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Chicken fodder/forage success stories?  RSS feed

 
pollinator
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We have experimented with raising chickens both by them being used to handling and letting them remain flighty.

It is way easier to be able to catch the gentled birds, but we found that they ended up with a higher mortality rate.  Seems like their lack of fear with us made them less fearful in general which got some picked off.  They also tend to run under my feet when carrying food into the pen since they are anxious to get first dibs. One of these days, I am afraid I'm going to squish one.

Since I dont have to catch them often, I've ruled in favor of letting them stay a bit nervous.  Those have had longer lives and have been better foragers. The tame ones want to hang out near the house and workshop where we are instead of finding food. Also they have gotten in the way more than once while my husband was moving motors.  So chasing them it is.

Although it is fun having the social birds, I want them to live long and be able to take care of themselves.
 
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Location: Western Oregon
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Thanks for all the helpful replies, everyone.  I had some great success, and some fails with growing my own chicken feed this year.  When I have a chance, I will put some notes and photos together for a pretty comprehensive report.  
 
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Location: Maine, USA (coastal, Zone 5-6)
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In coastal Maine many people give lobster carcasses/carapaces (leftover shells) to their chickens to pick at.  Gives the yolks an almost red color...  Could probably work with crayfish/shrimp/crabs in other areas.
 
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Rob Stenger wrote:In coastal Maine many people give lobster carcasses/carapaces (leftover shells) to their chickens to pick at.  Gives the yolks an almost red color...  Could probably work with crayfish/shrimp/crabs in other areas.



I'm not sure it will change the color of the yolks but I give them the shells of their own eggs and any shrimp shells from the shrimp we eat. I have not really noticed much difference, but if I believe Garden Betty:"The carotenoids that cause deeper yolk coloring are xanthophylls, which are more readily absorbed in the yolks. (Lutein is one such xanthophyll, and a lot of lutein means a lot more orange.) Xanthophylls are found in dark leafy greens like spinach, kale, and collards, as well as in zucchini, broccoli, and brussels sprouts.
https://www.gardenbetty.com/how-to-get-those-delightful-dark-orange-yolks-from-your-backyard-chickens/
 
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Location: Portlandia, Oregon
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Sorry about the delay in reply. My compost pile was about 6 yards in size, flipped daily. I don't know how it handles over winter as I had to move last month and the new pile isn't hot. sucks buying feed.
 
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Location: Kansas City, Missouri, United States
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Shawn Harper wrote:Sorry about the delay in reply. My compost pile was about 6 yards in size, flipped daily. I don't know how it handles over winter as I had to move last month and the new pile isn't hot. sucks buying feed.



Would that be 6 yards long?  How wide?  How deep?   I'm guessing it's not 6 yards square.  
 
Cécile Stelzer Johnson
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Tina Hillel wrote:.

It is way easier to be able to catch the gentled birds, but we found that they ended up with a higher mortality rate.  
Although it is fun having the social birds, I want them to live long and be able to take care of themselves.




These are excellent arguments to keep them "on the wild side". One of my posts on this thread was on the *advantages* of having gentler birds and it needed a balancing counter. This is it. I did notice that my girls tend to stay very close as soon as I'm entering their yard to feed them, and they have risked life and limb to be the first at pecking goodies. When you mention higher mortality rate, I'm wondering what is causing that? Do you feel that they are too friendly and thus get into accidents or do they succumb to *diseases* that perhaps we are bringing them by handling them too often. Loose chickens, friendly or not can easily be run over by cars too: They are not really swift or astute.
You seem to be leaning toward accidents as the main source, feeling that to be closer, they put themselves at risk. Yet my husband, who thinks that these birds are a pooping nuisance until he can get at their eggs is not regarded by them as a friend. They flutter and keep their distance [but it is true that he has never given them food]. Visitors are treated with a fair skepticism as to their friendliness as well. In other words, do you feel that the friendliness to *you* transfers over to cats, dogs ...foxes?
I have heard of poultry diseases transferring to humans and I'm aware that handling of young chicks may be nefarious *to the chicks*, so I'm the only one touching them here. I'm normally happy go lucky about germs but there is something between chickens and humans and we can get sick from them and vice versa.
I have 25 girls and a rooster, so it is hard to establish statistics on such a small number. I had 2 roosters and I lost one this year: The poor thing must have swallowed something that was very picky or sharp and died withing an hour of ingestion. [That is something I was worried about allowing them to run unfettered. Well, it turns out that even in a big yard, they can still find something deadly.]
So what did yours die of?
 
pollinator
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Failure story more like it. What I think I have learned:

Chix need energy and protein to lay eggs, and even with that they may not if its too dark. I'm not doing lights and heat, so this last week I just changed the protein and calorie inputs. They laid eggs with more protein and almost none without. I gave them dry mealworms as the source.

Short version, they need more protein than they are getting. This has been my concern based on my schema. Few bugs are around this time of year, and I do give them access to mulch piles with some fungal hyphae, but they clean it out pretty quick. I am not sure we will get reliable winter eggs without external feeds in paddocked chickens.

What I have tried as protein sources- winterpeas, both growing and dry seeds, live crimson clover, live red clover. I am not grinding/sprouting any legume seeds, I'm trying to find something I can leave standing for winter forage. They do seem to relish the red clover, but they haven't touched the other stuff, even in a paddock. I'm really disappointed about that. I don't have enough caragana to know whether they will eat it unsprouted. I think the problem is that plants left standing are vulnerable to getting stripped by other birds before the chix can get to them. I see crows out gleaning, and blue jays. Those are also after larger seeds. I don't have an easy solution. The best type of seed would be one that tends to fall and get covered by litter, since the chickens are scratchers. Bonus would be seeds that sprout and start to reduce the hemagglutinin levels but stay under the litter. Sunflower (which is in Gab Brown's mix) is a possible, along with safflower. Those are rich in fat along with protein and reduce the carbohydrate calories the birds need to make lecithin. Unfortunately, the sunflowers tend to mold here before they are needed and attract crows and jays.

Anyhow, that is the current state of learning what doesn't work, at least right now. Had a better writeup and then accidentally erased it because I'm sick and my brain is not right. It could mean I just need to force them to eat the paddock vegetation and suffer through low egg yield. Thoughts?

 
Cécile Stelzer Johnson
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Tj Jefferson wrote:Failure story more like it. What I think I have learned:

Chix need energy and protein to lay eggs, and even with that they may not if its too dark. I'm not doing lights and heat, so this last week I just changed the protein and calorie inputs. They laid eggs with more protein and almost none without. I gave them dry mealworms as the source.

Short version, they need more protein than they are getting. This has been my concern based on my schema. Few bugs are around this time of year, and I do give them access to mulch piles with some fungal hyphae, but they clean it out pretty quick. I am not sure we will get reliable winter eggs without external feeds in paddocked chickens.

It could mean I just need to force them to eat the paddock vegetation and suffer through low egg yield. Thoughts?




You'll be happy to know that your previous version did post. While it is true that keeping the lights on in winter will help chickens to keep laying, I am not sure is the right/ ethical thing to do: During winter/ early spring, there will be a molt during which they will need extraordinary amounts of protein, and you hit the nail on the head with that one. Laying an egg a day *also* require extraordinary amounts of protein. Here, in Wisconsin winter, there is NO forage to be had, and with frozen ground, there is no scratching to be done, yet my girls keep laying valiantly 23-25 eggs a day [I have 25 hens and a rooster, the other rooster died].
Besides the sheer expansion of energy to go through very cold weather [more on that below] Some chickens have been bred to lay more eggs than nature intended, so if you bought day old chicks from such a breed, chances are the chickens will continue laying when other breeds have petered out, so that is one thing.
Meat chickens, which are bred to produce more meat will just like humans need to support that extra meat that is on their bones by eating more, so that is another thing: If food has to be dedicated to creating more muscle mass/ fat, it cannot *also* go to egg laying.
If it is not the breed, then it is the stress, so let's see what stresses we can alleviate.
Any organism that is stressed needs more food to keep up during times of stress.
Back to the cold:
That is a stress that can be reduced by providing a well insulated shelter. I keep them in one of those coops that you can buy ready made and that looks like a smaller barn, with a loft. I insulated the walls and now the loft too. Then, since that was still too cold, I closed off the loft.
For the breed: I bought baby chicks that are a variation on the Rhode Island Red but they can be color sexed. I was told they would keep up the egg laying longer than others, and so far, so good.
For the feed:With the chicken yard covered with snow and ice, I knew they would have slim pickings. I kept a number of pumpkins as I know it is a good de-wormer before winter sets in. I still have a big one to give them. Meal worms re extremely expensive here so they don't get too many, only as a treat, and not even every week! My best tool has been to get them some game bird feed and pour that in the feeders *inside* the coop. It has I think close to 30% protein. Originally, I gave them that because some appeared to start a molt. I see that they are molting some, but just a feather here and there, not a catastrophic molt.
Water: I have to have a water heater, sold at Fleet farm. electric and inside the coop, the water is never frozen. [They cannot eat snow]
CALCIUM:  To lay eggs, they need to have calcium, and lots of it: To satisfy their need to scratch, I clear up a space, like 4-5 square feet every 4-5 days and drop a few handfuls of broken shells as well as a little grit [both from my local Tractor Supply store]. [Yep, they still need grit to digest properly]. They must really feel that they need it because it disappears in about 5 minutes. I also give them kitchen scraps, but I toss  them outside. I'll just remind you that women athletes who train very hard often lose their ability to have a period in reaction to the stress. What I see happening in chickens reminds me of that. After all, an egg is similar in that respect to a period.[Yes, we don't need as much calcium because we don't lay eggs covered in calcium, but the stress is the same, and the effect on the organism is the same].
 
Tj Jefferson
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Cecile, the duplicate post was actually an error message post, and I don't see an obvious way to delete it but my mind is mushy.  There was a much better effort originally that ethered. Sorry for the spam!

I was trying to respond to the OP about fodder and forage, which I can't see being sensible left in the field where you are. We have pretty mild winters and I use the chix in rotational paddocks except for FEb which tends to be too cold. That month they are in the wood chips making the summer garden. You definitely are in a tough climate! I wonder what the northern europeans used to feed them wintertime? I know there are swedish chickens, so I assume they came from up there and had some way of feeding them.  

I am very interested in hairy vetch, but despite planting it twice there is very little out there. That sounds like a possible winner in your area, it is very hardy and a good protein source.

There is a guy in Vermont who keeps his flock on compost all year, but he gets truckloads of veggie scraps to mix with the wood chips. I can't really make anything analagous here. The amount of wood chips it would take to supply a flock with calories from the fungal strands is immense. I would say I need 30 yards or rotting chips for 10 birds to get half their calories in Feb, so that's 6 yards per bird at full diet! They do love it though.

 
Cécile Stelzer Johnson
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Tj Jefferson wrote:
You definitely are in a tough climate! I wonder what the northern europeans used to feed them wintertime? I know there are swedish chickens, so I assume they came from up there and had some way of feeding them.  




The ancestor of our chickens apparently came from China or India. They have found bones as old as 5000 years old suggesting they butchered chickens for eating. At first, they raised them for cock fighting. [Some folks just don't know what's good to eat, I guess]  ;-)
In Europe, speaking about France, which I know better, farms have always been smaller and agriculture is diversified, not specialized like here. Someone who has 25 cows is "a big farmer"! So it has always been easier to let the chickens roam and eat as they pleased. Grains, cabbages and leftovers are thrown in the big yard for the chickens' pecking pleasure. They eat their fill of bugs and seeds in the pasture in the summer.
For shelter, a specialized chicken coop is not automatic: If you already have a barn, you have a shelter that is warm in the winter, thanks to the cows. They learn to stay away from hooves and horns and can peck the manure. They get the same water as the cows or the dog or other farm animals. They may lay eggs in the hay loft but then the eggs can get lost.
A little Folklore for fun:
- The rooster association with France dates back from the Middle Ages and is due to the play on words in Latin between Gallus, meaning an inhabitant of Gaul [name of France at the time of the Roman occupation], and gallus, meaning rooster, or cockerel. Its use, by the enemies of France, dates back to this period, originally a pun to make fun of the French, but now adopted by the French, in typical gallic in your face fashion.[Yes, we have a big mouth, so what?!]

-The French rooster really looks like a jungle fowl, which is its origin. Google image for Gallic rooster shows exactly what I remember our roosters looking like.

- Good King Henri IV [1553-1610] was a king who was a socialist before his time and encouraged people to raise chicken so they should have "a hen in the stew pot every Sunday". It was quite a progress when the poor only ate vegetables and famine was rampant.
 
Posts: 312
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'I'm interested to know what other permies have done successfully to grow feed for their chickens or other poultry.'

I always plant more vegetables than we use, particularly leafy greens: some for us, some for the chooks. The 'cut and come again' varieties are great for that.

My chooks love fresh coriander, mint and parsley, which is a bugger because in our warm/hot climate those plants tend to bolt to seed far too readily even in the cooler months.

Two great ideas I saw on one of our TV gardening shows:

A. punch holes in a large tin (about the size of a 4 litre olive oil tin), hang it by a wire in the chook yard a few feet off the ground above the reach of the chickens, and place scraps of meat in it. Flies lay eggs on the rotting meat, maggots develop and fall through the holes to feed the chooks a nutritious snack.

B. Construct a small garden bed in the chook yard, plant it out with a variety of greens, then cover it with the smaller grade of bird wire mesh. As the plants grow through the mesh the chickens can peck it at their leisure - low maintenance too.
 
Tina Hillel
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Hi Cecile, I just saw your question about my chicken mortality.  Sorry, for the delayed response.

Our chickens transferred their friendliness and lack of fear to everything! As they followed my husband and I, they would get used to other people that were around- visiting friends, neighbors, customers for my husband's repair shop.  They would leave our property and go visiting.  We found a couple at a neighbor's house a half mile from home.  They followed our car back down the gravel road home.

Also, they were used to being around our dogs and cats that followed us.  They would go up to another neighbors to steal their pets food (he thought it was funny to have visiting chickens fortunately) but other dogs and cats they encountered were not used to chickens and they were seen as tasty meals (really, they are). If they stayed closer to home, it would have been fine.

The losses we had, werent due to the chickens being handled as far as disease or anything like that. It was that their natural curiousity mixed with fearlessness got them in trouble.  We also found that they got way less reactive with hawk danger as well which led to some loss that way too.

So for us, we have had better success with keeping a bit of distance and keeping them more as working birds. Much less accidental losses. I do miss certain aspects, like going to the shop and seeing a chicken sitting on a motor trying the help my husband work on it😀. Like I mentioned earlier, they were also less willing to go forage on their own (point of OP's post-sorry).
 
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My chickens love the gaint zucchinis, once you chop and end off they will go until its hollowed out.  And the best training aid I have found are peanuts I can get one hen to fly up onto my hand by clicking my fingers and rewarding her with a piece of peanut aye
 
Cécile Stelzer Johnson
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Tina Hillel wrote:Hi Cecile, I just saw your question about my chicken mortality.  Sorry, for the delayed response.
Our chickens transferred their friendliness and lack of fear to everything! As they followed my husband and I, they would get used to other people that were around- visiting friends, neighbors, customers for my husband's repair shop.  They would leave our property and go visiting.  We found a couple at a neighbor's house a half mile from home.  They followed our car back down the gravel road home.
Like I mentioned earlier, they were also less willing to go forage on their own (point of OP's post-sorry).



That is indeed too friendly. The danger of avian flu transmitted to humans or diseases passed on to them by us is real: A number of hatcheries will not accept people on the premises for fear they will bring diseases. IMHO, they may be a little paranoid but I keep that in the back of my mind.
I think that my aggressive rooster has been tamed: 3 days without any attack on me. Holding him to the ground under my foot for a full minute seems to have convinced him that I'm the Alpha here and he is keeping his distance now. As you mention, being less willing to forage on their own since you provide everything can become expensive too. Having very friendly chickens is OK if you want pets perhaps, but I know where mine will end up so treating them like pets is not what I want to do.
Our human desire to have friendly critters is not wrong but when you see what has been done by us to bees [who have been bred to be docile], dogs that have been bred to take all kinds of forms and shapes for our human satisfaction [but not for their own health and wellness] is problematic.
While I don't want my animals to scurry away in fear, being overly cuddly with them may not be good for either species. "Familiarity breeds contempt".
 
Cécile Stelzer Johnson
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C Gale wrote:My chickens love the gaint zucchinis, once you chop and end off they will go until its hollowed out.  And the best training aid I have found are peanuts I can get one hen to fly up onto my hand by clicking my fingers and rewarding her with a piece of peanut aye



And zukes are probably good for them to boot. I'm not sure about zucchinis in particular but pumpkins provide and excellent vermifuge. so in the fall, before they may be cooped up for too long, it is a great idea to give them pumpkins and maybe by extension cukes and zukes to clean up their system of parasites.
 
Tj Jefferson
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I am having more success than anticipated (yay!) with propagating goumi. This means in two years we are going to have a massive surplus of the berries. I would suspect that the hundred plants (I went a little crazy) will each produce a kilo or so of berries. It is a chore to harvest them, but if you prune them, you get great chop and drop nitrogen and easier picking. And tons of hardwood cuttings it turns out.

So this looks very promising initially. The issue is going to be drying and storage. These have quite a bit of protein and fat, and I don't know if drying will keep the fat from becoming rancid. We have a black pavement area, and they should dry in a day of sunny weather. Then my plan is to just sweep them up with a push broom and put them in old grass seed bags for hanging. I have an early version of goumi that fruits in April-May and one that is later in the summer, so I will have some time to get the volume needed dried and stored. I am looking for as many different fruiting times as possible. If anyone wants to trade my early goumi cuttings for a midsummer or late, I will pay postage for both sides. Should be able to fit a hundred cuttings in a fixed-rate postage box. This might work for autumn olive as well. I am purposely not using the autumn olive, because I don't want to spread it. If it is less invasive where you are or too cold for goumi, it might be a good choice, or some other eleagnus species. This should be enough protein if they need to molt. I am doing standing oat and wheat forage for calories, but

colour of their wattles

as noted by prior posters seems to indicate that they are anemic, and I blame unsprouted grains. I am feeding them purchased millet and wheat this winter to see what deficiencies show up.

Anyhow, this summer I am going to dry enough to test this out, and feed it over the winter. I have been looking for stuff I don't need to do anything to keep available for the birds (and I appreciate the idea of acorns, we have pin oaks that they will eat, smaller chickens probably can't). Other candidates are millet or amaranth. I think the millet stands a better chance of not falling out of the seed heads when shocked and hung. Amaranth is a test this year for a couple different roles.

Greens continue to be a problem, we generally have a month that absolutely nothing grows. Chicory seems to be a clear winner, but they aren't that into it. They don't relish winterpea greens (which is surprising!) Mine LOVE comfrey, but it dies back during this time, and generally a wet period follows which can drown starter comfrey in our soils. I've been sprouting wheat berries, but that is too labor intensive to harvest for chicken food. They really don't like winter squash, which is weird. I haven't cooked it, and won't be doing that. May be required for palatability. Same with sweet potato, they are ravenous if cooked, won't touch it raw or spoiled.

 
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Hmm, I have a couple goumis and all I could think to do with the berries is make a syrup I never use. Maybe dry em for chicken food? I had a big surplus of butternuts and sweet potatoes this past year, and have fed most of the squash especially to the chickens. They have little enthusiasm if they're raw, but I just throw a squash in any time I run the oven, or chop one and heat it slowly all day on top of the woodstove, and they're happy to get em. They never let the seeds go to waste.
 
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I have to chime in. I'm in central Florida, and don't have the restrictions everyone else has in the way of cold. Being from Wisconsin, I know all about that tho. Very hard to feed chickens well when it's freezing cold.
I've started growing fodder in trays outside since, well, I can, but that hasn't been without issues. I'm working them out one by one and should have a decent system soon. I buy red wheat berries from a store online, and I'm organic so I pay more. You might take a look at this video, because her system is indoors. https://youtu.be/RX4VoV7DeG8

Here's the thing I'm thinking for those of you looking for green and protein sources that are cheap to get your chooks through the winter:
Work out a warm area to use for growing feed - think of it like a greenhouse dedicated to chicken feed. It could be in a garage, basement, living room....(LOL) just warm enough and a water source.
1) Start a fodder system like in the video I mentioned. It can be done and once you get going it's fun. It'd be a nice pick-me-upper if you live "up north" where there's nothing green.
2) Start keeping bsfl. There's a ridiculous amount of info out there, and I've sifted through it all. You can go complicated or simple depending on your temperament, skill and budget. It doesn't have to stink, it's fun to learn about the life cycle and how to keep your "colony" growing, and my lord, the chickens go ape-*st* for them. BSFL is taking the world by storm, and I wanted to get in on the action by raising them myself. It's by far the best source of protein you can farm yourself for your chickens. There's a guy on youtube that successfully kept his bin outside, next to his house, using an insulation blanket and heating pad. I say bring it inside, and make a reasonably warm place to grow fodder and raise bsfl.
If anyone wants links to videos I've saved that were helpful to me after watching 800 of them, I'll post them here.
 
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I still buy some feed, which I ferment prior to feeding. But I also raise a large amount of feed:

- lemon balm
- lambs quarters
- dandelions
- squash (cooked)
- potatoes (white and sweet) (cooked)
- tomatoes
- maypops
- mulberries
-strawberries
- Apple pumace
- raspberries
- blueberries
- highbush cranberries
- garden bugs
- clovers
- kitchen waste

As for tameness, my buff Orpingtons are super tame and friendly. They see me coming with treats and run to me. One flies up on my shoulder. I pick them up and pet them. It gives me a chance to check their weight and condition. This breed is very easy to tame. I like them tame, as they are easy to check. Plus, I don’t want my grand babies having nasty encounters with the roosters.
 
Tj Jefferson
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Leslie Russell wrote:I have to chime in. I'm in central Florida, and don't have the restrictions everyone else has in the way of cold. Being from Wisconsin, I know all about that tho. Very hard to feed chickens well when it's freezing cold.
I've started growing fodder in trays outside since, well, I can, but that hasn't been without issues. I'm working them out one by one and should have a decent system soon. I buy red wheat berries from a store online, and I'm organic so I pay more. You might take a look at this video, because her system is indoors. https://youtu.be/RX4VoV7DeG8

Here's the thing I'm thinking for those of you looking for green and protein sources that are cheap to get your chooks through the winter:
Work out a warm area to use for growing feed - think of it like a greenhouse dedicated to chicken feed. It could be in a garage, basement, living room....(LOL) just warm enough and a water source.
1) Start a fodder system like in the video I mentioned. It can be done and once you get going it's fun. It'd be a nice pick-me-upper if you live "up north" where there's nothing green.
2) Start keeping bsfl. There's a ridiculous amount of info out there, and I've sifted through it all. You can go complicated or simple depending on your temperament, skill and budget. It doesn't have to stink, it's fun to learn about the life cycle and how to keep your "colony" growing, and my lord, the chickens go ape-*st* for them. BSFL is taking the world by storm, and I wanted to get in on the action by raising them myself. It's by far the best source of protein you can farm yourself for your chickens. There's a guy on youtube that successfully kept his bin outside, next to his house, using an insulation blanket and heating pad. I say bring it inside, and make a reasonably warm place to grow fodder and raise bsfl.
If anyone wants links to videos I've saved that were helpful to me after watching 800 of them, I'll post them here.



Leslie, I am under the impression BSF are only productive in the 50F range and die below freezing. Is that not accurate? I've considered vermiposting but I like the idea of a chicken cafe of BSF. Just haven't done it because of the temperature issue. My mobile coop is not heated. It may get an insulated indoor water tank this fall and then I could consider a BSF colony inside, but it didn't seem to help the winter forage low period.

I do plan on getting them a barrel colony with roadkill but mostly I think it will reduce the move frequency in the summer.
 
Leslie Russell
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Yupper, they needed to be warm which is why I suggested creating a room where you could raise them and grow trays of fodder at the same time and use it as your chicken feed room. You won't be able to raise them unless it's summertime otherwise. Did you watch the video? She has a room designated for growing fodder and if you figured out how to do the same thing and keep it warm you could raise your bsfl in there as well.
 
Leslie Russell
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F Agricola wrote:'I'm interested to know what other permies have done successfully to grow feed for their chickens or other poultry.'

I always plant more vegetables than we use, particularly leafy greens: some for us, some for the chooks. The 'cut and come again' varieties are great for that.

My chooks love fresh coriander, mint and parsley, which is a bugger because in our warm/hot climate those plants tend to bolt to seed far too readily even in the cooler months.

Two great ideas I saw on one of our TV gardening shows:

A. punch holes in a large tin (about the size of a 4 litre olive oil tin), hang it by a wire in the chook yard a few feet off the ground above the reach of the chickens, and place scraps of meat in it. Flies lay eggs on the rotting meat, maggots develop and fall through the holes to feed the chooks a nutritious snack.

B. Construct a small garden bed in the chook yard, plant it out with a variety of greens, then cover it with the smaller grade of bird wire mesh. As the plants grow through the mesh the chickens can peck it at their leisure - low maintenance too.


That's hilarious! Me: on the side of the road shooing the vultures away from a dead opossum, peeling it off the ground and throwing it in the back of my car
My neighbors: all Mexican families "Todos ven rápido a nuestro loco vecino!" 🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣🤪🤪🤪
(everybody come quick look at our crazy neighbor)
 
Posts: 33
Location: Ohio 5b6a
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We cannot let our chickens roam because of all the neighborhoods dogs run wild.  So we gave them a nice pen that they can run around in comfortably.

We grow a small patch of sorghum for seed and turned the rest into silage. Sorghum seed has an estrogen in it and we use it to boast their production in December and January if we are short eggs.  Just a handful will double our egg count in 2 days.  If they eat to many sorghum seeds the yolks will get pale.  

We also feed alfalfa that we grow in ¼ acre fields and is hand stored in feed sacks.  If alfalfa is handled by hand it keeps its leaves much better.  We have won the county fair alfalfa contest for a few years. This will make orange yolks.

We have an old line of yellow dent corn that is yellow to red in color.  The chickens will produce deep orange yolks from it.  

We raise giant amaranth for the seed heads and  they eat the leaves too.  

We let the sunflowers self-seed and get about 100 heads every year to feed.  

We raise squash and gourds for the market and what we don’t use we feed.  We also raise cabbage and broccoli that we feed all of the scraps.  Our extra cabbage we store upside down covered in leaves.  

We raise about a 1/10 acer of spelt or oats.  We make the stooks and the top sheave tends to sprout here in Ohio humidity.  We pile the top sheaves next to the chicken pen and feed a couple a day usually in July.  The chickens will clean it all up and leave the rest for beading.

We have 2 small plots that we grow green chop for them.  It is planted with dandelions, alfalfa, perennial rye, plantains, red clover and white clover.  We use a small push lawn mower we got in scrap.  It has a perfect little handle on the bags to carry it to the chickens or cows.  

We raise duckweed in kiddy pools that were get given to us.  We keep 2 minnows in each pool for mosquito control.  We dry the duckweed on a black tv dish that was given to us.  We use the dried duckweed to eliminate molds in prepped feeds in the summer.  When we have extra we feed it straight to them wet.

We have found diversity is they best thing to keep them happy and producing good tasty eggs.  We get about 2 doz. eggs per day from 50 chickens on a yearly average. Our customers rave about them and our neighbors can't get rid of theirs.  We had a wealthy couple come to a friends house here in Ohio and they had our eggs for breakfast. When they went home to New Mexico they had some of our eggs next day aired to them.  Now I don't think that it is necessarily a good thing on thinking how much energy was spent on shipping, but it does say something about quality.  Quality food has become a rare commodity.
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Posts: 33
Location: Douglas County, WI zone 4a 105 acres
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WOW! Christopher! Such good info and details - just the kind of multi-faceted system I want to have. Glad to read about amaranth - been looking for real experience with that.
What is that picture you posted?
 
Christopher Shepherd
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Location: Ohio 5b6a
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The picture is of sorghum silage we make in buckets.  We sometime use an old hand chopper and sometimes use the gas chipper and pack it in buckets.  I had got some seed a couple years ago for the amaranth from a flower grower on the east coast.  It gets real big heads.  Ill try to get a picture and post it.
 
Leslie Russell
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Yes please, Christopher! A photo of the amaranth!
I'd like to grow here too. Thank you for sharing your growing and feeding cycle with us.
 
Christopher Shepherd
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Here is a picture in the shed of the amaranth. We hang in in bundles upside down for drying.  It is a deep purple when growing.  I wish I had pictures of it growing.  I did see Lowes has it in little seed packs.  I have some extra seed if we can find a way to get it to you.  The picture shows the biggest one is about 2ft long.
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