My chickensfree range all year but of course less is available in the winter months. Has anyone tried foraging and freezing/ dehydrating weeds and plants that chickens would normally forage to save for winter months? Dandelions, plantain, comfrey, and what not? I already forage wild blackberries and freeze them for the chickens for winter time. I also captured and froze a gallon bags worth of Japanese beetles (and the girls LOVED it). I want to add to my things I can forage and preserve for them in order to make the feed bill less intimidating in the winter months
Dehydrated forage sounds like hay to me, just hay taken from a polycultural pasture.
Another option is silage, where you'd store your harvested forage in, say, barrels or bags, where the air wouldn't get to them, and the contents ferment.
I suppose that you could even freeze everything, then store it outside in the cold in a sheltered location that will remain coolest, longest, even in the event of a warm spell in the middle of winter. Or a silo would work.
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This is definitely possible with most and probably all of the plants you mentioned. I WWOOF'ed in Germany once, and they dried stinging nettle for their goats. A lot of hay has some dried weeds in it like you're saying anyway. Fermenting some of these is an option too, though it's more involved than drying. People also used to make "tree hay" for animals like cows
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I freeze apple pomace left over from making apple sauce and apple butter and feed that out over the winter. They also get the apples that get old and wrinkly, from storage, as well as root crops.
Right before frost I pick all the remaining Maypops, green or not. I store them in a cool room in 5 gallon buckets and feed out them for 2-1/2 to 3 months, which is the longest they seem to keep for me.
I also feed some sun dried feed from the garden, but I haven’t ramped that up yet to any serious scale. I have considered expanding my lambs quarters area and making hay of part of it.
Thanks! I’m also experimenting with fermenting feed and sprouting black oil sunflower seeds. But I’m trying to slowly but surely move to where my land provides all they need. Planting forage bushes and trees and growing extra crops to save for them. There are so many wild edibles out there that chickens love! And all I gotta do is walk around and collect it! If I find ways to preserve a bunch, it will go a long way to providing a natural and varied diet even through the winter months.
I ferment the feed I buy for them. I am a big believer in fermented chicken feeds. It lowers cost (15% according to a study I read), decreases the anti-nutrients of grains, and adds vitamins. Another big plus is the thick shells on their eggs.
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