I did a bird inventory the other day, and the verdict was: a gazillion. Man we have a lot of birds right now.
We have a dozen grown geese and this year’s crop of goslings, also a dozen.
We have a dozen Muscovy ducks.
We have around fifty Midget White turkeys
We have around two hundred Icelandic chickens.
So yeah, lots of birds.
Right now, they have lots of space to free-range, so our feeding has been minimal. The only ones who are captive are the goslings, and that’s because it’s the only way I can keep the grown geese to stay on our property. There is a pond on the other side of the busy road right in front of us, and they really, really, really want to go there. But if I keep their babies behind a fence, they won’t abandon them. I feel mean for doing it, but until I figure out some other way, they have to stay jailed.
In an effort to cut down on our feed costs, I’ve started fermenting the grains that I feed them instead of buying pelleted feed. It’s been working out really well.
I’m using five five-gallon buckets. I fill each one with crimped barley, whole oats, cracked corn, whole peanuts, millet, flax seed and sunflower seeds. I put the peanuts on the bottom because they float, and put the seeds on the top, because they will sprout. The trick is to keep the whole mess covered in water and let it all ferment. Fermented grains are so much healthier for the birds, so much more nutritious. It makes the odor from bird poop almost disappear, something I’ve really been noticing because we have so. many. birds! Our egg production has stayed high even through the extremely hot temps we’ve had this summer.
I feed one bucket, spread out amongst all the birds, every day. So each bucket soaks for five days before being used, and that seems to be a good amount of time. It smells like beer when it’s time. I give each one a top up of water and a stir twice a day, which isn’t too onerous.
They all seem to really like it. Every now and then one bucket isn’t enough, and the turkeys in particular seem hungry. We’ve tried to find some higher protein things to ferment, but we can’t find field peas, for example, or another legume, and are not really happy with using soybeans because they are all GMO. But if they still seem hungry after another half bucket, I’ll put out some soybeans and that seems to satisfy them, and I don’t have to do it more than once a week, so I guess that’s not too bad.
One of the things that we have going for us during the summer for the ducks and geese is the all night bug bar. We have about a dozen solar landscape lights spread out all over, and because they only nap during the night (unlike turkeys and chickens, who sleep hard all night) they are getting a lot of their protein needs satisfied by feasting on bugs all night. It’s very cute to see them start to line up around the lights at dusk, eager for the lights to turn on. We won’t have that in the winter, so I’m thinking about growing our own mealworms for the beasties.
Speaking of winter, I think I’ve figured out where I can continue to fermented feed all winter. I’m going to use the walk-out basement. The furnace keeps it nice and warm down there, and the water is right there as well. It’s pretty small, but I think I can get my five bucket system space to work. If five buckets aren’t enough during the winter, I might be able to double stack them and do ten. It really does seem like they eat far less feed when it’s fermented, so I don’t want to give it up in the winter just as my feed bill will really start to climb. I wanted to double the size of my flocks this year and seem well on the way, so managing the cost of feeding them is really important.