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Feeding time - what's in that bucket?

Each morning and afternoon we walk around our property with white buckets of animal feed.  Some animals are happy to eat their own feed, but others wonder what is in the other buckets, this can make life difficult when walking past Bella with a bucket of chicken food!

The Chickens
We have been very lazy and feeding the chickens the cheapest layer pellets.  I suspect that is part of the reason why we are getting so few eggs.  I read the back of the feed sack the other day and noticed "animal protein" in the ingredients, followed by the big bold instructions that I shouldn't feed the pellets to any other livestock.  It occurred to me that this warning is most likely due to whole "mad cow disease" scare and the regulations that were introduced to prevent offal (particularly brains) being fed to livestock of the same breed, so I assume that the chicken pellets contain scraps from the meat works and that's why I shouldn't feed it to any other animals.  I have to say that was enough to encourage me to look for an alternative feed, I don't like vague and suspicious ingredients like that!  We have decided that when we finish the last bag of pellets, we will be feeding mixed grain/layer mash instead.

The reason we started using pellets instead of grain is that our picky wee girls tend to flick through the mixed grain and eat only the ones that they like.  The rest ends up on the ground to be eaten by the mice.  However, we have since found that a mix of a couple of grains results in less wastage (although may not be as well balanced).  We are currently trialing a mix of wheat and sorghum, which seems to be getting eaten up.  The other option is a milled grain laying mash, with some minerals mixed in.  This is probably the best one, so we'll see if we can make that work.

We usually check all the chicken cages in the afternoon and top up any feed and water as required, a full feeder usually lasts for about a week.

The Cow
Bella is the only animal that gets fed twice a day and her feed is the most complicated.  She gets about 1 kg of mixed milled grains, with some lucerne (alfalfa) chaff, twice a day.  In her afternoon bucket, Bella also gets a little bit of a mineral mix, dolomite, sulphur, garlic, apple cider vinegar, liquid seaweed and a splash of molasses.  The extras are due to me reading "Natural Cattle Care", by Pat Coleby, which explained the need for balanced soil minerals to maintain animal health (funny that "Nourishing Traditions" starts the same way, in regards to human health).  I am going to get a soil test done so that we can target the minerals that she's missing from the grass, but in the meantime, a mix of a few extras won't hurt her. The sulphur is for external parasites and I will increase her copper if its low in the soil, as that should help with internal parasites.  The aim is to use no chemicals on any of the cattle this year (extending to all the animals eventually).

More about natural cattle care here.

Bella eats both meals in her milking bales, so that she associates it with food, rather than milking.  In the morning she eats while we milk her.  We've had to make a few modifications to her food dish since she arrived.  At first we bought a D-feeder for her, the kind that horses used, but it was a bit too small.  She would take a huge mouthful, then lift up her head to chew and it would all spill out the side of her mouth.  She seemed to be spilling more than she was eating!  My husband fabricated a huge food dish for the front of her bales, so she now gets to eat ALL of her food in comfort.

When she's finished eating, Bella is led back into her paddock using a "woofle" of hay (see the The Healthy House Cow).

The Calf
We've taken a while to figure out what we wanted to do with Molly.  At first we had her separated from Bella, while we milked Bella twice a day and bottle fed Molly.  This didn't last long as it was heaps of extra work!  We now find that its easier to let Molly stay with Bella during the day and only milk Bella in the morning.  So the end result is that Molly has milk all day as she wants it.  In the afternoon, while we're feeding Bella in her bales, we give Molly some calf pellets in a bucket.  I was worried that Molly wouldn't be tame enough if we didn't bottle feed her, but she hasn't taken long to learn about the bucket.  She will now follow us into her evening accommodation if we have a bucket, she will also stand still for (and possibly enjoy) a pat and scratch behind the ears.  This makes life easier, as we don't have to chase her anymore!  See video of messy Molly enjoying her bucket of grain and pellets.

The Steers
Poor Rocket got very used to helping Bella with her twice daily hay ration after Bruce was gone, but now he's in another paddock with the other steers, so he can only watch (and moo) from a distance when he sees Bella eating.  All the steers are fed only in the afternoon.  They get about half a kg of milled mixed grain each, and a little bit of minerals and sulphur and a big splash of molasses.

Bruce and Rocket enjoy their afternoon bucket of grain.
Over summer (especially this past one) we have lots of grass for the cattle to eat.  This tends to lose protein content as the weather cools down, and now that we've had a few frosts, its particularly dry and low in nutrients.  This time of year we need to think about buying in a round bale of hay just to make sure the animals aren't getting too hungry.

The Kelpies
The dogs are fed once a day (apart from tid-bits!) in the morning.  They get a small scoop of dry dog biscuits (various "light" varieties, as they aren't very active nowadays) and then any spare milk or yoghurt - up to half a litre each.  Finally they get a bone before we leave for work (this prevents barking as we drive away).

What do you feed your animals?

You might also be interested in my series on getting started with homestead dairy
Interview with myself

Interview with Mark and Kate from Purple Pear Permaculture

Interview with Kim from the Little Black Cow

Interview with Rose Petal

Interview with Marie from Go Milk the Cow

Interview with Ohio Farmgirl

Buy my ebook "Our Experience with House Cows" on EtsyLulu and Amazon, or email on eight.acres.liz at to arrange delivery.  More information on my house cow ebook blog.

Reviews of "Our Experience with House Cows"

Gavin from Little Green Cheese (and The Greening of Gavin)

By the way, my chicken eBook is now available if you want to know more about backyard chickens and using chicken tractors.  More information over at the chicken tractor ebook blog.  Or you can get it directly from my shop on Etsy (.pdf format), or Amazon Kindle or just send me an email eight.acres.liz {at}

What's the eBook about?
Chickens in a confined coop can end up living in an unpleasant dust-bowl, but allowing chickens to free-range can result in chickens getting into gardens and expose them to predators.

 A movable cage or “chicken tractor” is the best of both options – the chickens are safe, have access to clean grass, fresh air and bugs. Feed costs are reduced, chickens are happier, and egg production increases. 

 But how do you build a chicken tractor? What aspects should be considered in designing and using a chicken tractor effectively? In this eBook I aim to explain how to make a chicken tractor work for you in your environment to meet your goals for keeping chickens. 

I also list what I have learnt over 10 years of keeping chickens in tractors of various designs and sizes, from hatching chicks, through to butchering roosters.

Reviews of the Design and Use a Chicken Tractor


  1. This sounds like a lot of work before "work"! What time do you start your day jobs? Sounds like you've got some lucky animals there. Apparently you can bake egg shells in the oven, crush them and feed them back to your chickens to help keep them laying eggs with good shells. I never did it with our chickens because I was too lazy - just bought grit from the store. But it seems like a good recycling option.

  2. I must check out what are in the layer pellets I feed my chooks. You now have me wondering. Luckily I ran into a farmer friend the other day and he is going to organise a bag of wheat for me so that will help. I also feed my chooks hot porridge every morning. They love it and on a cold morning seem to appreciate a hot meal. Not that I blame them with the frosts we have been having. It seems complicated feeding all those animals but at least they don't complain (unlike the kids) and come running when they see you with food (again - unlike the kids). ; - )

  3. What a great website....used to live in Kingaroy until we moved to Brisbane late 2012


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