On Thursday, I made an interesting observation. I checked the broiler chicks (still 35!) and fed them. We are feeding them with two quart jar feeder things (like these, but galvanized instead of plastic), and they were both all but empty.
Before my azure order arrived, and after the feed store ran out of non-medicated starter, I bought some organic starter. Organic though it may be, it was the standard corn/soy ration. Within a day or two I'd picked up my azure order, including 100 lbs of organic starter from Magill Ranch. I ordered a bit of this last year, and was impressed with the 'food-like' appearance of the feed (imagine that, food that looks like food...). Last year's had obvious bits of green split peas, the orange/white bits of crab meat, whole grains... Looked almost edible. This year I don't notice the crab (could be because it's too tiny in the starter. I might be remembering the bigger feed), and the peas are yellow. I filled the jars half/half each when I fed them Tuesday night, and on Thursday I filled one with the corn/soy starter (that looks like chicken feed - fairly grayish brown crumbles) and the other with the no corn/ no soy starter.
The chicks weren't ravenous, most were napping in a corner, but a few curious birds came around as I freshened their water. I took the opportunity to count and make sure all were there, and stood and watched them for about 15 minutes. I was very surprised at what I saw.
The chicks ate the Magill Ranch starter. There are about 8 little 'holes' around the base, from which they eat, but eventually twice that were gathered around, fighting for their place at the trough. Occasionally a back-row bird would turn and notice the other feeder, right under his beak, look askance at it, and go back to pecking the castoffs from the real-food starter. The entire time I watched, though it was crowded, not one chick ate from the corn/soy feed. They'd skirt the feeder, make their way to the water, then pass by it again before elbowing their way to the preferred stuff.
I was really amazed. I can't say why they did that; maybe it tastes better, or meets their nutritional needs better, or they, like me, really like MEAT and know that soy is bad for you. :) The feed store stuff might well have been on the shelf for ages (I asked, the lady said they don't sell much of it or the non-medicated starter), and perhaps that is a factor. In any case, I certainly know which I'll be feeding them! Maybe my hens will enjoy a sprinkling of hi-protein starter every now and then... :)