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No feed chickens

 
tim Trammell
Posts: 19
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I'm sure it's here someplace, but I really don't want to search through 100's of threads.

SO if I don't have a huge compost making business, how do I feed chickens without buying "feed"?

Is there a thread that discusses this already?
 
Paul Ewing
Posts: 127
Location: Boyd, Texas
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How many chickens do you want to raise and how much land do you have available? In an average backyard you might be able to have three or four maybe even six that forage on insects, plants, and food scraps you throw out. In a larger area you could probably have a dozen in a large backyard lot. I have a couple dozen guinea fowl that forage for most of their diet but they range over about four or five acres. Are you wanting to have them forage for all their diet or are you willing to provide them some alternative feeds such as fly larva, kitchen scraps, or other stuff?
 
Luke Townsley
Posts: 131
Location: Dugger, IN Zone 6a
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Paul talks about this some in his post/thesis/rant/instructional about chicken coops. http://www.richsoil.com/raising-chickens.jsp It's definitely one of the better articles out there and is a good starting place.

I've done far more research into this topic than I really care to admit, and here are some of the things I have come up with:

-More flighty chickens are generally better foragers and better at evading predators. They also burn more energy.
-A rooster or two may help the hens forage better, and help protect them.
-Hen brooded chicks are likely to start foraging better sooner since they have a teacher. Given their short lifespan and enormous appetite, this could be a big deal for meat birds.
-Chickens need a varied diet.
-Chickens need bugs or at least meat.
-For today's layers, you will probably have to supplement calcium.
-The compost thing (video geoff lawton did in the northeast US) is attractive and various grubs could likely be raised in it. I've heard you can keep redworms through the winter in horse manure (told to me by someone in Indiana)
-If you want to sprout grain, it seems to offer a number of advantages over whole grain, but there is generally no reason to grow it into green for chickens. It would probably be possible to free range and feed wheat sprouts almost exclusively in some situations.
-More protein and fat seem to be necessary in the winter. Black oil sunflower seeds or animal fat are easy ways to do that.
-Duckweed and other aquatic seems like an attractive high protein feed.
-Lacto-fermentation may increase bioavailability of feed and grain.

Really, a lot of this depends on your goals including breeds, number of chickens, other species involved, availability of livestock guards, predator pressure, climate, time of year, space, and a lot of other variables.

Getting more than three or four layers off bagged feed or grain entirely is a pretty significant task for most situations.

We will keep 100-200 layers and raise maybe 400 big breasted meat birds this summer and have the goal of dramatically reducing bagged feed use and getting to the place where we can see how to eliminate it entirely for the next year. Definitely a very challenging goal given our situation. Even allowing for some pasture, we will be looking at replacing about 10 tons of feed on about a 2 acre "homestead" if we are cutting out bagged feed entirely. No matter how you cut it, that is a lot of material.
 
Alder Burns
pollinator
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Location: northern California
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I've been able to get my five chickens to survive, and they are now starting to lay, on a diet of about 70% smashed, soaked acorns. This is supplemented with some cottonseed meal, oyster shell. all our kitchen scraps and some weeds, and usually 1/2 day on free range. Sometimes I give them a handful of sprouted grain in the evenings to encourage them to come back into their yard. I think they would survive with less dithering over, but I'm interested in eggs. I think they will get more nutrients from the pasture as spring comes on.
The other thing I've done in the past is keep black soldier flies. These will recycle many otherwise inedible materials into edible, high protein poultry feed. Some feedstocks would come from the farm itself, including a certain percentage of the chickens' own manure, humanure, pet manure, dead animals, even poisonous wild mushrooms. Actually there seem to be very few things they won't eat! (citrus rinds....but goats will eat those!) Coffee grounds are one of their favorite foods, so if you are anywhere near a town with a coffee shop you have an abundant source of supplement. (For that matter, if you are near a town with a movie theater, there are likely large bags of popcorn in the dumpster out back....more free feed)
 
tim Trammell
Posts: 19
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Thanks for the info, I guess a little more info would be useful.

To start I'm thinking about getting 50 straight run chicks, dual purpose breed of some sort. FIguring 50% hens and roos that's 25 layers and 25 roos, duh. I'm planning on having the hens free range and the roos in chicken tractors.

I have about 7 acres of pasture to run them on, with no other livestock at this time, maybe a calf later but not sure.

Am interested in growing supplemental food in the way of BSF or meal worms.

Long term I'm wanting to develop a customer base to handle up to 1000 meat birds a year, but that's is a couple years down the road at best. Heritage breed of course, haven't decided which yet, Jersey Giants, Dorkings or something.
 
April Swift
Posts: 19
Location: Texas
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For those of you free ranging, how to you keep critters from killing your chickens? How do you keep your chickens off your cars, sheds, tools? Chicken poop EVERYWHERE ! How do you find the eggs? I had some free rangers and these were the problems I encountered. I now have everybody in a coop and I handcarry leaves,and hay from the pasture and I sprout lentils everyday for them....BTW egg production has gone WAY up with sprouting and I am spending a dollar a week and a few minutes each day to sprout lentils. I went (in the winter) from about 5ish eggs a day to 9-10 eggs a day out of 11 hens and 1 roo. We will be moving soon and chickens will be tractoring so I am curious to the best tractors y'all are usiing. Also, I watched Geoff Lawton's video about electric fencing but how do they do that if it isn't a pasture but already kind of a forest? The new place has been left to reforest for 20 yrs and is rather grown up in trees. I can't figure out how to tractor chickens through that and haven't had a lot of success in the past with electric fences(they short out at the least provocation...as least for me) and I am concerned that for chickens, possums would just jump down from the trees here in Texas. (we used the electric fencing in the past only for goats and cows and were not very successful.

Also, I watched the new video from Geoff Lawton on the Vermont Composting Company and how they are only feeding chickens with compost, but not sure how to replicate that on a small scale....plus concerned about bringing alot of outside inputs on land due to pesticides.

I am very intrigued by the idea of starting a black soldier fly larvae hatchery and maybe growing duckweed too. But I want the system to be able to work itself as much as possible.



ourland.jpg
[Thumbnail for ourland.jpg]
pic of the new place(all the trees)
 
Bev Huth
Posts: 36
Location: AR, USA
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I have a flock of, oh roughly 30 chickens that I never feed. They are a mix of Golden Seabright, Standard batham and, English game birds. They run loose on the property, roost way up (as high as 40 ft) the trees and, raise chicks under the blackberry thicket. Perfectly fine that way and, I don't loose but 2-3 a year to predators. The only problem is, after so many generations here, they are basically wild chickens and, the only way I could get one to eat would be with a shotgun.

Hence my penned in flock of Jersey Giant, Buff Orp. crosses for meat and eggs for the house. The wild ones are great insect prevention and they keep the other wild birds form invading too badly and destroying my food plants. In the fall, anything I leave out there is chicken food, but I leave some for them intentionally to help them through the lean winter for them.
 
J.D. Ray
Posts: 76
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We're still city folks (with plans to escape), with no livestock, so not any practical experience here.

My wife keeps a 30 gallon trash can outside the back door that she throws food scraps in. Last weekend, she asked for help to take it out to the back raised bed and dump it, as it was full (nearly too full, as the handles almost broke). As I poured it out, I saw probably thousands of dead maggots, drowned it seemed it the sluice. I thought back to something I'd read here or seen in one of Paul's videos about the fly larvae buckets, where people were finding that the road kill-and-straw filled feed producers were also producing disease, in the form of E-Coli or similar bacteria transferring from the roadkill to the chickens through the larvae. I wonder if the same disease problem would exist if the maggots were grown in a vegetarian compost bucket.

Any thoughts?

Thanks.

JD
 
Bev Huth
Posts: 36
Location: AR, USA
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E. Coli is natural in most animal guts, ours included but, my meat bird do get maggots form the quail droppings and, they get the rabbit droppings. I feel that as long as I am clean (don't rupture the innards) when butchering and, cook the chicken properly, it's fine. That's my choice and we have never had a problem because of our choice in feeding but, it's your call.

I would not feed maggots off road kill, no telling what diseases or other parasites that animal may carry. Now if I butcher the animal and can inspect the organs and such, then yes I will use the lungs to grow maggots for the birds, but not the digestive track.
 
Peter Ellis
Posts: 1304
Location: Central New Jersey
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J.D. Ray wrote:We're still city folks (with plans to escape), with no livestock, so not any practical experience here.

My wife keeps a 30 gallon trash can outside the back door that she throws food scraps in. Last weekend, she asked for help to take it out to the back raised bed and dump it, as it was full (nearly too full, as the handles almost broke). As I poured it out, I saw probably thousands of dead maggots, drowned it seemed it the sluice. I thought back to something I'd read here or seen in one of Paul's videos about the fly larvae buckets, where people were finding that the road kill-and-straw filled feed producers were also producing disease, in the form of E-Coli or similar bacteria transferring from the roadkill to the chickens through the larvae. I wonder if the same disease problem would exist if the maggots were grown in a vegetarian compost bucket.

Any thoughts?

Thanks.

JD


That sounds like while you may be collecting material to compost, you are not actually composting it. That sounds like it was probably a highly anaerobic environment, which does not allow for the aerobic bacteria needed for proper composting to live and do their jobs. In an aerobic compost environment, with bacteria actively digesting the waste stream, there is little in the way of pathogenic bacteria. Anaerobic environments are much more conducive to pathogen development.
 
Fred Morgan
steward
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Location: Northern Zone, Costa Rica - 200 to 300 meters Tropical Humid Rainforest
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Bev Huth wrote:E. Coli is natural in most animal guts, ours included but, my meat bird do get maggots form the quail droppings and, they get the rabbit droppings. I feel that as long as I am clean (don't rupture the innards) when butchering and, cook the chicken properly, it's fine. That's my choice and we have never had a problem because of our choice in feeding but, it's your call.

I would not feed maggots off road kill, no telling what diseases or other parasites that animal may carry. Now if I butcher the animal and can inspect the organs and such, then yes I will use the lungs to grow maggots for the birds, but not the digestive track.


One nice thing to remember is that pathogens rarely cross blood types, i.e. cold blooded to warm blooded, etc. There are exceptions, but they are very rare. In fact, many parasites are very specific to one type of animal. For example, cattle generally won't pick up parasites from sheep, and the reverse is true. In fact, one method for reduction of parasites is to rotate your grazers, and make sure they aren't in the same field for more than 45 days - or so I remember. The cows end up eating the eggs of the parasites for the sheep, and since they are not the right host, it breaks the cycle.

Make sure though to not feed birds to birds, etc. If you are raising fish, the offal is great for chickens.
 
Xisca Nicolas
pollinator
Posts: 1276
Location: La Palma (Canary island) Zone 11
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Is there a way to start with black soldier flies when they are not naturally present in your place?
I mean, is it possible to get them to travel by mail....
 
Renate Howard
pollinator
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Location: zone 6b
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Yes, I've seen them for sale, mail-order.

Re: the compost barrel - drill some holes in it all around - it should have some fresh air getting in to support the aerobic bacteria - the anaerobic bacteria use up the plant nutrients and make it smelly.

I've had soldier flies just show up in my compost. When I was moving a pile there were all the larvae all over the ground. Weird looking things if you don't know what they are!
 
Sherri Lynn
Posts: 75
Location: Piedmont, NC
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I had soldier fly larvae just show up at the bottom of my vermi-composting bucket, in the lid that caught the liquid at the bottom. Until I looked them up just now, I didn't know that's what they were. Weird looking things. Like overgrown pill beetles.
 
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