Canadian Poultry Magazine

Features 100th anniversary Research
Does Biddy Know More About Feeding Than We Do?

August 1929

October 3, 2012
By G. S. Vickers


Several months ago I wrote of the very high egg yields that have been obtained at the experiment station in Washington State on grain rations of corn, oats and wheat in different combinations with nothing to drink but milk.

No mash was fed. The grains were balanced by the milk. From the number of inquiries received I know the readers are much interested in this subject of simple rations.

And now the Massachusetts Agricultural College has reported experiments which, if further substantiated, will save farmers and poultrymen a lot of time, labor and worry.

The Massachusetts results jar loose another of the fine little theories we have all had roosting on the back porch of our brains for as long as anyone can remember anything about chicken: to wit, that we had to feed our scratch feeds in the litter because if we left it available at all times the birds would overeat, become too fat, quit laying and die of fatty heart.

The experimenters fed a mash of corn meal, wheat bran, middlings, oat products, meat scraps, fish meal, alfalfa meal, bone meal and red milk and kept salt available in hoppers at all times. They fed corn and oats whole in hoppers also, and not in the litters.

The flock so fed gave the highest average egg production of any flock kept on the college farm up to that time. The average egg production was 205 eggs per bird.

The highest winter egg production ever obtained from the experimental flocks was during these same experiments with both grain and mash hopper-fed.

The birds ate more grain than mash, the percentages varying with the season. The smallest percentage of grain was consumed in the fall and winter, the largest during the spring and summer. As would naturally be expected, they ate more corn than oats.

Further experiments must be tried before this almost revolutionary practice of hopper feeding all grain from the hopper can be generally accepted as the right thing to do. But these experiments certainly do open up that possibility.

Think of the labor-saving in not having to go to the poultry house at least twice daily at stated times to litter-feed the grain. Think of not having to leave some very interesting or valuable meeting to rush home to feed grain at a certain hour in the evening – just fill up the hoppers before you leave and nothing to worry about; no worry as to whether you are feeding just the right amount of grain to keep the egg production up and the body flesh right.

It seems as if in our methods of feeding at least we are coming more and more to rely on the judgement of the chickens and less on ourselves. And since it is the chickens’ appetites and stomachs and not ours that have to be satisfied, maybe it isn’t so far wrong after all.

It is a hard blow to our vanity, though, after all these years, to find out that the chicken (the one that doesn’t know enough to stay on its own side of the road when the cars go by) may know more about feeding than we do. But then this same ignorant chicken apparently knew she should be in the sunshine to maintain her health long before we did. And before it is all settled she may teach us many more lessons.

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