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Teaching Poultry to eat things they haven't before - in this case Nettles

 
Landon Sunrich
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Location: Western Washington
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So I have many many nettles on my property. I encourage them. I feel they are one of my best assets. Lately I've been selectively harvesting them for seed. Nettles produce way more seed then I could ever possibly use. So today I spend about half an hour teaching my chickens and geese to eat them.

They where skeptical at first. In fact, I though I had lost the geese completely. But low and behold as I look out my windows as I sit here typing they're eating away. I'm pretty exited by this and it was super easy.

I set a bunch of nettles I'd cut down on a sheet of plywood and sat down next to them and started munching on seed clusters. The birds where interested, but skeptical. I then made tapping motions with my index finger rhythmically on the seed clusters like a chicken pecking. Two or three of the chickens pretty much immediately joined in. Now they're all doing it. In fact I'm watching them (and the geese) starting to eat seed clusters directly from the living nettles. Mission success. In a matter of half an hour I introduced my birds to a new abundant food supply they had never considered. Left out - the duck. Thankfully the slugs are starting to kick back into gear again.

Anyway. Chickens and geese will totally eat nettle seeds given a little tutelage.
 
Adam Klaus
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Location: 6200' westen slope of colorado, zone 6
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great lesson. for the birds but really even more so for us! congrats on the succes, good thinking on your part.
 
dave collett
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interesting; I didn't realise they would need to be taught.
we have some chickens that were bought at point of lay and fed on pellets. tried to offer them good green veggies like chicory and some other stuff a few times and they never pay it any attention- perhaps I should try this.
 
David Hartley
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Though sound like a crazy person; I try to immitate the sound of the cock when he calls the hens to food he has found.
 
Landon Sunrich
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Spending 10 or 15 minutes at it certainly couldn't hurt you're chances. I did notice a day or two later though, that though the husks digested (of the nettles) the seeds seemed to pass through the chicken undigested. So I smashed a bunch of barnacles and baby muscels with a hammer. Because we don't have oysters and I here their shell makes for some good grit. (but really just because I like smashing things with hammers).

So looks like I have a mass dispersal system for my nettles. which means they'll be growing everywhere. great. time to call Monsanto...

At any rate nettle seeds as the perfect chicken food seems to have a fatal flaw. But teaching chickens to eat stuff totally works. So there's that at least
 
John Elliott
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I've found that chickens will try anything that is "bite-size". If they can swallow it, down it goes. With big stuff, like a squash or a watermelon rind, they peck at it trying to pull off bite size pieces to swallow, and with smaller stuff that is more than a bite, they will try to shake it into smaller pieces. So if I want to try something new on my chickens, I make sure to cut it to an appropriate size.

There lots of ways to do this. If it's in the yard and I can run over it with the lawn mower, the pieces in the bag are usually the right size. Any time that I empty the lawn mower bag and move the chicken tractor over it, they think they've gone to heaven. It's good for a couple hours of scratching entertainment.

Right now, I am experimenting with giving them fermented foods. I came across some articles saying that Lactobacillus in the diet can increase egg production, so I thought I would try it out. So I'm chopping vegetables and soaking them in brine and the chickens seem to like it so far.
 
Alder Burns
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I'm in midst of a major mast year of acorns and they are getting ahead of me in terms of processing and storing them for myself. I want to get my hens to eat them, but with less processing than for my own use. Since I soak and sprout the grain I feed them, I plan to try this with acorns too, hoping that the sprouting process will reduce the tannins and break the shells open and make them more interesting. But I still think I may have to smash them. These are big acorns....way too big for them to swallow whole...
 
John Elliott
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Alder Burns wrote:I'm in midst of a major mast year of acorns and they are getting ahead of me in terms of processing and storing them for myself. I want to get my hens to eat them, but with less processing than for my own use. Since I soak and sprout the grain I feed them, I plan to try this with acorns too, hoping that the sprouting process will reduce the tannins and break the shells open and make them more interesting. But I still think I may have to smash them. These are big acorns....way too big for them to swallow whole...


What pampered chickens! Have you tried the driveway method? Leave the acorns in the driveway and run over them a few times. I have oaks overhanging the driveway, and I'm amazed at the amount of scratch feed I can sweep up in the fall.
 
Marsha Richardson
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Be careful feeding chickens things which have been brined. Too much salt is deadly to them. You can rinse the salt off but then you lose the beneficial bacteria. We have always fed ours fermented sprouted grain. No salt, lots of enzymes and no toxins.
 
I agree. Here's the link: https://richsoil.com/wood-heat.jsp
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