chicken notes

These notes are maintained by Ben Discoe (Egg Farm / Blog)

Jump to any subject: Chicken Feed, Grains, Corn, Wheat, Oats, Sorghum, Amaranth, Grass, Foraging, Legumes, Chayote, Worms, Larvae, Root Vegetables, Papaya, Other Fruits, Azolla, Comfrey, Coconut, Other Possible Foods, Feed Mill, Organic Regulations, History, Logistics and Budgets, Further Research, Source of Chicks, Egg output, Egg/Meat Operations on the Island / In the State

General Chicken Resources

Hawaii Chicken Resources

How to feed chickens in Hawai‘i?

Chicken Feed

Food facts, the cost of normal chicken feed, conventionally and organically grown.
As of Summer 2008:

Examples of (mainland) organic feed vendors: Countryside Natural Products, Good Earth Farm, Grange Co-op, and a list of Certified Organic Feed Producers.  The major national feed producer Land-O-Lakes (owned by Purina) has come out with an organic line called Organic Pride, but so far it is only available in northern California and the Pacific Northwest.  Purina's chicken site doesn't even mention it.

Clearly, most shipping costs make it crazy to ship individual bags of organic feed from the mainland.  The only way it becomes economically viable is with a whole shipping container at once, which is one or more tons of feed.  This isn't practical until there are a lot of people - or a very large farm - buying organic feed on this island on a regular basis.  A critical mass of buyers has to be reached for economic feasibility.  Even then, although this feed has the environmental benefit of being organically grown, it has the environmental cost of being transported thousands of miles in fossil fuel-burning vehicles.  In this case, it's highly likely that local is more environmentally sound than imported organic... if local is available.

Newer:

Island-Grown Feed: Grains, Grass, Forage, Legumes, Worms, etc.

How can chickens be fed in Hawai'i without importing feed from the mainland?  There are a handful of possibilities, and they all require a lot more research.  Normal chicken feed is chiefly grains - corn, wheat, oats, etc..  However, there are almost no grains grown in Hawai'i, for a number of reasons which likely include climate, soil, and economics including land prices and labor costs.  Nearly all the online resources for chicken feed (e.g. Chicken Feed Recipes) assume that grains, especially feed corn, are easily and cheaply available, which isn't at all true in Hawai'i.

A USDA project in 2003 concluded: "The production of economical high quality animal feeds like corn and alfalfa in Hawaii has proven to be very difficult.  Although Hawaii can produce more tons of raw grasses per acre than anywhere else in the United States, the digestibility of these grasses is very poor."  However, they're speaking of livestock like cattle, not chickens.

Grains

Corn

Wheat

Oats

Sorghum

Amaranth

Grass

Foraging

Legumes

Legume Trees / Kiawe

Chayote

Worms

LarvaeBioGrubs

Root Vegetable Starches - Potato, Sweet Potato, Taro, etc.

Breadfruit

Papaya, Other Fruits and Vegetables

Azolla

Azolla (aquatic fern)

Comfrey

Coconut

Bananas

Restaurant Wastes

Byproducts of MacNut Industry, Oil Crop Industry

Other Possible Foods

Crop Seeds

SOS Farm (Kauai)

Azure

Korean Natural Farming

Hilo Feed Mill Research

Egg Operations on the Island / In the State

Organic Regulations

Historical

Logistics and Budgets

Contacts

ECHO papers

Further Research, Open Issues

Source of Chicks

Egg output

Our flock, 2006-2008

Our flock was fed as optimally as we could, using free choice organic feed.  It began with 50 chicks hatched Feb. 14 2006.  There were 45 hens when they began laying July 1, reaching full output by August 1.  The following graph shows egg output per day over the next two years, and also day length.

Chart

You can see that egg output did not dip much in their first winter, despite the short daylight hours.  However, by their second winter, the birds were older and many were going into their first molt.  That was the point of lowest output.  The following spring, output revived a little then dipped again in summer, with another set of birds going into molt.
The green line shows where, in retrospect, we should have culled the entire flock and replaced it with fresh young birds.  That was the point at which output dropped below an average of 2 dozen eggs/day, never to recover.  They were around 18 months old at that point.  Basically, that means starting a new batch of chicks once a year, every year, with a 5-month overlap where the chicks are growing up to laying size before replacing the older birds.