My family looks a lot like I had always imagined growing up. I have a husband, two kids, and a family dog. But, our family today is a little different than I had imagined twenty years ago. The difference? Our family includes a flock of feather babies! If you’ve been following my blog for a while, you know that we added chickens to our family after we moved from California to the east coast. The flock has made such a difference to us every day – from our hobbies to our diets and our lifestyle.
We love being able to spoil our chickens with a wonderful home. Their coop and run has plenty of room that allows them to spread their wings, roam on green grass and have access to fresh air. Talk about happy chickens! Chickens have also taught my family about the joy of interacting with nature, responsibilities of caring for animals and appreciation of the food they provide for us. Keeping backyard chickens has allowed me to instill values into my children that will last a lifetime. We learn lots of life lessons from them! The chickens are amazing helpers in the garden as well. They make the most wonderful compost and help control backyard pests and insects. Not to mention, watching them play and peck in the garden provides plenty of entertainment and companionship. Still, one of the biggest benefits we’ve found with raising chickens is the eggs they produce. Each day, I’m amazed that our hens can turn a few handfuls of Purina® Organic layer feed into fresh, nutritious eggs for my family, but I’m even more amazed when we eat the eggs.
Tasting a Difference
One of the reasons why I love my chickens’ fresh eggs is their proximity to me. You can’t get much more local than food sourced from your very own backyard. When we got our first eggs, I realized the difference was much more than the location. To me, fresh eggs simply taste better; they have a wonderful rich taste and texture. I am embarrassed to say that I didn’t truly know how an egg should taste until I tried one from my flock. When I first cracked open an egg from my girls, I was amazed. First, I could not believe how electric orange the yolk was. The store eggs I had enjoyed all my life paled in comparison. The vibrant yolks of our chickens’ eggs fascinated me. I also could not believe how firm the egg whites were. Unlike the ones in the store, the clear white portion of the egg did not run and the yolk did not break. The entire egg stayed together. Even when I went to use them in cooking, it took a bit of whisking to get the eggs to release and combine. Fresh hardboiled chicken eggs can also be difficult to peel. I have come to learn that that all of these characteristics mean freshness! Once our chickens started providing us with eggs and we realized the differences, We have never looked back to the grocery store aisles. I am proud and a bit shocked to share that we haven’t purchased eggs from the store in over six years.
Feeding for Quality Eggs
To be able to enjoy these delicious eggs every day, we make sure our flock eats just as healthy as we do. We are lucky to have so many feed products available that have been scientifically formulated to keep hens happy and healthy. I love that we can tailor feeding programs to meet the flock’s needs and ours. To dive deeper into how poultry nutrition impacts egg quality, I had a moment to explore the feed recipes from Purina Poultry with Dr. Patrick Biggs, a flock nutritionist for Purina Animal Nutrition.
“It’s important to feed based on life-stage,” Dr. Biggs reminded me. “Just like humans, chickens need different nutrients as they grow. It’s important to switch from a complete starter feed to a complete layer feed at 18 weeks of age.” Young chicks require a complete feed with 18 percent protein. This protein provides building blocks that support healthy growth. For my growing chicks, I choose Purina® Organic Starter-Grower. I like that the feed includes everything my growing chicks need.
“When it comes to laying hens, a complete feed is just as important. Adult laying hens need 38 different nutrients. Some of these nutrients are important for hen health while others are channeled directly into eggs,” Dr. Biggs says.
A few of the most important ingredients to look for include:
– 16% protein and 3.25% calcium for day-to-day performance
– Amino acids for feathering and egg production
– Added omega-3 for added egg nutrition
– Marigold extract for rich, yellow yolks
– Calcium, manganese and trace minerals for bone and shell strength
– Vitamins A, D and E for feathering and egg production
So how exactly does this translate into wholesome eggs? The calcium in layer feed promotes strong bones and egg shells; providing the correct amount will prevent those pesky cracked shells we all despise. Therefore, the amount of calcium in a layer feed for your ladies will need to be higher.
You should make the switch to layer feed when your girls are 18 weeks old or when the first egg arrives. Gradually introduce it over 7-10 days. Little by little, mix more layer feed into the starter-grower each day. Many hens will eat the mixed feed without noticing a difference. When hens are eating both feeds, stop feeding the starter feed and make the complete switch to all layer feed. It is important to give your birds enough time to adjust to the new diet. Most birds will adjust within a couple of weeks but some can take a month or longer to fully transition to their new diet.
If you’re anything like me, once your hens start laying, you’ll quickly notice a difference compared to store-bought eggs. It’s amazing how efficiently hens can convert the feed they eat into eggs for our family!
A huge thank you to Dr. Biggs for helping to answer our poultry questions. If you have any poultry nutrition questions, feel free to leave a comment below on this blog post. Questions will be open for one week following this post.
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This post has been sponsored by Purina Animal Nutrition, as such I received feed for my flock and will also receive feed in the future to share my opinion with my readers. However, my opinions are based on my individual and unique experience; for optimum organic flock performance, Purina Animal Nutrition suggests changing to or starting a flock on Purina® Organic poultry feed. Based on my experience in 2016, I believe this line of feed has been amazing for my flock and I encourage you to try it too!