alternatives to store-bought chicken feed

digit(ID/WA)August 8, 2007

I have large gardens and can grow veggies thru the Summer for a little flock of laying hens in the backyard. I've done this on numerous occasions in the past. Seems like the hens like just about everything I do. They like it cooked and with a little butter, too.

The freezer fills up during the growing season but I'm not real inclined to store chicken feed in there. I'd be willing to grow field corn but don't want all the husking and shelling and cracking. What else could I grow and store for the hens?


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I don't know where you live, but around here wheat is a good option. You can harvest the tops and the chickens have fun getting the grains out themselves. Also around here it needs no watering as it is a dryland crop.
Also comfrey is easy to hang and dry.

    Bookmark   August 9, 2007 at 8:13PM
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Jnssteele, I live just north of the Palouse country in the interior of the Pacific Northwest. Thousands and thousands of acres of wheat there and, years ago, I purchased wheat for chicken feed. What I found was the hens slowed down on egg production and seemed to get down-right lean. That doesn't mean that wheat couldn't be a useful addition to the rations.

The Palouse is all dry farmed. The garden, of course, has irrigation and fairly fertile soil. With a little over one-half acre of gardens, I've got some room but wouldn't want to give up more than a few thousand square feet to growing feed.

Comfrey?? I knew that it can be used as hay so thought that cows, goats, and maybe rabbits could make use of it. Do chickens eat comfrey?

Plenty of alfalfa next door and I've read about Joel Salatin and others using pasture but hay as an important part of a chicken's diet hadn't occurred to me.


    Bookmark   August 9, 2007 at 9:15PM
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Palouse country, don't they grow a lot of peas and lentils around there? Your chicken feed needs to contain more protein, so you need to toss in some legumes. Alfalfa is a legume, too, so that is providing protein to animals that eat it during the winter. And they will need a calcium source (often crushed sea shells) and a grit source (coarse sand is good).


    Bookmark   August 10, 2007 at 5:50PM
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Catherine and Jnssteele, this certainly sounds like an appropriate feed - wheat, peas, and lentils. I once tried growing lentils, incredibly tiny plants with very few seeds each. Maybe there are more appropriate varieties but I hate to think about building trellises . . . it takes enuf time each year to build trellises for the family's peas.

I'm still curious about hay . . . I suppose that would be the least appropriate for garden production but I wasn't aware that it could be of much use for poultry. Generally, my hens had free time most days. They had access to a lawn and certainly enjoyed eating some of the grass but only spent a little time at it. Vegetables have usually been an important part of their diets and maybe I could think of a way to dry veggies in quantity.

Squash is a favorite - cooked. And, squash can be stored for some time in the basement. I'm not sure how far I could go down this road and still maintain egg production . . . maybe quite a ways . . ? . .

I have thought about sunflowers but have no desire to crack sunflower seeds for the hens. And, that brings up the problem with their being able to swallow some foods. Could they swallow a whole dry pea? Are there more appropriate legumes - dry beans wouldn't require trellising but surely they are too large. Keep in mind that the "bird house" is empty right now. My hope is to have hens again next year and to make good use of garden produce.

Thanks so much for your thoughtful replies.


    Bookmark   August 10, 2007 at 11:56PM
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We experimented with this very thing this year, and the chickens are happier than ever. I still supplement with store-bought food for now, but they devoured the dried seeds from all the sunflowers we planted, and I've been saving all of our produce, crusty bread and most of the meal scraps, running it through the food processor and putting it all out there for them the next morning. They really love our "gazpacho blend" lol - Cucumber peels, tomato cores, onion ends and peels and old bread watered down a little. Now that it's super hot, I tried putting ice cubes in instead of water to make a sort of chicken smoothie. They're eating like pigs, and they're all laying like champs.

    Bookmark   August 12, 2007 at 10:48PM
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Interesting, Miss.

They are eating all these things raw - peels, cores, onions . . . They probably appreciate the processing.

I was able to feed the hens any vegetable or fruit as long as it was cooked. Of course, they liked some things raw. And by anything, I mean that as an experiment, I pulled up dandelion plants, roots and all. After cooking, the hens would eat every last bit. If I put in a little oatmeal, they would eat it faster.

I began to feel sorry for them with all the potato peels so cut back a little on that. But, carrot peels were one of their favorite foods. An entire meal of the outer leaves of lettuce, cabbage, apple cores, onion leaves, a slice of old bread, a cup of grape juice - cooked together would start a feeding frenzy.

Did you need to hull the sunflowers, Miss?


    Bookmark   August 12, 2007 at 11:46PM
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wow..I always fed scraps but never even thought about cooking things up for them!

    Bookmark   September 9, 2007 at 2:53PM
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hotzcatz(Hamakua, Hawaii)

Cooking things for chickens? Doesn't that use up power and cost money, especially when they will eat it raw just as well?

Our six hens get a cup of cracked corn to share amongst themselves in the morning just so they will come up to the window and lay their eggs in the window nest box, but that's all the feeding they get other than scraps and whatever bugs and grasses they get from the back yard although it is a pretty big back yard. I've seen them eat small mice and large centipedes, so they can eat pretty big things. You could feed them field corn by just tossing a few ears of corn in there, they will probably manage to eat corn on the cob. Get a few ears and try it out, they might surprise you.

I think egg production is going to go down during the winter no matter what you do since they seem to lay eggs in accordance with how much sunlight there is. Guess you could give them sunlamps, but will the increase in the electric bill be less than what it would cost to buy eggs?

After the first frost kills off the garden, you could turn the hens out there to eat the remaining bugs and plant leaves. That might save on feed for a couple weeks or so.

    Bookmark   September 13, 2007 at 2:32PM
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Once I moved from the farm into town, I found it necessary to include at least some processed feed in the hens' diet. Milling, mixing, and transport use energy and cost more than the raw ingredients if I were to grow and assemble them myself. The processing makes them more digestible for the hens.

The better I cared for the hens, especially during our cold Winters, the better they laid. Yes, it would be very easy to spend more money than the purchase price of the eggs. But, I don't think they could have better feed than what I could grow for them and prepare in the kitchen. Im fairly certain that it need not be anywhere close to a commercial formula.

I've seen the hens eat a huge variety of "things" including mice. However, I don't recall having ever seen them eat a dandelion, roots and all - unless it was cooked.

Joel Salatin, of pastured poultry fame, said that a chicken's diet could consist of as much as 30 percent from pasture grasses and legumes. And, I seem to recall that both humans and chickens benefit from a 12% to 18% protein diet. We both appreciate variety. Just makes me wonder how much more and what I could grow in the gardens to keep a small flock of hens happy, healthy, and highly productive.


    Bookmark   September 13, 2007 at 10:08PM
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hotzcatz(Hamakua, Hawaii)

You could turn the chickens out into the garden and see what they snack on first. Then figure out how to grow and store more of that?

I would think a variety of things would be a good plan since then it can be extras of what you'd be growing for yourself and if there was a lack of some vitamin or nutrient in a basic feed, that would be covered by a variety feed. If it is just a few hens, you could almost feed them on table scraps. Cook up extra and be "wasteful" about what you don't want to eat and then give the leftovers to the hens.

Today, our six hens got a half cup of cracked corn with smushed up eggshells from boiled eggs in it, an old papaya, two old mushy avocados, a quarter loaf of old bread, an old lime and some pig/bean soup. They didn't seem thrilled with the lime, but ate everything else and then went grazing on the lawn and chasing bugs. Yesterday they were helping me till the garden, so they got loads of worms. Guess those have a lot of protein in them?

Of course, I have no idea if this is good or bad for egg production since they are molting now and looking like old feather dusters and not laying.

    Bookmark   October 16, 2007 at 4:42AM
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Hotzcatz, I don't have too much luxury of a long-season of fresh veggies. So, I've even considered setting up a separate freezer for the hens but that has to be out of the question even if electricity rates make it somewhat feasible. Still, depending on the food, each hen would probably eat 150++ pounds of food annually. So, your 6 hens are eating 1000 lbs!!

At some point, I'd like to go ahead and have a sufficient flock and sufficient eggs to have "egg money" from sales. If the hen is only eating laying mash each day - that's giving any and all $ to the feed store.

Yes, usually I have only a few hens most years so left-overs make a significant contribution especially since they appreciate peelings. But, I found that even 4 hens can eat more than what 3 people can generate, even if the people are eating a lot of unprocessed foods year around. What I don't want them to do is to have too much "junk" food even if that's just too much carbohydrates and insufficient protein.

I was recently reading information from a century ago on feeding hens a balanced ration. The author was saying then, "Look, if you feed a hen only wheat even with a calcium supplement, she needs to eat for 3 days before she has sufficient protein to lay 1 egg. And, it doesn't help to give her enough carbohydrates and fat to make three eggs a day." (I'm paraphrasing. ;o)

A variety of things would be great plan but I don't want to pack a few hundred pounds of potatoes or squash down to the basement and then need to buy fish meal, for example, at $2 - $3 per pound.

My most recent thoughts have been on grains and legumes (as per advice above :o). I used to grow this for hay on the farm. Barley should produce more pounds than wheat in a garden and combined with field peas - I think that the grain would be a nutritious feed. I can actually grow these 2 crops together (as I did with hay) and thresh them at the same time. Hulless barley seed is available thru the sprout people.

If they arent willing to eat this readily, it could be sprouted. I bet theyd enjoy that.

Yeah, the worms . . . each year I have large compost piles which include a pickup load or 2 or cow manure. By Spring the worm population is almost FRIGHTENING in there! Since it would almost make sense to only grow a high protein feed . . .

Steve's digits

    Bookmark   October 16, 2007 at 2:26PM
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I've been having some fun reading about poultry feed. A few things were from early in the last century. I learned that "beef scraps" were common to the rations. Also, that sprouted oats, in particular, were fed and raw mangel beets were often given during the Winter. Of course, much of the grains fed were not milled.

More recent information has been written by Harvey Ussery - I came across it today. Kind of funny that I was reading an article in Mother Earth News at the library today on cultivation by Ussery and here is all this "poultry stuff" on the internet.

Here's Ussery's webpages on poultry. And, here is Backyard Poultry magazine for Jun/Jul 2007 with articles on preparing feeds at home. Ussery's own site has his articles in Backyard Poultry during 2006. He's got a lot of ideas and certainly isn't shy about experimenting.

This is probably familiar to some of you but I had no knowledge of this magazine until just a week or so ago and still haven't seen a copy.

digital Steve

    Bookmark   October 18, 2007 at 10:57PM
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Before I forget, the "scalding" of alfalfa during the Winter was also advised. Scalding may have had a different meaning 100 years ago but what the researchers were apparently referring to was preparing a wet mash with hot water. The fine material sifting out of hay was considered especially useful for poultry and utilized when other green feeds were unavailable. Milled alfalfa is still a common component of commercial feeds.

I'm guessing that the alfalfa could be made even more palatable and probably a higher percentage of total feed would be possible if it was really boiling water used and the feed was allowed to cook sometime (perhaps in an insulated container). I should hasten to add, that I doubt if much more than 20% of the diet would be a good idea unless some greater variety of greens or dry plants could be included.

I found it helpful to read the information on feeding hens in "Selection and Feeding of Laying Hens," A.G. Philips, 1910; or, Milo M. Hastings, "The Dollar Hen," 1911. John R. Henderson of Sage Hen Farm in Lodi, NY has provided a great service in compiling the links.


    Bookmark   October 20, 2007 at 12:34PM
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Hi, I'm new here and I find this topic facinating. I found a website (that promotes buying commercial feed of course) but you can ignore that and learn a whole lot about the nutritional requirements of chickens (for meat or eggs) and make your own.

Unfortunately I have no chickens but I make my own dog food despite all the naysayers that say it is unhealthy. They are wrong if you learn what the needs are and supply them with a variety of foods.

Anyway- here is the link. You have to cruise around but it mentions sources of various nutrients needed, the ratios, whether or not the chickens are free range or not, etc.

    Bookmark   October 25, 2007 at 10:09AM
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I appreciate that link, Comettose. I do wonder if the list of nutrients is accurate since I only find it at one other "non-authoritative" site. However, it looks reasonable to me.

The "authoritative" folks sometimes seem to have the interests of those others in mind. Other than the little guy's, I mean. Perhaps, they are inclined to error on the side of caution, is all. But, one wonders whose bottom line they are looking out for when they make it appear as tho' nothing can be done differently than what conventional wisdom allows. It would make absolutely no sense monetarily, for someone to raise chickens using conventional feeds in a small flock. There may be other concerns but the little guy's bottom line would prohibit especially the raising of meat birds in that fashion.


    Bookmark   October 27, 2007 at 8:26AM
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The "authorities" are mass producing feed for optimum (most egg/least cash outlay)laying of a commercial flock. Their management goals are quite different than those of the home grower of a few... or even 20 or 30 hens. What protein needs are met by the scavenging of bugs or feeding of plate scrapings with meat or cheese, is not represented in the calculations.... A factory farm has NO access to worms or other bugs, for animal protein... The factory farmer needs to deal in feeds that are shelf stable... so thousands of pounds can be used and automatically fed... so things like Squash, pumpkin and mangle beets are not as convenient a food.

With that being said the nutrition in commercial poultry feed has been optimized... to provide the cheapest values of the nutrients needed. Is that the best? I don't necessarily think so. Protein is the most expensive part of feed... (corn is climbing up in price....) alternative protein sources could bring feed-prices down substantially. Some raise meal worms (I don't advocate this, as they are kind of gross and there's a lot of debate about whether or not the heads need to be cut off to prevent them from "eating" their way out of young birds....) they've got a very high EWWW factor in my book. Another option is vermiculture... or raising specific species of earthworms for feed (some suggest that you can introduce parasites to your birds by feeding worms, but I contend that you can start with a clean group and grow your feed worm populations separate from bird droppings). Worms can be dehydrated and mixed in with other "non-traditional" (while in fact really more-traditional) feeds.

Another possibility for home growing is Millet. I've read the white varieties are more nutritious for the birds than the red ones. I just pulled a few seeds from bird seed last year to test grow, and they did beautifully with benign neglect. They take less water and have a shorter growing season than wheat, and supposedly, a slightly higher nutritional value for the birds than does corn.

When it comes to feeding a home flock, I think variety is the spice of life! You are better feeding a bunch of different things, and seeing what is consumed by the flock. They often "self-regulate" their diet and eat according to their needs. Just make sure you are providing a calcium source so that they get enough of that, as I've read they often eat a lot of certain things to get enough of that.

Someone referenced Dandelions... they are a definite yes! High in nutrients, due to long tap root.... If you hang the greens, so the birds can peck pieces of leaves off they do well with them. (or chop very fine, so they don't get crop bound.) When birds are out on the ground, they eat a lot of greens we don't even notice them consuming... as they just peck a little off the edge... in winter they don't have so much access, so they need a little help from us... Growing kale and collards can help provide a little green feed through winter, though too much crucifers (cabage/brocoli/kale family) tends to give an off flavor to eggs. In Zone 6 I've set up a "hoop greenhouse" with pvc pipe and a 6 mil drop cloth... and succesfully harvested greens through most of the winter (and then they started growing early in spring) one year... need to get back to this myself...

Sunflowers have also been mentioned... they rock... young birds don't show much interest, but wait a few months and they'll devour them whole! They have a good protein value and the birds scarf them up!

    Bookmark   November 25, 2007 at 1:19PM
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Thank you for your comments, Bernadette. It is obvious that you have given some time to think about good food for your laying hens.

Those sunflower kernels are about 20% protein. I can't imagine that including the hulls would lower that number even by half but don't know for sure.

I've grown a little millet and a little wheat for the past few seasons - not for hens but for use in wreath making. They are easy to grow but I was hoping for something producing a little heavier in the garden. I was a little disappointed to learn that they are both about as productive. They are a possibility but I'd need to give up quite a few square feet of garden space for the hens.

I've been looking a little at aquaculture. Not because I'm thinking of raising fish but because feed requirements are similar. Fish farms make a lot of use of fish meal - a major component in chicken feeds. Plant proteins and carbohydrates are difficult for some fish species to eat so their feed costs are very high.

I have had a little experience with subsistence farming in developing countries. A hen searching out her own food is not always such a great way to care for her. Foraging burns energy and is often risky business. Even if a flock requires only 5 or 10 pounds of food every day - they will need to range far and wide to find it. The result may well be a poor diet and poor egg production.

The birds require carbohydrates especially in cold weather but protein is such a major part of an egg (higher than 12%), it makes little sense to think a hen can produce many eggs if she has a carbohydrate-rich diet of say, 6 or 8% protein. She'd get fat, at best.

I had pigeons for over 10 years and while it was just for fun, I got to talk to the local pigeon guys about their birds' diets. Many like to give corn during the Winter to increase the calories available then switch to barley in the Spring so that the hens will begin producing eggs rather than heat.

I wish that root crops were higher in protein and lower in carbs. Heck, I must have grown over 100 lbs of potatoes in a single row of about 35 feet this year. And, I don't know about that old approach of feeding mangel beets - beets are only about 1% protein and I doubt that mangels are much higher. I've always read that Jerusalem artichokes are a higher protein root vegetable but a little research doesn't seem to bear that out - about the same as potatoes at 2%.

I used to harvest the neighbor's Jerusalem artichokes and loved the nutty flavor but I'm kind of glad that they wouldn't really make a very good feed. They are a rather invasive perennial. The neighbors just left them to fight it out with the grass and weeds - with the tiny size of the tubers, it was hard to know which was winning.

As far as people food, eggs are about the cheapest protein available. But buying them to feed to the hens doesn't make any sense . . . Yep, the protein issue is the tough nut to crack. (No, I don't think I'll live so long that planting nuts would make much sense ;o).

I'm still thinking weeds, after all beet greens have about triple the protein of the roots. But, I'm not going to be happy with the hens just eating bits and leaving a rotting mess to be drug out and composted. I'd like them to completely consume what I'm offering and to benefit from this food.

I've recently learned that commercial pelleting isn't all cold pelleting. In fact, extrusion processing doesn't just mean extruding some food product into a pellet. Foods are cooked during extrusion. And, some feeds are steam pelleted. Whether this makes sense for poultry feed is another question. Apparently, part of the reason for doing so is to increase digestibility which is very important for fish farming.


    Bookmark   November 26, 2007 at 2:35PM
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I've asked a few questions regarding feeding laying hens out of the garden over at the Bean & Pea forum. There were very good responses and I wanted to share a page of links I was directed to.

Super good information, apparently nearly all from creditable sources. The Canadian universities seem to be especially oriented towards the small flock person.

I think that anyone could spend quite a bit of time there and find answers to their questions on poultry nutrition and alternative feeds. Included is info on "antinutrients." These are ingredients that inhibit digestion and need to be detoxified. "The antinutrition factors in some feed material such as beans can be destroyed by heat (cooking)." All this should be of important help to me and anyone else hoping for a productive and healthy flock using alternative feeds.


    Bookmark   December 4, 2007 at 9:47PM
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Yes to teh sunflowers--if you want to feed them to chicks, run them on a coarse pass through a feed mill. The sunflowers don't need to be processed right away too, leave them outin teh cold, then hang them from teh rafters of your chicken coop. Grow siberian peas as a winter fence. Then you can feed the chickens all the legumes you want (18-21% protein) chokecherries--you can give them the berries (that hang on teh tree even in teh winter)

Keep a worm bin going :) not much in the way of food scraps, and they also eat paper and leaves, so yoru scraps are going further and the chickens can get a bit extra.

Leftover fish--feed it to them. Leftover scraps from killing some of your birds? Give it to them.

    Bookmark   October 26, 2010 at 10:45PM
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Thank you all for your posts. We are new homesteaders and hope to have chickens next year. You advice on what to feed the chickens will help me plant some crops THIS year to have the seeds ready for next year.


    Bookmark   March 11, 2011 at 9:24PM
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For my part, you are welcome, Sue.

I've tried a few things since 2007 that you might be interested in. Continued to grow a little millet and wheat each year. When I tried to grow Alaska peas in the wheat, it was an abysmal failure. The peas probably amounted to 10% of what they would have if grown by themselves - and once again, I had trouble with weevils in the seed after it was harvested.

A couple of years ago, I tried growing early-maturing soybeans and adzuki beans. Adzuki can't make it here - at least, the variety that I had. I don't think that any of the seed reached sufficient maturity to be viable and I'm not sure about its food value.

The soybeans were a different story. It was surprising that an early type could produce a decent crop here. Was able to try edamame for the 1st time! Really tasty!

My wife knows how to make tofu. Last year, I grew enough soy to make tofu. The interesting issue for this thread is what I did with the soybeans after squeezing out the liquid for processing into tofu. I put those ground beans in the oven at a low setting, then fed them to the hens. The chickens loved them!

Keeping the soy meal around for more than a few days requires thorough drying or it molds. With the 2nd batch, I put the toasted meal in a basket and sat it out in my unheated greenhouse to dry (dead of winter). I allow the meal to soak up water before feeding it to the hens. They eat it before just about anything else!

I don't know how much food value the meal has. Keep in mind that I've already squeezed the liquid out to make tofu. Perhaps this use of the spent meal for livestock feed is what the commercial tofu companies do. I can't seem to find anything about it on the internet.

It would be interesting to see how well a laying hen would do on this feed at a higher percent of her diet. I still have only a few backyard hens and they, absolutely, don't cost me much to feed. So, I guess I won't be doing much serious experimenting on their diet.

Other than that soy meal, the hens still enjoy squash from the garden. Of course, they get quite a few greens. I also steam pumpkins to freeze for them to eat during the winter.

. . . just some things I've been up to.


    Bookmark   March 13, 2011 at 11:44PM
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Lots of good advice here! I'm reading and planning around all of these ideas before I get my hens (I've raised chickens before but always used commercial feed).

I believe there are people using Soldier Fly larvae as a food for their chickens. They grow them in simple compost bins and the larvae crawl off to a dry sandy area to pupate. The pupae can be frozen and stored. Some of these people don't even thaw them out when they feed them to the birds - bug popsicles. They are supposed to have the greatest source of calcium around. No need to import them, Soldier Flies live in every country and every environment - they're already in your compost pile, just protect it from winter weather and you'll have them going year round.

I'm also looking at Amaranth and Quinoa as a grain and using a solar oven to cook things down or mixed into a bread loaf. Hopefully cooking it during the day while I'm at work, then crumbling it up and drying it in the food dehydrator and storing the dry crumbles to eventually soak and feed out.

    Bookmark   April 7, 2011 at 9:31AM
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I'm thinking about growing amaranth, flax, black eyed peas and sweet potatoes for my chickens, maybe some pumpkins or other squash. I might just give them their own garden to keep them out of mine. The chicks will arrive next week. I've had chickens most of my life, until moving to AZ.
I will certainly add sunflowers around their yard, maybe some field corn, peas, favas mustard greens as it cools off.
My only problem is their area is made of river rock and mostly shade, SI I might have to donate one of the raised beds to them and fence it off from the others. I'm hoping to give them a place that they can forage and enjoy.
I've usually had large acreage and hardly had to feed, other than kitchen scraps, but now I live in the city so having to rethink this.

    Bookmark   April 19, 2011 at 7:05PM
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Chia, flax,quinoa, amaranth might all be good.

    Bookmark   April 20, 2011 at 2:20AM
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Siberian peashrub--over 20% protein content in the leguminous seedpods, and they are superhardy perennials.
Trimming for the chickens will keep growth down. Don't grow in warmer climate (>Z5) unless prepared to mow down any seedlings assiduously. Butin cooler climates, it's pretty awesome. Can make flour out of it too :-)

Also, the sunchokes apparently contain most of their protein in the leaves and stalk--thus the percentages are accurate. The tubers are starchy, lower protein content.

Definitely recommend worms. I like Harvey Ussury's setup.
Use deep litter, there will be food for the chickens arising from the composting action of the litter, as well as an apparent probiotic benefit. Plus, if you feed them live worms from your bins, some of the eggs might escape and breed lower down in the litter, making for more food.

Mangle-wurzle beets are a good choice. I also favor kale. It is crisp well into winter. My dogs found this out and apparently enjoy kale to teh point they ate it all the way to the tip of the root in December in Fairbanks, AK! There are simpler pre-sprouting setups to increase protein content of grains a bit, than the typical kitchen methods.

Don't forget spoiled milk, whey if you make cheese, yogurt bits....

A couple earth-bermed trashcans might act as root cellars to keep squash and cabbage and the like going until you are ready to feed it to the chickens. I have a relatively cool crawlspace, but I'm planning on building a deeply dug rootcellar fairly close to the chicken pen.

Hope some of this helps. I had the same problem. It doesn't make sense up here to feed pellets and store-bought grain because prices for them are probably double lower 48 prices. Hay prices are probably closer to triple given our growing season and demand versus available supply. Feed grass clippings too. Birch syrup, don't need to boil it. Raspberry and rosebush trimmings. Mature birds will totally disregard the thorns. Younger birds only give them the rosehips and leaves, or grind it up. Especially after frost when the rosehips are sweeter....

    Bookmark   August 31, 2011 at 4:54PM
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For winter (when the bugs, slugs, etc. are not around), we have used turnips (Johnny's sells a forage turnip that does great here). I don't know the protein content as our chickens don't lay well here in the dark unless we light the hen house --and that is expensive. The turnips allow them to survive the winter supplemented with other stuff, but you can hang the turnips and mangels in the house, and the chickens will nibble on them anytime it is warm enough to thaw the surface. You can also grind them and mix the with milk or whey.

    Bookmark   September 1, 2011 at 3:45PM
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I'm NO expert, BUT: a friend had a business in Brooklyn NY. He drove past a chicken slauhgter place and saw birds running loose in the street. He caught 2 and gave them to me. I fed them store food only in the winter. I gave tem all kitchen waste, inc. banana peels and worms I harvested from under a leaf pile and a ground tarp. They laid an egg each every day, under the oil tank in the fenced paddock next to my office. They roosted in my fruit trees in good weather. In winter I kept them in a compartment in my kennel which was connected to an outdoor run which they used in the day time weather permitting. I put a plastic bread tray in the compartment so the feces dropped through the holes onto newspaper I changed every day. They were part of my "family", along with the dogs. The drawback to this was I lost them to raptors shortly before I moved. Once I move to Pa I will surely have chickens again. I have read there is a kind of duck that never stops laying eggs so the frtilized eggs must be hatched by another breed or artificially. Sounds like a plan top me ! I will in future use a chicken tractor set up to prevent depradation.

    Bookmark   September 24, 2011 at 1:55PM
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We've raised 20+ layers on forage and compost during the summer for several years. Just toss it all to them, no grinding or cooking required. Those sharp beaks can take care of it! Pull up weeds and toss them into a pile for the chickens- I'm not sure cooking your dandelions keeps all of their nutrients available. We do supplement with store food all winter, but as long as the girls have enough light and enough food they lay year round. We're hoping to be able to skip the store feed completely next year, replacing it with a mix of hardy roots and grains. We keep some big pumpkins as long as we can and feed those out through the winter, too. Just toss it into their pen so that it cracks open and they'll gobble it right up.

    Bookmark   March 1, 2013 at 6:22AM
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That is what the homestead cow is for to feed every thing else.
little milk and chopped corn.
the leftovers .
I feed my chickens every thing that i don't eat.and every thing else.
They are carnivores they will eat any thing that don't eat them first and will eat it if you kill it first.

    Bookmark   May 6, 2013 at 9:30PM
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zzackey(8b GA)

Thanks everyone. I learned alot on this post. We have had chickens for 3 years now. These are are second batch now. They love watermelon, lettuce, swiss chard, any bitter greens, tomatoes, strawberries and grapes.
Chickweed is their favorite weed. They love corn on the cob. We get old corn from the food bank that they put out for the pig farmers and chicken farmers. They also love collards. That is the main green food they get once we get a frost. Ours are in a chicken tractor. We free ranged until the loose dogs killed 6 of them. We pick grasshoppers and crickets for them. We grow strawberries, tomatoes and grapes. It is fun to pick some for myself and then throw in some for the girls. Not ready to try making my own chicken food yet. We found the the days we aren't here to supplement their diet with the above mentioned foods, that they don't lay as many eggs.

    Bookmark   July 22, 2013 at 10:00PM
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We are moving to a 7 acre farm by the end of the month and I will be raising guineas and chickens together. Reading this post has interested me as I would love to grow the food for our new feathered friends. However, we are a celiac family and can not grow or feed our food wheat.
I noticed this is maybe a suggestion and something else can be substituted like oats perhaps?
Also I was wondering does anyone buy bugs to add to chicken feed in the winter time?

thank you,

    Bookmark   March 10, 2014 at 2:45AM
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