrition
"Your Worldwide Resource Center for Certified Organic Commodities!"
California Certified Organic Farmers
Complete list of organic farmers in California, with their products, locations, and email info on many.
Organic Trade Association
The "horse's mouth" on organic regulations and issues.
Pages of links to sites of general poultry interest.
USDA Foods Composition
Search for any food, and receive a complete analysis of its protein and all other known ingredients.
Murray McMurray Hatchery
Murray McMurray Hatchery is the oldest and largest rare breed poultry hatchery in the United States. You are just a click away from the wonderful world of exotic poultry and their many other fine products.
Other online newspapers make the whole world look urban.
This one shows that it isn't. THE online news for people who farm.
National Oceanographic and Aeronautic Administration (NOAA) brings the clearest satellite photos and most accurate weather reports. Searchable by city or zip code.
Simple how-to's on things that take months or even years to figure out alone.
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Organic Chicken Feed at
Why Grass-Fed Is Best! from Eatwild.com
Organic Pastures 100% Grass-Fed Dairy
Radio Interview on Pastured Dairying
Canadian Pastured Cow Movement
5:53 AM 8/23/2008
Restaurant Grease in Feeds?
Stylo Leaf Meal, China, Africa, and India
Types of Feed
Broiler: feed blend for chickens that are growing as fast as possible, in order to be harvested for meat as early as possible
Crumbles: pellets broken up into smaller pieces
Grower: approximately the same as "Starter"
Layer: feed blend for chickens that are laying eggs, having extra calcium and protein added
Mash: a blend of several feed ingredients, ground to a small size but not to a powder
Pellets: small kernels of compressed mash, causing birds to eat the whole blend, not pick and choose
Scratch: whole grains fed separately to chickens, usually scattered on the ground or litter of the coop; usually a mixture of grains, such as wheat, rye, oats, etc. (corn/maize must be cracked before using as scratch grain)
Starter: a blend of feed for chicks and growing birds, usually in the form of mash; approximately the same as "Grower"; can be replaced with "adult" food as soon as chicks go for it, somewhere between 4 and 8 weeks of age
Amino acid: a molecule that is one building block of protein; there are many different amino acids, most of which can be manufactured in the body; the few that cannot must be supplied by foods, and are called "Essential Amino Acids"; a food that supplies all 8 essential amino acids is called "complete"
Bran: the outer coating of a kernel of grain; extremely high in silicon, which slows down its decomposing in the soil; cheap by-product of milling, often given away free by large mills
Calcium: provided by sea shells, crushed bone, and fresh or dried greens --- amounts need to be measured closely, if not free range; must be provided in higher quantities as soon as chickens begin to lay eggs
Concentrate: a blend of protein-rich foods, plus any other nutrients desired; usually fed together with a grain ration
Corn: American term meaning maize corn, or "corn on the cob" (in England "corn" means what grain means in the US, that is, all food grains)
Element: a substance made up on just one kind of atom; there are 100 or so kinds of atoms in the universe; each kind of atom has its own unique characteristics; usually, these atoms are not stable by themselves, and must combine with each other, or with other types of atoms, to form stable molecules (see "Trace elements")
Germ: the embryo plant inside a kernel of grain; very nutritious and high in protein; wheat and rice germ (also called "rice polish") are a saleable by-product of milling
Grain: American term meaning any small, hard seeds, especially grass-family seeds (called corn in England); provides energy, B vitamins, phosphorus, and the whole grains are a fair source of protein, too
Grit: angular, hard crushed rock, preferably from granite, used by the chickens in place of "teeth" --- seashells and bone CANNOT substitute for grit; for confinded birds, grit should be offered several times a month at least; it should be of the right size for the age of the bird (see Baby Chicks page); birds allowed to free range don't need to be offered grit -- they find their own ideal sizes and types to suit themselves
Kelp: sea-weed, plants that grow in the sea; contains all the minerals of the earth; all kelp is edible, and can easily be dried and fed to chickens by clipping a sheaf of it to something in their area (also, this replaces any need to add salt to their rations)
Middlings: an old milling term for the parts of the kernel that are milled off with the germ, and probably contain both the starch and bran (please email me if you have more specific information :-)
Minerals: non-life-created chemicals, in molecular form, found in nature; actually, "minerals" is a broad category of compounds usually thought of as originating in the earth --- the term "elements" or "trace elements" is more exact; minerals and vitamins can be added to dietary regimens to improve health; sea water contains all the minerals of the earth, in their natural forms and safe amounts; "trace minerals" are those needed in relatively very tiny amounts, and can be highly toxic if these amounts are exceeded; "macro-minerals" are those needed in large amounts, such as calcium, phosphorous, and magnesium
Protein: any food high in amino acids, used to build tissues; protein quality is determined by the "completeness" of the amino acid varieties in the food source; all meats, eggs of all kinds, milk, cheese, nuts, seed germs, and soy beans are high protein sources
Trace elements: the rare kinds of elements that the body may need in infinitesimally small amounts to do very specialized things that science may not have discovered yet; sea water, and kelp, contain all the elements on Earth, and thus is a good source of trace elements (see "Elements")
Vitamin: an old, general term meaning "life-giving"; a chemical found in nature or made by man to imitate natural ones; new vitamins, and new uses for known vitamins, are always being discovered
Methods of Raising Poultry
Cage-free: This just means the chickens are not in cages; they may be in barns that they never leave (even though there might be a little door at one end; chickens don't go out of their field of vision for food, or even for water); or they may be in large open fenced bare-dirt yards that the chickens have stripped long ago of all vegetation
Fenceless free-range: No barriers, physical or functional, separate the chickens' living and nesting quarters from access to real pasture AND the chickens actually go out on this pasture to feed as much as they desire
Free-range: The public thinks, or hopes, that this means chickens which are out in the grassland around a real farm; actually, it's a rather meaningless term, since it is often abused by unscrupulous poultry operations that "convert" to "free range" by putting a tiny door in huge commercial poultry barns, then claiming that the chickens have "access" to the out of doors. To legally qualify to use the term, chickens need only have a small patch of dirt to be on instead of a cage; the term legally does not require any "range" diet at all. In actual practice, since the public believes in this term, really good grass-ranged poultry is sometimes labelled "Free Range" simply because the retailer chooses this term over the cumbersome "pastured poultry" term. We propose that the term "Grass-Ranged" be adopted to indicate limitless and close access to real, living grassland resulting in actual free-choice consumption of grasses and associated plants and animals.
Grass-ranged: able to roam around to choose and eat fresh greens, primarily grass but including all the vast variety of natural pastureland plants and insects without limitation; two grass-range methods of poultry raising are "pastured poultry", and "fenceless free range"
Organic: organic food sources must not contain traces of harmful chemicals; the term does not insure that poultry has been raised in the best possible way, with unlimited supply of living grass, but only that the poultry has near zero harmful artificial chemicals
Pastured poultry: poultry kept in movable, floorless pens, moved daily over fresh range pasture; the pens, called "chicken tractors", also contain waterers and grain-feeders; unlike ruminants, chickens need a certain amount of grain along with their grass; if allowed free access to grass, chickens will consume up to 30% of their calories in grass and green plants; pasturing creates the very healthiest chicken meat and eggs (and creates very fertile pastureland, too)
Range: "An open region over which livestock may roam and feed" --- land having enough living, growing grasses, plus a complement of legumes and other plants and perhaps insects and small animals to support livestock of various kinds, including poultry
Types of Chickens
Bantam: a miniaturized chicken of any breed; most breeds have a regular-size and a bantam variety
Banty: same as Bantam
Cockerels: male baby chicks; male young domestic fowl
Hens: female chickens in their second year of lay, or after their first moult
Layers: chickens raised to be egg-layers
Layer-Broiler: chickens raised to be both egg-layer and to be eaten
Meat birds: old term for broilers
Pullets: female chickens in their first year of lay, or prior to their first moult; female baby chicks
Rooster: adult male chicken, or adult male of other domestic or non-domestic fowl
Straight Run: a random mixture of male and female baby chicks, usually less expensive than only pullets
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