A visit to the animal feed store recently brought home just how much feed prices have been creeping up. With a 20kg around £1 more than this time last year, that’s quite a hike. I’ve also recently had more emails from people asking about making their own poultry feed. We’ve a detailed article over on the Poultry Pages on Feeding Chickens an Alternative to Commercial Feeds which is worth looking at if you are thinking about mixing your own.
If you are buying chicken feed there are ways to save. A good storage bin will mean even those with small flocks can buy a larger sack. Often there is only a £1 or £2 difference between a 5kg and 20kg sack of layers pellets. As long as you have a dry storage bin this will work out the best value – even if you do end up losing a little of the pellets towards the end of the bucket.
Something that may interest those who also have pet cats and litter trays is how well layer pellets work as cat litter. I used to foster for Cat’s Protection and we used wood based pellet litter for them. I ran out and the only thing to hand was my sack of layers pellets so I gave it a go until I could get to the shops. It worked just as well, and actually was cheaper per kg than the wooden litter. In the end I just swapped to using it for all the litter trays as did a few of the other volunteers – and no need to worry the cats didn’t try to eat it!
We’ve covered in a number of articles the best breeds for egg laying, but ultimately with egg laying you need to decide whether you want a flock that lays for more years, or who lay more eggs in a year. If you want a large number of eggs each year you will do better with hybrids such as Warrens. If you’re happy for less eggs per week, but more over the years then pure breeds are the way forward.
My personal preference has always been to have a mixed flock. Three hybrids and three pure breeds is perfect for the average household. It will give a more consistent number of eggs through the year, and a mixed flock is also nice to get a selection of egg colours as well as different personalities in the flock. I’d also suggest starting small, so 3 hens your first year of hen keeping, adding each Spring until you are at capacity. Hens lay more eggs in their first 12-18 months of egg laying, after that it slows down (more so with hybrids than pure breeds) and if like us you let the hens live into old age even if not laying you’ll need to add in younger hens to make sure you have fresh eggs in the morning.