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By Katie Thear
For the first few weeks, a starter ration of chick crumbs can be given. Chick crumbs are available with a coccidiostat to provide protection against coccidiosis, but they are also available without this, if preferred.
Organic standards do allow the use of Amprolium, if a problem should occur, but not as a preventive measure. In fact, all in-feed medications are disallowed in the organic standards.
When one remembers that intensive rations include low levels of antibiotics to protect against infections and to speed growth, it is advisable to avoid them at all costs.
On a small scale, where ground is made available on a regular basis and where damp areas are dealt with immediately, there is unlikely to be a coccidiosis or other health problem. Where litter such as wood shavings or chopped straw is used as flooring, it should be raked through regularly to introduce air and allow for rapid drying.
As the young birds grow, they will be given a grower’s ration. Organic versions of these are available as feed pellets from specialist suppliers and are obviously preferable where chickens are being raised for the table.
If maize is fed to them, the skin colour acquires even more of a golden hue – a fact that is reflected in the term ‘corn-fed chickens’. (Corn is the American term for maize. We often use the word corn where we mean wheat. Confusing isn’t it?)
One French poultry farm that I visited some time ago fed their woodland chickens exclusively on maize grown on the farm, once they were off the starter ration. The maize was kibbled into smaller pieces and then placed in hoppers around the site. These were designed so that the chickens could access them, but not wild birds or rodents.
Wheat is also popular as a grain feed. Poultry grit should be made available so that the grains can be broken down effectively in the gizzard.
Fresh, clean water at all times is obviously necessary. Depending on the size of the enterprise, this will be supplied automatically or the drinkers will be filled manually.
If, despite outdoor exercise, the chickens appear to be growing too quickly, their diet can be adapted to include a higher proportion of grain to proprietary feed pellets. A half and half ration, for example, will reduce the protein level to around 14% so that growth slows down.
Copyright © Katie Thear 2005