There is always a great deal of interest in the diet of the U of A heritage chickens. Are they fed a vegetarian diet? Are there any supplements? Do you feed all of the chickens the same diet?
We do feed all the adult heritage chickens the same diet. The diet is vegetarian and grain-based with a lot of supplements and added nutrients. There are too many nutrients to list here but the primary ingredients in the feed blend, in order of volume are:
Wheat, Soybean meal, Limestone, Peas, Corn meal, Grit, Canola oil, Oyster shell, Salt. L-lysine.
In addition, there are eight other enzymes and nutritional supplements in the mix. The chickens are free-run so they will always be pecking around in their roosts and nests, looking for extra goodies and may occasionally find a fly or a bug which they will happily consume. Chickens are omnivores and enjoy vegetation, insects, grubs and are happy to try anything that comes their way.
It is interesting to consider location when examining an appropriate diet for chickens or any other livestock. In Alberta, we grow wheat and soy and it makes economic and environmental sense to use these grains as the mainstay of the chickens diet. If you are raising chickens in parts of BC, they will have a lot more corn in their diet as that product grows abundantly in that region. The mantra of eating close to home, or the 100 mile diet is utilized when choosing the best feeds for farm animals.
The diet for our chicks is different than for our laying hens. We use a chick starter which is higher in protein and has a very fine texture that is easier for them to peck and digest. As they mature, we switch to a grower ration that is less fine in texture and still high in protein, but not quite as high as the starter. Later, calcium is added to prepare for egg-laying. Finally, they receive the adult feed described above.
What about hormones? Canada banned the use of hormones in poultry on March 4, 1963. They have been banned for over 50 years. There are marketing techniques used by some companies who claim to be hormone-free, intimating that others are not. But all Canadian chicken, in any form, has been raised without added hormones, for over 50 years.