FEEDING

A major advantage of keeping hens free range is that they have plenty of room to scratch about looking for food, including insects, seeds and young, green shoots. These will all contribute towards a healthy diet, but to ensure that every hen receives the correct nutrition they need for optimal health and egg production, a complete feed (pellets or meal) should be used.

When choosing a feed for your birds, remember that not all feeds are the same. If you are eating the birds or their eggs yourselves, or giving them to friends and family, it is worth double checking on the quality of the ingredients.

Smallholder Range Feeds only include non-GM non-solvent extracted soya, rather than any of the cheaper alternatives such as High Protein (Hipro)

Soya or Brazilian soya. Hipro soya is often included in cheap layers feeds and is likely to have been processed to extract the soya oil from it using hexand- a potentially carcinogenic distilled petrol product. When used, residues of hexand are left in the oil, causing a bitter smell and because the oil is heated more than once during the process, quality is much diminished.

The type of oil included in a layers feed can also make a huge difference to the quality of the egg and health of your birds. Smallholder Range Feeds only use a non-GM, virgin pressed soya oil-again not extracted using the solvent hexane. This is preferable to the blended vegetable oils or mixed fats used as a cheaper alternative. Linseed is also used in Smallholder Layer Feeds, and this combination of Omega 6 and Omega 3 oils can help not only ensure a healthier bird, but also produce a better egg. The same oils are used by producers of ‘healthier eggs', which have been shown to lower cholesterol in humans.

Binders in the form of by-products from the wood, paper and hardboard manufacturing industry are often used to make a more durable pellet. Smallholder range Feeds do not believe in such practices, or in the use of artificial yolk colourants. Instead, grass, non-GM maize and real ground marigold give a rich yellow yolk as opposed to cheaper ‘nature identical' products or solvent extracted marigold.

Birds of all ages should have access to clean, fresh water and appropriate poultry grit. Grit aids digestion by acting as tiny millstones, breaking up the food in the gizzard, this enable the birds to get maximum nutrition from their food.