The Cheapest Way to Produce the Best Egg: Comparing how Different Supplemental Feeds Affect the Cost and Nutrient Density of Eggs from Heritage and Hybrid Pastured Hens
We are conducting a study that compares the cost effectiveness and nutrient density of formulated organic chicken feed rations versus sprouted wheat rations for supplemental feed. In addition our study is looking at both hybrid variety and heritage variety chickens to see which is most successful with sprouted wheat rations. We have four sample populations of free range chickens:
* Population A: 50 Hybrid chickens fed chicken feed (16% protein)
* Population B: 50 Hybrid chickens fed wheat
* Population C: 50 Heritage chickens fed chicken feed (16% protein)
* Population D: 50 Heritage chickens fed wheat
The wheat is sprouted the same way every time. The wheat is put into a five gallon bucket and water is added. After sitting for 24 hours, it is rinsed and put into a bucket with holes to sit and sprout for about two days. All of the chickens are free range and have access to fresh pasture, water, and any available bugs. The chickens fed wheat are given supplements of calcium and grit. Eggs are counted and collected on a daily basis and two samples throughout the experiment are sent for nutritional testing.
The testing will include: protein, fatty acid profile, vitamin A, vitamin E, vitamin D, iron, zinc, phosphorus, beta carotene and percent water. This will give us an indication on which sample group produces the egg with the best quality. The cost effectiviness of each group will be analyzed by a statistician (the Dean of the School of science and Mathematics at Truman State University or his staff). All of this information will be shared with Mother Earth News to add to their growing body of research.
The objective of this study is to see if feeding wheat to chickens can decrease the cost of feed without sacrificing production or high nutritional standards. Our study compares the cost effectiveness and nutrient density of formulated organic chicken feed rations versus sprouted wheat rations for supplemental feed. Currently the cost of a 50 lb bag of organic feed for layers is $16.50 and a 50 lb bag of wheat is $6. That is a cost savings of 150%. According to the Food for Life website, sprouting wheat increases the protein content as well as releasing vital nutrients and beneficial enzymes.
We have overcome the drought with only minor setback. Our chickens are laying decently and we have collected ample data for cost analysis. Our samples have been sent off for nutritional analysis. We have mid-season graphs showing production of each sample group.
Impacts and Contributions/Outcomes
We have had less than an inch of rain since May 5th. This lowers the quality of the pasture and lessens bugs available for chickens to eat. In addition to little rain, we have also had excessive heat this summer. We have had many extended periods of temperatures exceeding 100 degrees. The excessive heat seems to have an impact on production of all four groups of chickens. We are hoping that once the heat breaks and rain comes production will then increase back to where it was in May. Wheat fed chickens seem to have a nutritional deficiency. Population D has stopped producing all together and has begun feather picking as well as cannibalistic attacks on each other’s feet. We have experienced a couple animal attacks resulting in the death of four total chickens. In addition, one chicken is speculated to die of disease.
So far we have seen that Group A (Hybrid chickens on wheat) are producing the largest quantity of eggs followed by Group B (Hybrid chickens on wheat). Of the heritage varieties the group consuming chicken feed (group C) is producing more eggs. A statistical analysis to analyze the data looking at cost effectiveness versus production is to be done at the conclusion of the study. This will show us if the slight decrease in production is worth taking when looking at costs saved. Eggs were sent off for a nutritional analysis half way through the study. We are waiting on the results of the test to see if wheat fed chicken eggs still have standard egg quality. In addition to the nutritional test half way through the study, another sample of eggs will be sent off at the end of the study for analysis.