We're at the 9 week mark with the meat hybrids. All are doing well despite heavy rain and mushy ground, and have been off coccidiostats for over a week. (Even then they were on very minor amounts, with about one part commercial grower to nine parts home made.)
There are a couple of birds noticeably smaller than the others, but none are unwell or failing to thrive. These may have been slightly damaged by the cocci bout earlier. However now that they're off medications and not developing symptoms I can pretty much feed them what I please, which means I can start 'fattening'. (The hen chicks of course will be fed an ordinary ration as I want them to breed.)
At the moment I'm giving a morning feed of the sprout diet as I've mentioned before: wheat, corn and peas (sprouted), sweet lupins, lucerne (alfalfa) soaked in molasses water, yeast, seaweed meal, salt. Greens come from the ground under the tractor. This feed tends to last them most of the day.
During the day, I leave a big round tub in the house and slowly fill it with the following:
- table scraps — high protein, no raw peels or fibrous waste; just anything nutritious.
- half a bag of steamed rolled oats — $1.13 for the 900g bag, but this is spread over two days between 40-odd chickens (including the layers). If I have plenty of home made fritter/bread/pancake scraps I'll cut down on the oats.
- soured or leftover milks including kefir made from reconstituted skim milk (though powdered milk doesn't work very well with kefir... But I can usually get it to go some of the way).
- carrot-ends, bean tips, swede ends, potato peels cooked up in a pot — these are only a minor element of the mix, as they're low in protein. Potato skin, however, is fairly high in methionine.
- lupins that have been boiled in a big pot — about twice as much by dry weight as the oats.
- About the same quantity of soaked or sprouted wheat as the oats, to supply amino acids for protein building alongside the lupins.
Does it sound difficult? It is if I set out to 'do this' as a chore. However I find that putting a pot of lupins on to boil takes almost no time at all if I'm already in the kitchen. I leave it on a low heat, lid on, for about an hour and stir if I feel like it. Everything else is just a bit here, a bit there — mostly it's done while I'm cooking anyhow. I cook enough lupins for 2-3 days and store remainders in the fridge so for the next few days it's just a matter of taking some out. Fortunately we have absolutely huge storage bowls.
Or I might do it this way:
- pet quality mince, thoroughly rinsed in hot water, then drained in a sieve. About 300g for the whole flock seems to keep the layers in lay and the meat birds growing. It costs about $4 a kg, which I suppose is fairly expensive, but as I say it does 40-odd birds.
- a full bag of steamed rolled oats.
- kefir or whey or skim milk, lightly soured.
In older days, this is what they did to fatten birds:
- put each cockerel in its own small elevated cage inside a shed, with an opening for its head to fit through. Below the opening is the feed trough. These were called 'cramming cages'.
- mix up half steamed rolled oats and half skim milk into a slurry.
- feed the birds this mixture for 10 days without supplying extra water, and then process the birds.
However in older days, skim milk just as likely came from the farm down the road, i.e. fresh. Modern skim milk powder seems very hard to grow souring organisms in... Though I'll keep trying as it would be a neat way to turn a fairly so-so product into something healthy and non-digestion-upsetting.
So there you have it: my current fattening regimen. Hopefully it won't 'fatten' literally... But if you want muscle you have to supply protein. And given commercial feed's artificial methionine content (see earlier) doing it this way isn't a bad option.