Kitchen Garden Guides

Friday, June 3, 2016

The Chicken Feed Dilemma

I have been recently thinking about animal feed; for chooks in particular but all farm animals, in the bigger picture. Let’s think about my situation where I have 6 chooks, for eggs. Every morning I give them 2 cups of mixed grain, Australian grown, then in the afternoon I give them more grain, this time organic, Australian feed wheat (ie complete with some chaff and unwinnowed). This make about 3 cups of grain / day and keeps me in eggs all year round, plus I have plenty to give away to son Hugh and even a friend or two, at times.

Using our agricultural land to grow food for animals is worth thinking about carefully, when there are people without enough food, land cleared means native habitat destroyed and then there are the fertilisers, machinery and fossil fuels used to grow, harvest, package and transport it all.

I am feeding grain to 6 chooks and getting eggs, so I think that is a good use for 3 cups of grain / day. However, what about when my chooks get older and are no longer laying? Is it right, on all levels, to keep feeding them? Multiply that by the number of people who have chooks just in Tasmania and we can see that tonnes of grain would be going to old chooks (never mind to old horses and donkeys and alpacas and goats and so on).

Most people stop at the edge of thinking and say “Oh I don’t kill anything and my chooks can live for as long as they like (and therefore I am humane and a nice person).” However, just think about this in relation to native animal and plant survival, CO2 production, fossil fuel usage and a myriad of other, deeper concerns.

Is it ok for you to be “kind” but at the same time be killing wildlife somewhere else, where your chook grain comes from? Is it ok to be “humane” but at the same time be adding to climate change, peak oil, mining and transport problems?

I don’t think we can continue to stop thinking at our property boundary. I think that is precisely how we got into this climate change and earth destruction dilemma in the first place; putting our personal desires before the good of the whole. It may sound harsh to some, but it is far more humane, nice and kind to put old chooks into the stock pot or even into the compost heap.


Stephen said...

It's more defensible than keeping cats/dogs - non-laying chickens at least give some value, they produce useful manure and they eat most food scraps.

Stephen said...

Oh, and I meant to say - they eat grain, not animals that eat grain, so the environmental impact is roughly 1/10th of the same weight of dog or cat.

Farmer Liz said...

I am looking for ways to grow chicken food (meal worms, comfrey etc not grain) so eventually i don't have to feed grain at all. But old chooks are really equivalent to pets.... ours get killed and butchered at 2-3 yrs old though!

Anonymous said...

Grains alone do not provide layers with enough nutrients, Please also give then some laying pellets which are more complete than grain.

Kate said...

No, I will not give them pellets. I give them access to acres and acres of orchard and cow paddocks to find their own extras. Pellets are a curse and are a serious part of why the world is in chaos with climate!!

Anonymous said...

Pellets are made up of seeds, vitamins and minerals AND grains (which you say you ALREADY feed your chooks). Pellets are a complete food whereas grain isn't a complete food. That is regardless of whether your birds have pasture access or not because unless you have had your because your pasture may be deficient of certain mineral such as copper or selenium of a few other things. Pellets are no greater a curse to the climate than the grains which you are already feeding your birds.