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My chickens are primarily egg layers, we don't really eat them. I have bought the layer pellets/crumbles but they don't seem to care for them at all and as I want to get around to growing my own food for them eventually, I'd like to get away from them. They prefer the scratch grains that I give them which is good because I can easily recreate that mixture (I think it's just corn, wheat, and oats) but bad because I know it's not a complete diet for layers.

I know they need calcium in addition to their feed, right now they have oyster shell and in the future I may play with ground up eggshells (once they start laying as they're young now).

They are allowed to forage on a daily basis and will continue to be able to as long as there's not snow on the ground - I may not let them out as much then, especially if the snow's deep.

So what else do I need to add? It'd be a bonus if it's something I can grow myself, double bonus if it's something that can be kept over the winter :)

I AM planning on growing greens indoors when it gets cold (we have a guest house that is very sunny, humid, and warm - so it's a good greenhouse) and of course they get plenty of greens, bugs, etc when they forage but again, I need to consider winter as well.
 

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They don't need, and shouldn't eat, calcium until they are laying.
How old are they, what did you feed them as chicks?

When they are growing they need at least 18-20% protein.
Get some grower or flock raiser feed, look at the label for protein content, take away the scratch(maybe a tiny bit of scratch late in the day after they start eating the other) and they will eat the other so they get the protein, minerals and vitamins they need to develop properly.
 

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They are about 4-5 months old at this point.

When they were growing, they got chick starter feed. Then I transitioned them to the crumbles and the scratch.

I don't sneak them calcium or anything it is just available in a little feeder in their pen (which is largely untouched, likely because they're not laying). I didn't think it needed to be in there but was told that all h*ll would break loose if they weren't getting their calcium.

Right now I've been giving them the pellets/crumbles (that are marked as layer pellets but say they are "complete" for everyone) in their feeder and a handful of scratch every morning. Like I said, they go out almost every day and forage for most of their food, so it's understandable that they don't really eat out of their feeder.

However, on really rainy days they aren't let out and they still won't touch their food (or will just lightly pick at it). I've tried holding back the scratch on those days and the same thing happens. When I toss them the scratch grains, though, it's a race to get to it first.

I know of a lot of people that do mix their own feeds and give it to their birds, I'm just asking what is *missing* (other than calcium) from scratch grains that I need to give them as well. I'm betting it's protein - would that be correct?

I have a large bag of layer pellets that I need to get through right now, but if possible I'd like to get away from the overly processed pellets/crumbles. I know it can/has been done, I just need advice on how to do it.
 

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We feed whole oats, soaked today for tomorrow. We add any milk products right before feeding. We always have a goat milking. We make all our dairy products. In the winter I heat it on the wood cook stove in the morning. We feed scratch grains in the afternoon, around 3:00 when we gather the eggs. We also feed garden waste and overage, clover hay and oyster shell. They also get all the dried crumbled egg shells they want along with a supply of grit. We usually only keep 3 hens during the winter but since DS is here we were keeping 5 this winter. Although 3 of the 8 right now, are setting to hatch. We could have 24 little ones. The neighbors take them at 6 weeks to raise we get 1/3 back, either pullets or to butcher in the spring....James
 

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I think you are right its mostly protein. But its that other little bit that's very important!
There is a book " Feeds and Feeding" that is Available in lots of library's and collage bookstores. It can teach you far more than you ever dreamed you wanted to know!

Feed stores around here used to sell a supplement that you added to corn to make a complete feed. If I remember right it was something like 50 pounds of supplement was added to 800 pounds of corn.
You might also be able to add a mineral Pack to Corn and soybean meal.
 
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