Hulless oats show potential as feed for egg laying hens

Organic poultry and egg producers are required to feed their animals organic feed.  While most poultry producers rely on corn to meet their animal’s carbohydrate needs it can often be difficult to obtain.  Non-GMO corn that has been grown organically is not readily available and even when it is it can cost almost twice as much as conventional, GM corn. Furthermore, corn is not suitable for planting in many regions of the United States, creating even greater supply problems for organic producers who which to grow their own feed or source corn that has been locally produced. Organic wheat is another alternative carbohydrate source for chickens however, similar to corn, it is often in short supply and can be very costly.  In order to address this problem, researchers from Washington State University and Oregon State University evaluated the potential of hulless oat varieties as an alternative carbohydrate source for organic poultry farms producing eggs.  Egg laying hens were fed diets of either an oat-free control, a mixture of oats and corn, a mixture of wheat and oats or a mixture of wheat, oats, and corn. They found that including oats in the hens’ diets did not affect their health or productivity.  While diets including oats were found to be more expensive than diets that did not contain oats the researchers found that  “ based on current market prices for organic eggs, the additional cost was completely offset by larger egg sizes of hens on oat containing diets.”