My son telephoned. “How’s the chicken coop building comin’ along?”
“Good…only we discovered that all the chicken feed has wheat and barley in it.”
“Oh, yeah?” Great laughter ensues on the other end of the line. “You know, I guess you could expect that. I just never thought of it. Can’t you use gloves…oh, man, the dust.”
I asked a gluten-intolerant friend how she handled the feed. She uses the commercial chicken starter crumbles and pellets, all with wheat, and doesn’t have too much of a problem. Her husband empties the pellets into a container for her, to hold down her exposure to the dust.
I thought: Okay, I can do that.
But I could not be easy about it. The feed–chick starter, grain, and pellet– contain what is known as wheat middlings. This is ground everything from the wheat kernel, and lots of dust. It would be around our place. I’d be cleaning the baby chicks’s cage daily, with the feed all over the newspapers and the chicks themselves. Might as well be putting poison all over and expect me to be just fine. Maybe I would wear a haz-mat suit?
Dear husband and I researched, and researched. I found a commercial feed company that made a feed without wheat and barley, only the company was all the way out in California; price and shipping precluded this option. I actually discovered several other celiacs who wanted to raise chickens and had the same concerns. One woman chicken-raiser had discovered her celiac and that of her child last year. Being unwilling to expose gluten-containing feed to her child, she had started her spring chicks in the hen house, only to lose them to a predator.
We found more and varied homemade feed recipes than Carter has pills, and all but a couple contained wheat and barley, and most recipes seemed complicated beyond measure. Now, just where does one buy dried kelp? How natural is that for a chicken to eat?
I came to Greener Pastures website, whose author, Ronda Jemtegaard, wrote that it would be unlikely to find consistent information on making feed anywhere, since all chicken raisers have their own opinions. She advised reading all that one could, taking the information and coming up with a trial recipe that suited you. I really did not want to go to so much trouble. I wanted something easy, grabbed off the shelf in two seconds.
But I kept thinking of all the celiac and gluten-intolerant children (not to mention myself and my family) who might benefit from having a solid gluten-free recipe for their chickens and avoid a lot of worry.
And so, throughly reluctant, I am smack dab in an experiment on how to make starter gluten-free chick feed as easy as possible. Show me how, Lord.
Enter Miss Madelyn of St. Elmo Feed and Seed, St. Elmo, Alabama. Yesterday I explained my conundrum and desire. “Do you think I can make a starter feed without the gluten?”
“Of course you can,” she said. It turns out that her grandson is gluten-intolerant, and she completely understood my situation.
I gave Miss Madelyn my list of ingredients. She explained what would be best for a couple of them. She said, “You’re gonna have healthy chicks.” St. Elmo Feed and Seed dispenses the most invaluable of products– confidence.
So, the experiment begins. We get our chicks on Friday! I’ll report on the feed recipe in a month, providing I have not killed the chicks.
Dear hubby so irreverently says, “I know where they sell more.”
Wish us, and the chicks, well.