Tuesday, May 1, 2007

avoiding mass-marketed feed-based medications for chicks

Lay or Bust brand poultry feeds

When I was in Half Moon Bay Feed & Fuel yesterday, I saw a little tear-off advertising pad nailed to the wall next to all the chicks for sale. Since it was the only full-color flyer-esque thing in the otherwise drab corner of the room, I tore off a sheet and stuffed it in my pocket for later consumption. Part of what caught my eye was the logo "START 'EM RIGHT!" and a picture of two adorable little chicks.

A quick scan of the flyer showed tips on environment (keep it clean, keep it dry), space requirements (no crowding allowed), temperature (avoid the big chill) and water (whet their whistles). Good stuff for reading deeper later.

After I got home, I finally read the two-sided flyer to discover the handy chick-raising info is courtesy Purina Mills and their SunFresh Recipe livestock foods. What caught my eye was Purina Mills' suggestion that backyard egg producers (like my two chicks) be given Purina's Start & Grow® formula which is a medicated formula crafted specifically for chicks. Wow... my first brush with choosing to move away from the practices of Big Ag with my little flock.

Now, as part of my research, I'd read Barbara Kilarski's great book, Keep Chickens and one of the things she points out is that with a small flock (less than four birds), providing medicated feed isn't as important as with a larger flock where there's less room for the hens and therefore a greater chance of communicable something-or-other. I want my hens to live healthy, eat healthy and be healthy so that the eggs they produce are nice and nutritious for us as a family. Somehow adding medication to the food at the get-go feels very contrary to this approach.

So, for now, we're staying away from the medicated stuff. Hopefully for good.

My biggest worry in the next few weeks will be finding out if I hit the "you beat the 20-1 odds and got the cockerel that slipped through the sexing process" jackpot. One of our chicks seems to be getting bigger faster than the other one... and the bright patch on top of her (his?) head seems bigger than the other ones (sometimes a sign of a cockerel). We shall see...

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