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Chicken Feed Help
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I really want to get backyard chickens but every feed I've looked at - both store bought and homemade recipes - ALL contain WHEAT and often barley and rye and oats....Is it possible to keep chickens while feeding them gluten free?

They will have some free range time in the yard, but they'll also need feed. I want to be able to safely feed them, clean the cages, etc and have my kids do it as well, without fear of glutening. Somebody here must have chickens and know how to do this. Please help! Thanks,

Liz

dx'd celiac 5 yrs ago

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Would wearing gloves and a mask help? Then making sure you wash up thoroughly when you're finished. Unless you have skin reactions, the only real danger is if you get particles on your lips or hands that get ingested from there. Otherwise, getting gluten on your skin shouldn't be an issue.

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I really want to get backyard chickens but every feed I've looked at - both store bought and homemade recipes - ALL contain WHEAT and often barley and rye and oats....Is it possible to keep chickens while feeding them gluten free?

They will have some free range time in the yard, but they'll also need feed. I want to be able to safely feed them, clean the cages, etc and have my kids do it as well, without fear of glutening. Somebody here must have chickens and know how to do this. Please help! Thanks,

Liz

dx'd celiac 5 yrs ago

____________________

Chickens don't need wheat, in fact, this fetish with putting wheat into livestock feed is a rather recent phenomena, so just mix your own and leave it out.

Chickens also do better on whole or cracked/rolled grains instead of mystery pellets.

If you can find a sweet grain mix of cracked corn and rolled oats with molasses, you can use that as a base, and add black oil sunflower seeds - they LOVE sunflower seeds. Or just use cracked corn, oats, and sunflower seeds. If you don't feel comfortable feeding oats, you can use a "wild bird seed mix" with no wheat in it, or go to the bulk bins in the natural foods/health type grocery stores and get some gluten free grains such as millet. Dry powdered molasses should be available in bulk if you want to try it - this is for people in a really cold climate, people in warm climates don't need to be so worried about feeding it, in fact, it tends to ferment.

Commercial feeds will bump up the protein by using soybean meal, but I think soy is way overused in animal feeds. It should be cooked (baked) before being fed to neutralize some enzyme that inhibits some other nutrients from being absorbed. I've left it out now for a long time with no problems. You can replace this with crumbled alfalfa leaves off a bale of hay, or just let them run around in the barn....

For the minerals, you can mix a gluten free basic mineral mix of dicalcium phosphate powder for calcium (available mail order from UPCO Pet Supply in St. Joseph, MO, and from some other feed dealers- ask around) and iodized trace mineralized salt. Mix the calcium and mineral salt about half and half, then add about a pound of this to each 50 lbs of chicken feed. (there are directions on the dical packages for smaller amounts, it works out to about a tablespoon per 3 lb coffee can) Or you can just give them free choice minerals in a feeder dish.

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Hi Takala,

Thank you soo much! So there is hope for getting chickens still :) I too am not interested in feeding them soy. Yuck! Plus my ds is allergic.

What does the molasses do (besides make it yummy for them)? I am in Los Angeles, and so cold would rarely be an issue, I think. Today it is 80 degrees, though a few weeks ago it was rainy and 50 in the day with temps in the high 30s/40s at night(kind of unusual really).

So if got some cracked corn, black sunflower seeds and maybe some sorghum or millet, plus some of the mineral mix, plus some free range time in the garden to eat bugs (not the majority of the day, they'd need to be supervised a bit), would this be enough? Do I add worms or something for extra protein, or are the seeds enough? Or maybe a bird seed mix? I don't have hay or a barn...

And one more question, what about baby chicks? I see the store sells different feed for them. Do you think I would be able to concoct a gluten free baby chick version as well?

Hi Stephanie,

If I can't have chickens gluten-free I'm not having them. Dust, mistakes on my part, my 3 year old daughter who will get covered in the stuff, I could go on, but it's just not worth it :)

Thanks!!

Liz

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Chick feed has an antibiotic in it to protect the babies from Coccidiosis.

I feed my chickens pellets from the feed store. Birds can carry some nasty bacteria, so your kids should be washing thoroughly after being around the chickens anyway.

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Hi Jestgar,

Is the chick feed you use gluten-free? The ones I've seen all have gluten. Do they get this only when they are very little, before they get their grown-up feathers? I agree the medication is probably important and would like to find a feed with it that is gluten-free.

Thanks!

Liz

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I've been feeding my chickens a whole grain mix for a few years now. While it did include wheat, I will be leaving it out now that I have learned what I have. Last summer I still made my usual mix, including corn, wheat, milo, millet, black oil sunflower, and oats. This winter we've just bought the bag of layer pellets, but I've had a non-gluten-free son feeding them for me. I will be taking that job back over come spring, when I get a new batch of chicks to start.

Because mine free-range all day I believe they will get plenty of protein from bugs most of the year (we're in TN) and I plan to leave out the wheat this year. I will probably use the oats for now, unless one of us develops signs that it's causing a problem.

While most commercial feeds do include antibiotics for coccidiosis, some of the online groups I'm a part of include people who feed their chicks with only grains (ground or cracked) and have had no problems. I would suggest you decide your comfort level and either buy older pullets who can already eat (safe) grain comfortably, or try the grains with the understanding that you may have to face finding a vet who can provide antibiotics or risk losing some or all of them. Especially if your land hasn't had chickens on it before, or for some time, you may not have as high a risk.

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My chicken feed is packed full of gluten. I wash religiously after doing anything with chickens, both because of the gluten, and the Campylobacter.

My birds are penned (and the raccoons and coyotes are still hungry because of it) so I buy pellets. I don't have the time to mix a balanced feed, and because they are penned I think it would take a lot more thought than someone who can let their chickens range.

I used the medicated feed mostly because this was my first venture keeping chickens I didn't want to screw up.

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Hi Boysmom,

Thanks for your response. It's interesting what you say about the medication. Ultimately, I think I'd like to find a feed that has it so I don't have to worry. But the risk would seem low from here. I guess it would also depend on where I got them from. My yard has probably never had chickens. In the 1910s it grew avocados. Before that it was probably undeveloped semi-desert. And since the house was built, I doubt there have been chickens. I live in the heart of Hollywood, CA :)

Hi Jestgar,

I could see how a gluten feed would work in your situation. I've got little kids and a small yard and I'll be doing a lot of the work myself.

Thanks, I knew I could find some info on this group!

Liz

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I feed baby chicks un medicated baby chick feed which is called by various names in different parts of the country. "Meaty Bird Grower" was one name. Read the labels. They even sell organic chick starter now, but read where it comes from, and avoid it if it's from China- who knows what is really in it. I have fed checks layer mash, in a pinch, and nobody croaked. All that they are doing is adding soybean meal to bump the protein content, in a chick feed. If you use commercial, you might not be able to avoid wheat. The chicks do fine on unmedicated feed, because the home hobbyist is not keeping baby chicks in conditions that would tend to make them more vulnerable to stress and diseases. Just clean their water dishes and bedding frequently, keep a light bulb over them with a thermometer so you can monitor their temperature and keep them comfy, and don't crowd them. I raised the last 3 in a new clean muck bucket in the garage with a homemade mesh lid over it, with a hanging shop lamp with a regular light bulb suspended and duct taped over it so it couldn't get knocked loose accidently. I lay in multiple layers of newspaper on the bottom, cut to fit, then just pick up the top layer with the soiled bedding (pine shavings) and scatter a layer of fresh bedding over it on the remaining clean papers.

I have dogs with wheat allergies who will steal any chicken feed they can find, so I won't use it.

You can get a subscription to the magazine Mother Earth News, or check out this story on chicken feeds here

http://www.motherearthnews.com/Sustainable-Farming/2008-08-01/Natural-Feed-Supplement.aspx

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I have fed checks layer mash, in a pinch, and nobody croaked. All that they are doing is adding soybean meal to bump the protein content, in a chick feed.

One point of clarification. Short-term use of a layer feed for chicks (when you run out of chick feed etc) is something you could probably get by with. However, chick feed is not different *only* because they boost the protein, it also has grit added. Chickens need some kind of grit (small stones, sand, etc) to grind the food in their crop. If a chick is raised solely on a grain or layer feed, you need to add some grit or they will literally starve to death. Birds raised on soil can often dig up enough for themselves, but chicks in a tub or brooder will need the supplement. Just be sure it's chick-sized grit and not regular, because the regular granite grit I can usually get here is too large for babies to eat. Some natural sand (not playground sand, it's been processed which smooths the edges that the chicks will need to grind their food) would do if you can't find chick grit. I've even sifted through the gravel in my driveway with a mesh strainer and sprinkled that on top of their food in a pinch. ;)

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Thank you so much! There is all so much to learn, and trying to do it gluten-free as well has only made it harder. But I think I may be able to do it, it will just take some good planning. Ideally I would like the baby chicks to be gluten-free as well, so I don't have to worry about my daughter handling them. I imagine that chicks are pretty messy eaters and that their fluff gets a nice coating of their food, but if they are in little cages I'm not so worried about the feed, and I could decontaminate my 3 yr old dd afterwards (I *think*). But gluten-free would sure take a lot of extra worry and work off of me!

We also have a cat and dog. The cat eats gluten, but she's tidy and eats on top of the washing machine. My dd is not allowed to touch her food or feed her. My dog eats gluten free, and she LOVES to feed him.

I've just connected with a local chicken group, so I'm hoping I can get some more insight on baby chick meds and care.

Liz :)

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