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forage for chickens

 
Kathleen Sanderson
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Location: Near Klamath Falls, Oregon
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Paul, I'm (slowly  ) thinking out loud here....  I don't think a pile (of compost, manure, or hay) needs oxygen to heat up.  Not sure what does cause spontaneous combustion, but the REMEDY for it (or preventive) is making sure there's plenty of air circulating through the pile.  I'm just thinking of haystacks that spontaneously combust -- my father used to make sure there was a hole in the middle of a stack of loose hay so it wouldn't heat up too much.  (There was still some heat, as I remember sticking my hand down in there to feel it.)

Kathleen
 
Joel Hollingsworth
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I mentioned woodchips as a material with lots of loft, that will allow air to permeate even a very deep pile.

Commercial operations use some very large windrows, and they remain aerobic if they're set up properly to begin with.

Also, I've read in several places that worms are able to find the "sweet spot" of temperature in a pile that is partly thermophilic and that is well-mulched. Here's a recent blog post where the blogger harvests worms from fairly near the surface of a large outdoor pile, in 4 degree F weather:

http://onestraw.wordpress.com/2009/12/11/4-season-farming-winter-vermicomposting/

I admit it might be difficult to control the chickens' access so that not much food is wasted.
 
paul wheaton
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bee chicken hugelkultur trees wofati woodworking
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As long as we're talking about sawdust and wood chips:  A few months ago I was at a woodmill site in missoula where there were piles of wood chips that were 20 to 60 years old.  Maybe older.  And the wood chips on the surface looked like they might be just a few months old. 

 
Joel Hollingsworth
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Cool...sounds like wood chips are a very durable mulch in mountain desert conditions, when rich sources of fixed nitrogen are kept several feet away and any rain can drain very quickly. I am definitely considering it as a major part of the mulch for an eventual deep-mulched garden bed, to avoid having to bring in straw so often.

Did you dig into the foot of the pile, by any chance, and see how the wood/soil interface looked?

My brother bought some property in Brooklyn recently, and I helped him clean out the back patio, where a fence had fallen. The fence was made of 1x lumber, and had probably been there for a couple years at most, but the bottom quarter-inch of the wood had become soil, with large numbers of worms in it. Maybe one worm every four square inches or so.
 
paul wheaton
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Joel Hollingsworth wrote:

Did you dig into the foot of the pile, by any chance, and see how the wood/soil interface looked?


I didn't!  I should!

I did take pics and video of the mountains of old wood chips.


 
                              
Posts: 461
Location: Inland Central Florida, USA
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I can say my chickens love the brown turkey figs I have.  Turnips are another handy forage crop for chickens as they are easy to grow far beyond my family's willingness to eat them.  High in calcium too.
 
Jennifer Smith
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Here is a new one...

if you let luffa dry on the vine and then throw it into the goat pen, she will eat the skin and the chickens will eat the seeds. 
 
Joel Hollingsworth
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Will the goat eat the vine, as well?
 
                  
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Location: Eppalock, Australia
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Chamaecytisus palmensis or tree lucerne/tagaste is great for the chickens, its a heavy seeder, is evergreen and is a legume. It can self sow in warmer parts if thats a problem!
 
                              
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Location: Inland Central Florida, USA
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Any tips for getting the tagaste to germinate?  I got some seeds and the ones I treated the way they recommended by boiling for a few seconds and then planting at the start of the rainy season didn't germinate for me.

See the trick is rainy season's vary in different climates.  My rainy season starts during the hot season while some other climates the rainy season starts in the cold season.

Does anyone have info about what conditions the tagaste likes best for germination so I can avoid wasting the other packet of seeds?  I think this time I might need to mechanically scarify the seeds.
 
                          
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Location: Marrakai Northern Territory Australia
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TCLynx wrote:
Any tips for getting the tagaste to germinate?  I got some seeds and the ones I treated the way they recommended by boiling for a few seconds and then planting at the start of the rainy season didn't germinate for me.

See the trick is rainy season's vary in different climates.  My rainy season starts during the hot season while some other climates the rainy season starts in the cold season.

Does anyone have info about what conditions the tagaste likes best for germination so I can avoid wasting the other packet of seeds?  I think this time I might need to mechanically scarify the seeds.

Lynx
not sure if this would work but may be worth a try
from what you said about useing boiling water i assime they need some sort of heat treatment for germination? would putting some seed on a tray into the oven, say after its been turned off work while oven is cooling, could be worth a try but i dont recomend useing your whole pack of seed for experiment
 
                              
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Location: Inland Central Florida, USA
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I got the impression from the instructions about the treatment that it was mainly to try and soften up the seed coat and not so much a heat treatment.  Basically the seed coat is very hard and shiny/slippery smooth which makes mechanical nicking of the seed coat very tricky.  I might have to try again with sand paper or something though since nothing came up with the boiling method.  Perhaps I should also pre-sprout them before planting.  Sigh.
 
                  
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Location: Eppalock, Australia
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I,ve had good success by collecting the seed in summer when ready, placing them in a cup of boiling water for 5-6 minutes to soften the seed coat and then sowing into trays. I have heard of the seed being direct sown after treatment though I,ve only ever grown in pots to be transplanted. When I do plant out I always put half a handfull of soil from a grown tagaste to innoculate the soil to enable the roots to begin nitrogen fixing. If you know where a mature tagaste is you can often find seedlings growing around that can be transplanted into pots or directly where you want them to grow.
 
                              
Posts: 461
Location: Inland Central Florida, USA
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Ok, the packet of seed I have says to use soybean/cowpea inoculant so I'll use some of that since I've never seen any Tagasaste growing around here or if I had, I wouldn't know it since I don't know what it looks like, I haven't been able to find any pictures.

Hum, boil for 5-6 minutes, the packet here says one minute, maybe I'll try boiling longer then.  I've taken a nail file to about ten seeds and am trying to sprout them in paper towel.  I still have some seeds in the pack I'll try boiling longer.
 
Joel Hollingsworth
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TCLynx:

I don't think they should be boiled for any great length of time. I would guess 5 minutes at a rolling boil would kill them all.

I took Fred's recommendation to be: pour a cup of boiling water. Add seeds. After 5 minutes, drain.

If they are anything like Western redbud, the heat treatment does activate the seeds, an adaptation to their role as post-wildfire pioneers.

I hear lots of legumes germinate more quickly with a sprinkling of ash, perhaps for similar reasons.

One last notion: has any alfalfa rotted in the soil you're sowing into? The two species might be closely related enough that alfalfa's anti-germination chemicals are working against you.  It might be worth making up a potting mix with no legume content to grow the plants in for a few months.
 
                              
Posts: 461
Location: Inland Central Florida, USA
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Alfalfa isn't really easy to grow down here.  I have used alfalfa pellets as fertilizer before though.

The first batch I tried I simply dropped into boiling water for about a minute and drained as the package recommended.  None of them came up, they were planted in potting mix/worm castings.

This time I took an emery board to ten of the seeds and then put them in wet paper towel in a sandwich container on top of the aquarium light (worked well for hot pepper seeds.)  I can see that at least one seed has taken in some water and split the seed coat further so perhaps chitting this way will work and as soon as I see sign that some are actually germinating, I'll put into the potting mix I have standing by with some soybean inoculant as well as some cowpea inoculant since I have both on hand here in the south.  Will see if I can get some seedlings going.  This sounds like it might be nice fodder to have on hand for the chickens since they don't seem to like the duckweed or the moringa.
 
                  
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Location: Eppalock, Australia
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Sorry if my info wasn't clear, I wouldn't boil it for five minutes but put in cup of boiled water and then drain.
 
Ken Peavey
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My ladies enjoy a salad as often as I can offer them one-greens from the garden and weeds of every sort.  Diversity seems to please them.  Arugula, mustard, chard, dandelion, whatever is handy.  Greens will grow quickly putting the leaves back in reach after the hens tear off a bite.

What about poisonous plants spoken of in other threads.  Give the birds a medicine cabinet within reach. 

Lots of variety in a small space in 3 dimensions.  Herbs, greens, grains, flowers, taller plants, creeping vines, fruit trees.  A chicken biotope?

 
Jennifer Smith
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In case some are missing it, on the fake maple syrup thread they are talking about milo's ability to regrow a second crop. 
 
Jesse Coker
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Location: Rhode Island
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How-dy. I haven't come across anything yet as far as caring for newly hatched chicks. After our hen hatched seven chicks herself, the chicks that are 4 days old or so are in a small enclosure during the day with momma hen. We move the cage around so they get fresh forage every so often.

Do we need to get additional feed for newbies? Is there some disease preventatives in the feed that mother nature doesn't provide? It seems to me that if they're foraging just like ma, they'll do just fine.

Also, our two other adults at this time are not laying. Is this a sign of not getting enough forage or something? Our paddocks are quite large for the amount of chickens that we have. 3 adults, 4 adolescents, and 7 babies in paddocks that are 25 ft x 25 ft.

Trying to get this all sorted out before I up and leave for Uganda in 2 1/2 weeks  ops: Thanks!!!
 
                              
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Location: Inland Central Florida, USA
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Poultry can use up the forage in a 25 by 25 area fairly quickly, if they are not being moved around to new areas, I expect you will need to be providing supplemental feed.  I had 6 chickens use up most of the usable forage in a 100 foot by 20 foot space in a matter of weeks and I was providing free choice commercial feed and scratch on occasion.

As for the babies, well I know many commercial starter feeds has medications in it.  I always avoid those since I also raise ducks and the medication would probably be the wrong dosage for the way ducks eat/drink and could harm them.  But I do tend to get a bag of starter for the higher protein when I have new chicks/ducklings.

I would love to avoid all commercial feeds but I'm a soft touch and have always tended to provide free choice feeds in addition to letting them have as much space as I can for foraging.

If the birds are not laying, there are many reasons that could cause it.  Molting, stress, or just not enough protein.  My hens usually lay much better the day after I give them yogurt.
 
Joel Hollingsworth
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Jennifer Smith  "listenstohorses" wrote:
In case some are missing it, on the fake maple syrup thread they are talking about milo's ability to regrow a second crop. 


That's much more likely for certain varieties. I seem to recall Mennonite sorghum being bred for that ability.

Genes from these "ratooning" varieties are expected to be important in the development of perennial sorghum, eventually.
 
                          
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Himalayan Honeysuckle

Fruit is ripe now and just today (20 September 2010) I witnessed one of our young roosters jumping about 3 feet high to reach the topmost fruit.  The plant survived, flowered and fruited in our dry summer with no supplemental watering.  I did water it a bit the first year after transplant.  45 minutes SW of Portland, Oregon

http://www.pfaf.org/user/Plant.aspx?LatinName=Leycesteria%20formosa

The following are plants from which I have witnessed the chickens foraging.
We supplement their browse year round with free choice Cascade Layer Mash (Soy and Wheat free, locally sourced) and crushed oyster shell.   

Birch catkins
Lady's Mantle (leaves)--- the older hens (8+ yrs old), especially
Horseradish (leaves)
Lavender (flowers, buds & leaves)
Clover
Alfalfa
Lettuce
Comfrey (leaves)
Borage (leaves)
Yarrow (leaves)
Grass, unknown variety (blades & seeds)
Plantain (leaves & seeds) 
Dandelion (leaves & seeds)
Dock (leaves & seeds)
Wild lettuce (leaves & seeds)

Huckleberries, evergreen (fruit)  Chickens are hard on the young plants as the branches tend to be brittle.
Grapes (fruit)
Nectarines (fruit)
Apples (fruit)
Watermelons (Only the skin remains)
Corn on the cob  (Picked clean every time!)
Tomatoes (berry)
Strawberries (fruit)
Raspberries (fruit)
Plums (fallen fruit)
Medlar (fallen fruit)
Brassicas

This is all that I can remember now off the top of my head.  It makes for good spring, summer and autumn foraging.  In future I will most likely attempt to establish some sort of perennial legume and grain areas for them to use by broadcasting the seed mixed with a bit of compost and  let nature fight its own battles.  It's an ever changing process. 
 
Will Sustane
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Since I am hoping to get chickens soon, I have been doing some homework seeking a sustainable and cheap way to feed them. This thread is a wealth of great info! Hoping I can give back by sharing something I stumbled across in my search, I found one website that advocates using Duckweed (Lemnoideae) as a high protein feed supplement.

It seems to be worth considering as a possible feed. Its nutritional profile seems promising. Also, I understand it is a voraciously prolific species, considered an invasive and problem plant. (Ain't it funny how many "invasive and problem" plants are of great potential use). Since it reproduces so quickly, it would seem it might be harvested quite regularly with a large net or skimmer. A good quantity may be produced off even a smallish backyard pond.

Anyone have any experience with duckweed as chickenfeed? It's said it is best to dry it before use as feed. This could be as simple as leaving it sit in the sun until ready. Perhaps it could be dried faster by using a solar dehydrator? However, it may all be for naught if the chickens turn up their little noses... err, beaks at the plant and don't show a taste for the little "water lentils." I guess the birds will have to be the final judge of how good a feed this is.

http://www.avianaquamiser.com/posts/Duckweed_as_chicken_feed/

From the website:

"What I wasn't aware of at the time is that duckweed is extraordinarily high in protein.  You'll remember from my chart of protein content in chicken feed ingredients that corn is 9% protein and dry-roasted soybeans are 37% protein.  Well, depending on who you talk to (and presumably depending on the species of duckweed, since there are several), duckweed is 30 to 50% protein.  Wow!  I've read that duckweed can make up to 40% of a chicken's diet, with 25% being more optimal."

cheers,
Will
 
Kathleen Sanderson
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I'm considering growing duckweed as part of an aquaponics setup.  From the reports I've read, it's not foolproof in an aquaponics setup, but definitely worth trying.

Kathleen
 
                              
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I've used caragana for over 25 years and am still amazed at how well they go with chickens. They provide shade, shelter from overhead predators, need nearly zero care or water and provide three sources of food, flowers, seed and the falling leaves in autumn.  Rocks piled around the trunks prevent the chickens digging up the roots.
My second recommendation would be comfrey. Planted in cages in the pen, or in a row around the outside, the chickens can self feed. Keep the center of the plants at least 8 inches farther from the fence than the chickens can  stretch their neck through the wire.
 
Kathleen Sanderson
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carver166 wrote:
I've used caragana for over 25 years and am still amazed at how well they go with chickens. They provide shade, shelter from overhead predators, need nearly zero care or water and provide three sources of food, flowers, seed and the falling leaves in autumn.  Rocks piled around the trunks prevent the chickens digging up the roots.
My second recommendation would be comfrey. Planted in cages in the pen, or in a row around the outside, the chickens can self feed. Keep the center of the plants at least 8 inches farther from the fence than the chickens can  stretch their neck through the wire.


Those are both excellent suggestions -- and they are both things that will actually grow here!  Thanks.

Kathleen
 
                            
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Location: australia
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the chickens have the apparatus to eat oats just using their beak
when I have made stooks they attack them push them over and demolish the grain
I have a great pic somewhere of the chickens jumping up to get the grain from the top of the crop
stored grain will be harder for them to crack, but keep some moisture in it

sunflowers, when they are fully loaded and ripe and getting droopy heads cut then off and put them in a barrel, they'll ferment a bit over time  but feed them out by the head and they remain soft and the chickens relish picking the heads clean of seeds

I think barley grass from when it is new until before it sets seed is the most popular feed that my chickens ever ate

there is another very popular feed but too offal to mention
 
Ute Chook
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Adding to TFox's list:

Cool-temperate climate:

Currants (red, black, white) - fruit
Gooseberry - fruit
Josta (black currant x gooseberry) - fruit
Worcesterberry - fruit
Willow (Salix sp.) - catkins, seeds, and small, elongated leaves
Sea buckthorn (Hippophae) - fruit and leaves
Elaeagnus sp. - fruit and leaves
Chenopodium giganteum - leaves and seeds
Pumkins and courgettes - all but outer skin, just cut in half, pumpkin seeds are a favourite
Swiss chard
sprouted grain

re duckweed: I have a small pond with duckweed in it and occasionally harvest it with a strainer attached to an old fishing rod. I just tip it into a flat pan or low bucket in their run. They love it. There are also some aquatic critters amongst the duckweed, another welcome feed addition.

I should emphasize though that all these are just extras provided (or self-harvested) as they are in season, in addition to proprietary organic chicken feed and straight grains. 
 
Suzy Bean
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Paul talks about chickens foraging in this podcast: http://www.richsoil.com/permaculture/429-podcast-075-gaias-garden-chapter-7/
 
John Polk
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Another good plant is Mugwort (Artemisia vulgaris).  The chickens love to eat it, it repels lice, and if that wasn't enough, as a culinary herb, it goes well with poultry!
 
Jack Shawburn
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In the Chicken coops/runs....  thread Obedience posted some of his paddock ideas.
http://www.permies.com/bb/index.php?topic=1958.msg101533#msg101533
His idea for Brick Block got my attention.
I searched if Chickens will eat Sweet Potato leaves (they will eat almost anything)
and found a couple of very positive references.
So if one were to plant sweet potato and protect the Stool
with a wire cage it will grow out and the vines can be eaten by the chickens
but not kill the plant.

What other Plants will do well like this?

I'm thinking Wire Cages on top of circles filled with compost
then planted to whatever one wants as the feed.
 
Jack Shawburn
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What about Pigeon Pea ~ Cajanus cajan ?
Very very little written about them on Permies.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pigeon_pea
Drought tolerant as described here.
http://www.hort.purdue.edu/newcrop/duke_energy/Cajanus_cajun.html
Annual in Cooler climes and perrenial (2-3yrs) in warm areas.
The leaves are edible.
Its a nitrogen fixer.
Grows to a small tree -5-8 feet (so once tall enough Chicosaurus Rex wont kill them)

It seems some will flower twice a year.

http://www.victoryseeds.com/pea_pidgeon.html
http://www.mrcseeds.co.uk/pigeon-pea.html

http://www.tropicalpermaculture.com/pigeon-pea.html

Very nice article on growing them here
http://pickmeyard.wordpress.com/2010/11/16/please-pass-the-pigeon-peas/

I have now put some in and will see how they do.
 
Karin Boom
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Location: North Dakota- zone 3/4
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I wonder if there might be a high calorie leaf forage that would be good.
I would think most grains would be good.

We discovered 'duckweed' or lemna-which is an abundant pond plant- is excellent chicken feed. A fishing net frame with an old sheer curtain loosely fastened across makes a great skimmer and in 15 minutes or less it is possible to gather several 5 gallon pails of greens and the bonus are the snails which inevitably are in abundance in the mix. Duckweed has the protein equivalent of soybeans and higher carbohydrate content than corn so the birds thrived on it. We fed it to both the laying hens and the broilers with great results. In fact, they ate it with great delight. Duckweed does well in water that is high in nutrients and is able to take many of the micronutrients from the water and make them available in a very digestible form. Great article on this at this link: www.fao.org/ag/againfo/resources/documents/DW/Dw2.htm
 
                                                                    
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Location: Nashville, Tennessee, USA
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Mowing the lawn kills insects.
So, don't mow the lawn.

We stopped mowing in 2011 and the population of wild birds really grew.

They sing songs and altogether make things nicer.

Also, my chickens have more bugs to eat.

I just mow a few paths so I can get around the place.
 
Paul Gutches
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Location: Taos, New Mexico
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Good god... that looks like the list of things I've been planning to grow for ME!

I guess you could just simplify things and say... grow a food forest for yourself and your feathered friends will be happy to live with you.

Not only will your forest grow better, you'll have eggs on top of all the other abundance.

I am really pleased to see just what a range of things that chickens will eat.

awesome list. thanks


forest gardener wrote:Most "fruiting" mulberry trees/shrubs sold are grafted to ensure a flavorful fruiting variety (exactly the same genetically as the parent).
You could dig up the free seedlings and use them as rootstock.

Here is the list I have come up with for plant to use for chicken feed- please add to it if you can!


PLANTS FOR SOWING IN ROTATION
Sunflower, amaranth, corn, millet, buckwheat, chickpea, sorghum, wheat, oats, barley,  clover

TREES and SHRUBS
peach,
banana (chop up the stems),
fig,
jaboticaba,
grumichama,
Brazilian cherry,
pears
Black Locust- Robinia
Honey locust (pods are high protien and tree is nitrogen fixing)
Cornus,
sorbus,
Nanking cherry
Sand Cherry
Siberian Pea Shrub- Carragana spp.
Apple
Plum
Raspberry
Mulberry  (fruit is relatively high protien)
Sea Buckthorn
Apricot
rosa rugosa
Plums
Raspberries
Gooseberries
Saskatoon (Service berry)
Sea buck thorn
Sand cherry
persimmon, pawpaw, feijoa, strawberry guava, tamarillo, custard apple,


GREENS  and/or SEEDS
dandelion (Taraxacum officinale)
plantain (Plantago spp.) (high in calcium for chickens)
chickweed
arrowroot,
New Zealand spinach syn.  - Tetragonia tetragonoides, 
nettles,
brassicas (radishes, mustards),
alfalfa,
clovers- Strawberry clover,  Ladino Clover, White Dutch Clover, Red Strawberry Clover
chicory,
purslane
Buckwheat,
black oats,
Perennial Cereals
pumpkins,cucumber
squash
Sunflowers,
amaranth,
corn,
chard, cabbage, kale,
spinach, lettuce, broccoli...in fact any of the green leafy vegetables.
sesame, sunflower,
pigeon pea
Flax,
Birdsfoot Broadleaf Trefoil,
Red Cowpeas
Strawberries
Radishes
corn salad
lambs quarters
dock (Rumex spp.)


Vines
chayote,
passionfruit
grapes
peas
climbing spinach-  Ceylon Spinach


Herbs
Bergamot
Clary sage
Nettles
Yarrow
Comfrey  (limited portion of diet- liver toxin)
borage (self-reseeds freely)
Feverfew
Wormwood (Artemesia absinthe)
rue (Ruta graveolens)

 
POND PLANTS
Lemma


 
Jeffrey Hodgins
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Location: Yucatan Puebla Ontario BC
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paul wheaton wrote:I would think that millet might be too small for full grown chickens - anybody tried feeding millet to chickens?

I have some perennial wild millet growing among the trees I don't realy know if the chickens eat it but I like to feed it to the sheep and cows cuz I know it has a high calorie content with all that grain. It also grows new grain very quickly and must be cut often to avoid the seeds falling on the ground (for the chickens?).
 
Kahty Chen
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Location: Southern Oregon
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We mix millet and whole oats into our grain mix - the chickens and turkeys polish them off just fine. Our flock also loves sorrel and beetberry (or "strawberry spinach", good leaves and berries). Sorrel grows well in cooler temps. Next winter I'll be growing greens for our flock under a hoop house - I haven't decided if I'll cut and carry, or design a way to rotate them in.

Our flock has a fairly decent supply of micro-critters to forage during winter months in our deep litter bedding in the coop. The coop's uninsulated, but is a good shelter, so the deep litter is a great habitat for little insects. I also recently let the poultry into a couple of garden beds that were covered in hay, I'm saving a couple more to let them in soon. A nice mid winter's treat.

I'm wondering if anyone knows about mistletoe. Google University vote it a pretty solid "no" for toxicity, but I've read about it being used as winter fodder for cattle, and I know that birds and deer eat it. I offered a little to my donkey and they liked it, and didn't foam at the mouth or do the drunk walk. Anyway, we have a bunch of it in a few oak trees, and I'm trying to track down more info about it before I offer any more to our critters.

 
Jeffrey Hodgins
Posts: 166
Location: Yucatan Puebla Ontario BC
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Well I know that mocking birds eat the berries, the seeds are sticky and birds poop them out in new trees. Mistletoe is a big pain for me, it pops up in all my fruit trees.
 
Paul Gutches
Posts: 104
Location: Taos, New Mexico
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Hi Kahty

what % of your chickens winter nutrition is coming from the microcritters would you estimate ?
Is hygiene an issue since the bugs are in the bedding that they poop in?

Also, is this bedding right on the soil level or raised up? And what material is your bedding?
(yes, I ask a lot of questions!)

I guess I'm trying to better picture the specific conditions.

winter insect forage is an attractive idea.


Kahty Chen wrote:
Our flock has a fairly decent supply of micro-critters to forage during winter months in our deep litter bedding in the coop. The coop's uninsulated, but is a good shelter, so the deep litter is a great habitat for little insects. I also recently let the poultry into a couple of garden beds that were covered in hay, I'm saving a couple more to let them in soon. A nice mid winter's treat.

 
I agree. Here's the link: http://stoves2.com
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