I'm planning on getting a coop ready for next spring's attempt at backyard chickens. Ideally, in my neurotic mind, I'll be able to grow various plants for the chickens to nosh once winter has returned-- by no means do I have the space available to provide all their nutrition for the whole winter season, but I would like to make a dent in the feed bill.
I'm thinking things like...
golden giant amaranth (evidently known to get 1lbs seed heads from a single plant; even if it's half that in yield, with enough plants, that's a couple pounds of that particular seed)
black oilseed and russian mammoth sunflowers
culinary flax japanese millet
corn (maybe, still on the fence about it)
I'd like to grow a fruited mulberry tree (trimmed to stay small and bushy to provide cover from the birds of prey we have here) near the coop... but that will take a while to get established to bearfruit. On that note, if I had the space, I'd do a fig tree too; they could have fun with those fruits.
For winter storage, I'd like to cheesecloth or paper bag the seed heads (still attached to plant), cut the plant at ground level and dry it whole. Use about half the seed heads for a scratch mix, and the rest of the harvest to be chucked as whole plants when needed to the birds. If I can hugelkultur a couple pots, I could do greens during the winter.
Anything else I should include on the list? I'm looking for large yielding plants that don't have to be babied too much.
You might consider a worm bin to process some kitchen waste the chickens won't eat, such as coffee grounds, into something chickens will eat - worms.
I grew Golden Giant and it does indeed have impressive production even under less than ideal conditions.
Location: Northern Cali, USA -zone 9-
posted 7 years ago
I don't have a formal worm bin, just an empty garden bed I've been chucking my coffee grounds, tater and carrot peelings then have it topped with a thick layer of mulberry leaves. I use soil from that bed for filling my pots and other various gardening experiments; every shovel-fill has worms in it-- mostly earthworms, but I did find a red wiggler once, too.
That sounds great! I think rasphberries are great in this situation, low cost to take care, and grow very quickly. Just trim to the size you want it, and each year, additional plants will grow from its roots. If you want some good sunflower seeds, at a low cost, I recomend Johnny's Selected Seeds (http://www.johnnyseeds.com/), they have likr 1000 sunflower seeds for $6.00 last time I checked. Rashpberries grow well into the winter. Than for the spring time, I recomend strawberries, they grow very early spring to late spring, which takes care of that season.
Regarding Winter feed:
Worms won't reproduce when temps drop to low, so winter worms as feed will have to be moved into a protected warmer area such as the basement, attic or spare bedroom. It's not bad just something to work into your plan. Red wrigglers want protein/waste sources such as poo, while earth worms want old vegetation. I used the hay + rabbit droppings to feed my reds. Both Earth and Reds want things moist, but meal worms are cleaner and much easier to raise indoors during winter months because they like a dryer environment. All of them make excellent chicken protein feed, helping with egg production.
Raspberries (love 'me) most kinds completely die back (no winter feed) some back berries do not (leaves still available). Of course this all depends on your climate and verities of plants. To help off set die back consider plants for much colder regions than yours and look to hedges, brush and as you mentioned fodder trees.
We have a thread here all about what to grow for chicken feed, do a search and let me know if you need help finding it.
Indigenous to India, and highly drought resistant. The sprawling mat-forming plants do well in very hot weather (to 100-120 deg. F) and protect the soil. Small pods 1-2 “ long,1/2” wide contain 4-8 /tiny beans. In India the young pods are a vegetable and the dry beans are used like lentils as “dal”. Very high protein at 22-24%. It alone did well in drought-stricken north Kenya. In California trials as a green manure it smothered all weeds except milkweed.
I love the idea of a high protein product that can serve as a living mulch in hot summers -and- fix nitrogen... I'm going to put this on my list of things to grow. Bet chickens would love 'em.