Why do we need another chicken blog or forum?

Many chicken forums are moderated to sell commercial feed, chemicals and ideology.
I prefer to find my own balance between nature, welfare and cost in raising happy chickens.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

A sad story, or why wheat isn't always good for chooks...

You can see the bluish comb on my poor Malay boy. He had a bit of a cough he couldn't get rid of.

I had started out with the best of intentions: to make my own feed using as much info as I could research.
I looked up every vitamin a chook needs, and came up with a recipe including the right amounts of wheat, corn, lupins, lucerne, flax, sunflower, soy, seaweed meal and meat meal, with shell grit for the layers and dolomite for other minerals. I really did some maths... And then for months I fed my growers and adult birds a diet based on the above.

But things started to go awry. A few birds caught a respiratory disease that should have passed in a couple of weeks at most. But none of them got over it at all. In fact, over a period of 4 months, all my birds gradually grew worse and worse! My growers stopped growing. All had a gurgly rattle. The vet told me they had chronic respiratory disease caused by a germ (mycoplasma gallisepticum) combined with a 'chronic stress factor'.

So I began hunting for this 'chronic stress factor'. All the sheds and tractors were clean, and all the water containers kept scrubbed. Food, as far as I knew, was fresh (all my grains were fed as living sprouts). There were rats visiting, but not in huge numbers, and I never let feed get mouldy or lie around.

Then one day I went to shift the wheat to a new bin, and found a huge bolus of caked mould in the base of the feed bin. None of the wheat above the mound seemed in any way affected, and it all sprouted readily. But there it was: mould toxins.
I googled 'aflatoxin' and other toxins all day, and what I saw made me feel positively sick. All those months, I'd been feeding my birds a substance that was lowering their immunity! Not only that, but I post mortemed a few birds and found evidence of liver enlargement and organ pallor, other signs of long term ingesting of toxins.

It was a shame to stop feeding the sprout diet, but I've since had no similar problems in any of my birds, and unfortunately given storage issues I'm afraid I have to stick with commercial feed for the time being. But since pellets disgust me (and the birds), this is currently one of the grain layer mixes (with pellets included). So far, so good.
It's a lesson in the way the best of intentions (such as 'give them a natural diet') can go awry!

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