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Ever tried feeding your chickens ONLY FISH?  RSS feed

 
Steven George
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Location: Finland, Minnesota Zone 4a
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Howdy again Ya'll and thanks again in advance for any input!
So we've got a local crick here close by where the sucker fish run every year and we can snatch up as many as we want for the few days they are running (got about 50 last night in 45 mintues).  Last year we got about 40 or so and we froze some of them whole and fed em to our chickens here and there.  I would chop em up real small with a hatchet and they ate em right up, they loved em.  Anyhow, we gutted em all today, I cooked all the guts up for the chickens and we got all the fish in the freezer, but our freezer space will soon be in high demand and I'd rather be feeding the birds local food than grain from 300 miles awayif I can get away with it.  This all got me to thinking.  Can chickens (with an outdoor run) survive and thrive on whole boiled fish alone?  I tried googling this and didn't find much so I was wondering if anyone had any experience in the matter?  I must say I do like the idea of stocking up on local fish for the better part of the year and feeding it to the chickens instead of buying commercial grain form far away......  Any comments and especially experience are much appreciated! 
 
Alder Burns
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There are very few things that chickens won't eat, and I think they would thrive on such a diet, especially if the bones are small enough or cooked enough to be eaten as well.  But they will probably need some greens on a regular basis....a handful of weeds or whatever per bird daily.  In my long experience with poultry that's the biggest difference between a happy bird, and a laying one if that's what they're for, and an unhappy, unhealthy one is plenty of fresh greens..
 
Todd Parr
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I would think they would do great with maybe half their diet being fish, but I would say they would almost certainly get vitamin/mineral deficiencies if it was their entire diet.  As Alder Burns said, they are going to need some green stuff.
 
Mike Jay
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I've read about 10 chicken books this winter getting ready for our first batch.  Some of them suggested not feeding them fish, garlic or onions since it could pass flavors on to the eggs.  Suckers may be a bland enough fish that it doesn't impart much flavor though?  I believe they do need greens and grains as well as protein in their diet.
 
William Bronson
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I've no experience to share but I am curious as to your outcome.
I have considered using invasive carp in the same way .
I'd  want to grind them then sun dry the resulting meal.
A garbage disposal should do the trick.
 
Maureen Atsali
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Whenever we harvest our fish pond, we always have a bunch of fingerlings and smallish fish, and the chickens are ever so happy to eat those, along with creepy water bugs and leaches.

I don't think they would do well on a mono diet of fish, but I think its an excellent way to provide protein if you feed it with other stuff.  If you don't have space in your freezer, what about drying them?  We also sometimes feed a little dried fish called omena. 

I also think a mono diet of fish might give the eggs or meat a fishy taste. 
 
Libbie Hawker
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Chickens really can't thrive on any single type of food alone. They are foragers, which means they have evolved to eat a diet with a ton of variety. However, fish would be great for them (if you don't mind the eggs tasting even fishier than high-B-vitamin forage/pasture-raised eggs tend to taste) and would be an excellent addition to a varied diet. You could certainly dramatically reduce or even eliminate outside inputs, by feeding them fish from your stream or pond.

You'll want to be sure they're also getting plenty of plant matter (scraps from your kitchen) and a chance to catch live food (bugs.) Why not freeze some of the fish guts raw, and thaw those every now and then...put the guts in a big plastic jug with holes punched in the bottom, and hang the jug inside the chicken run. Flies will lay eggs on the fish guts, and in a few days you'll have tasty larvae dropping down into your chicken run. The chickies will love it!

Also keep in mind that chickens are omnivores, not vegetarians, and they will eat other sorts of animal protein from your kitchen or from processing animals at harvest time. Guts of all kinds, scraps of meat left on bones after a meal...chickens will eat it, and it's great for their health.
 
Steven George
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Thanks everyone for all the replies.  Our chickens do have free range to a roughly 200+ square foot outdoor space so they get to do some foraging.  We also throw all of our compost and other scraps straight to the chickens.  We've heard about the fly larvae method but have yet to try that....  might try sometime although we've also heard about potential for that spreading disease to the flock.  Does anyone have experience with that?

For now we are thinking we are going to reduce their normal daily portion of scratch feed by about half and then give them as much boiled fish as they want.  We are also thinking we'll try to get some single grain like corn, wheat or rice, and feed that to them instead of their scratch mix.  We figure they might need more carbs from grain, but they'll be getting plenty of protein from the fish. 

I'm enjoying the discussion and appreciate any further comments.
 
Dan Boone
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My family used to feed quite a bit of salmon offal to the chickens during the king salmon run on the upper Yukon in the 1970s.  It only took a few days for the eggs to take on a distinctly fishy taste.  Given that everything else that eats fish in that country tastes especially fishy during salmon season (the difference in flavor between a blueberry-fed black bear from the alpine areas or a fish-eating river bear is night and day) I can't imagine that a steady diet of fish wouldn't affect the flavor of your chicken flesh as well. 
 
robert e morgan
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why are you cooking these fish? grind and sun dry . the bugs mice and snakes they eat .aren't cooked
 
Steven George
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Would grinding and sun drying kill tapeworms?  Two reasons I cooked up all the guts..... we found tapeworms in some of the fish and I don't have anything to grind them with.  Curious what have others used for grinding fish?
  Throwing them in a big pot and boiling it all also seems like a lot less work than grinding and drying.  Of course the advantage to drying would be opening up the freezer space......

Last year I was feeding the chickens whole frozen sucker fish and they loved it that way, but I would have to chop em up with an axe which was a bit tedious.  Seems easier so far just to boil em til they fall apart.

I'm personally not too worried about a fishy tasting eggs, but I will try to report back if I notice a difference. 

Do chickens really eat snakes?  
 
Sergio Cunha
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Steven George wrote:
Do chickens really eat snakes?  


Yes, they do, at least the small ones. Once I saw one of my chickens eating one.
 
Nicole Alderman
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Mike Jay wrote:I've read about 10 chicken books this winter getting ready for our first batch.  Some of them suggested not feeding them fish, garlic or onions since it could pass flavors on to the eggs.  Suckers may be a bland enough fish that it doesn't impart much flavor though?  I believe they do need greens and grains as well as protein in their diet.


It's the Omega-3s in fish (and flax!) that give eggs that fishy off-flavor. And, it doesn't happen with all chickens, or ducks--just those with a specific genetic trait. I'd had some off-flavor in my duck eggs a while back, and ended up doing a bunch of research in this thread (https://permies.com/t/42023/critters/Taste-Duck-Meat-Eggs). So you don't have to wade through a thread of me wondering and rambling, here's the bit about Omega-3s:

Nicole Alderman wrote:Here's what I understand so far. The fishy taste and smell comes from trimethylamine, which is caused by the oxidization of choline. When a fish rots--and it's choline oxidizes--the lovely rotten fish smell of trimethylamine comes about. Foods that contain high amounts of Omega 3 fatty acids--such as oils and meals derived from fish, linseed, camelina, and rapeseed--also have choline. And, when a bird digests that choline via bacterial fermentation in their guts, trimethylamine is created. Many (most?) poultry can convert the trimethylamine in their livers into a nonodorous form.  Others, such as 5-10% chickens that lay brown eggs, and supposedly my ducks as well, cannot convert the trimethylamine in their livers. So, that delightful off flavor is passed onto my duck eggs (and meat as well). In the case of the chickens (couldn't find anything about ducks), there is actually a gene responsible for their ability/inability to transform the trimethylamine, and you can actually get your chicken tested to see if it has the desirable gene or not. You can also, supposedly, smell their breath. Those with fishy breath cannot do the transformation.

There's also things that can make it more difficult for poultry's livers to process the trimethylamine. The tannins in rapeseed and linseed interfere with the liver's ability to transform it to it's nonodorous form. Wheat, barley and leguminous plants help the gut ferment more choline into trimethylamine.

ASIDE from the trimethylamine issue, the fishy-flavor can be caused simply by polyunsaturated acids (such as linseed and fish oil).

Here's the sources I used for wrapping my brain around this: Wikipedia on Trimethylamine, Omega 3 Fatty Acid Research, pages232&233, ISA Genetics, "'Fishy' Taint in Brown Eggs ", and Do Your Eggs Taste Fishy, Curse of the Omegas
 
Steven George
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Location: Finland, Minnesota Zone 4a
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Hey Nicole,
Thanks a bunch for the very informative post!  I doubt that I will ever be smelling my chickens breath (they would never let me get close enough!) and we would never bother getting them tested, but so far, my family and our guests have not noticed a fishy flavor in the eggs.  Maybe our chickens got good genes?  Anyhow, very interesting info and much appreciated!
 
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