• Post Reply
  • Bookmark Topic Watch Topic
  • New Topic

Are chickens really sustainable small scale

 
Chris French
Posts: 13
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Hi, so been an avide permie for almost 2 two years now, also I have been a vegan for 15 years. I have a small 1.5 acres, with 30 chickens. I gift the eggs, and all the birds live a full life til they die and I bury them.

My questions are after two years of trying, is it really possible to raise chickens legitly in temperate climatr with snowy winters, sustainably.

I personally think, if we are requiring imported feed, that was most likely a monocropped pesticide festival, just so we cam raise birds to eat eggs seems very wasteful. And backwards.

We could simple eat the grains for straight up better use of energy. Or just not buy it at all, or the chickens.

I feel like a very permie thing to do is go get chickens and feel like you growing your own food. But really your just converting biomass from hundreds of miles, into poorly managed grains, and shipping that to feed to a bird, to eat.

Personally I am strongly rethinking keep any animal around that needs me to ship in food to feed.
 
Su Ba
pollinator
Pie
Posts: 820
Location: Big Island, Hawaii (2300' elevation, 60" avg. annual rainfall, temp range 55-80 degrees F)
89
books forest garden rabbit solar tiny house woodworking
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
The trick is figuring out how to stop being dependent upon purchased feed. Many decades ago my grandmother lived on a small farm in Pennsylvania and kept chickens. She could not afford to buy outside feed. I never got the chance to ask her how they fed the chickens through the winter, but they did. So it is possible.

I don't have to deal with cold winters, so I am able to raise food year around on my homestead. Now that I am growing more of my own grains, I am on the verge of not buying commercial feed. By spring I should be 100% free of the feed store umbilical cord.
 
Cj Sloane
pollinator
Posts: 3646
Location: Vermont, off grid for 22 years!
78
bee chicken fungi solar trees
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Chris French wrote:
My questions are after two years of trying, is it really possible to raise chickens legitly in temperate climatr with snowy winters, sustainably.


I think it is possible because people have raised chickens for hundreds of years prior to feed being available to purchase. Purchasing feed is simply a matter of convenience.

I'm finding that one of the biggest issues to growing or foraging feed for your animals in a temperate climate is that it takes an awful lot of storage space. Secure storage space.
 
John Wolfram
Posts: 632
Location: Lafayette, Indiana
17
trees
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Cj Verde wrote:I think it is possible because people have raised chickens for hundreds of years prior to feed being available to purchase. Purchasing feed is simply a matter of convenience.


While people have been raising chickens for hundreds/thousands of years, in areas with snowy winters people may have reduced their flocks in the autumn (harvest festival, Thanksgiving) and then gone through a lean time in the spring (Lent) as they rebuilt their flock. Trying to keep a summer sized flock through the winter is going to be tough without importing feed.
 
Raye Beasley
Posts: 29
1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Feed stores are a modern invention. What is required is enough land to grow your own feed or be able to trade with others for what is needed. Flocks could not be down sized too much for winter. The exception being older, less productive hens. The reason being, that a chick hatched in the spring would not be ready to lay until fall six months later. By that time, the days are getting shorter and egg production either falls or doesn't get started until spring for some pullets. A sustainable flock must have one year-two year old mature layers and up coming replacements or there will be no supply of eggs. Cutting back the layers in the fall and then relying upon broody hens in spring (broody hens don't lay for months) means next to no eggs all summer as well as winter.

There are many ways to feed chickens without the feed store. One acre of land will keep a flock of 20 eating. Ten layers plus replacements. That same acre will feed a family as well. The trick is in not expecting the land to magically produce without some serious input from the residents, both man and animal.
 
Galadriel Freden
Posts: 345
Location: West Yorkshire, UK
14
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
As an alternative to bought feed, perhaps you can obtain waste food from restaurants or grocery stores? Ask your neighbors to save their food scraps? Collect neighborhood yard waste for a huge compost pile/worm factory?
 
John Pollard
Posts: 125
Location: Ozarks
5
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
We have 5 chickens for a family of four. Just got them. I plan on hitting up one of the local grocery stores for food scraps. Karl Hammer style. Grocery stores are open year round. I also plan on eating them when they pass their laying prime. I'll also be utilizing the manure. They will eat lots of the abundant ticks we have here plus grubs and other things.
Eggs are a complete protein unlike grain so there is also the matter of sustaining me with a higher quality food. For now we're feeding layer crumbles which has a whole lot more than just grain. Pork is actually one of the ingredients. Chickens eating pigs, strange. They're not strictly grain eaters by any means.
 
Cj Sloane
pollinator
Posts: 3646
Location: Vermont, off grid for 22 years!
78
bee chicken fungi solar trees
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Galadriel Freden wrote:Ask your neighbors to save their food scraps?

How about asking the people you "gift" eggs to for their scraps?
 
Chris French
Posts: 13
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
John Wolfram wrote:
Cj Verde wrote:I think it is possible because people have raised chickens for hundreds of years prior to feed being available to purchase. Purchasing feed is simply a matter of convenience.


While people have been raising chickens for hundreds/thousands of years, in areas with snowy winters people may have reduced their flocks in the autumn (harvest festival, Thanksgiving) and then gone through a lean time in the spring (Lent) as they rebuilt their flock. Trying to keep a summer sized flock through the winter is going to be tough without importing feed.


This is interesting to me, I am always interested in the history of the wierd things we call culture I will look into this as well makes logical sense.
 
Chris French
Posts: 13
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Thanks for thoughts and hopes. This was a two part thought in my mind, one could I have them around in the forest, for additional biodiversity without external foods. I am guessing, I probably can get that point, but will probably need to maybe just have less of them over all.

Secondly, I feel like as standard raising animals, we should be putting a lot more pressure on our selves to be net 0 from the store.

thanks for thoughts
 
Cj Sloane
pollinator
Posts: 3646
Location: Vermont, off grid for 22 years!
78
bee chicken fungi solar trees
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
John Wolfram wrote:
While people have been raising chickens for hundreds/thousands of years, in areas with snowy winters people may have reduced their flocks in the autumn (harvest festival, Thanksgiving) and then gone through a lean time in the spring (Lent) as they rebuilt their flock.


Absolutely. If the OP is still a vegan, then that does pose some problems.
 
William James
gardener
Posts: 1010
Location: Northern Italy
23
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Hi Chris,
I'd like to second everything everyone has told you. Sustainably raising chickens is completely possible, it's just that so few are doing it that it might seem impossible, and the process to get you there is not at all easy, but it is doable. The main ways of going about it are (the easy way) find inputs that more sustainable and cheaper and (the hard way) create an ecosystem that can maintain your chickens without inputs. Somewhere in the middle are techniques like winter culling.

My advice to a vegan who is raising chickens until their death (like me) is this:
a) don't increase your flock in any way. 10 is a good limit.
b) know that (at least in the beginning) your 10 chickens are about as sustainable as a pair of dogs living in an apartment, that is not very. It can be much better.
c) don't sweat the very bad energy transaction of Feed>Eggs. The eggs are a complete sideshow to the poop that you get that could eventually make rich soil, and so that's an energy transaction that might be better to concentrate on.
d) there are a lot of other benefits of chickens that aren't factored Feed/Egg energy transaction, a lot of those you might want.

Once I accepted those things, I was able to to get on with my life and go to work on the long term process of designing into the site chickens sustainably.

William
 
Cj Sloane
pollinator
Posts: 3646
Location: Vermont, off grid for 22 years!
78
bee chicken fungi solar trees
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
John Pollard wrote:I plan on hitting up one of the local grocery stores for food scraps. Karl Hammer style.


If the OP hasn't seen the geoff lawton / Karl Hammer vid, here is a preview with a link to the full version:
 
Benjamin Sizemore
Posts: 40
Location: Colorado @ 7000 feet. zone negative 87b
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
OP, like any sane cattle farmer, you must realize that you are not in the business of raising chickens, but rather in the business of raising chicken food. Once you do that, the chickens take care of themselves. There are plenty of plants that drop enormous amounts of seed/berries that persist over the winter. There are also ways to increase the numbers of bugs and mice that chickens love to eat - especially in the winter. The video about the compost method is a good start.

If it gets really cold, they can live in a greenhouse that has forage shrubs and maybe a cricket farm in it... stuff like that. But I would say 30 chickens is too many until you have mature forage plants growing and/or more land.



 
Peter Ellis
Posts: 1311
Location: Central New Jersey
36
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
On its face, the answer is yes, evidenced by the fact that chickens were domesticated long before the era of grain and transport over long distances.
 
William James
gardener
Posts: 1010
Location: Northern Italy
23
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I'm currently paying 200 euros a year for 10 chickens on grain (and kitchen scraps). Times 3 that's 600 euros or thereabouts for you Chris?
I could pay less, but I'd have to buy in bulk and have secure storage for that long. Plus, I like the local grain shop that's been in business for 30+ years.

If it were me and I'd was paying 3 times as much as I am now, that just wouldn't work at all. That's one reason I say 10's the limit for me.

Another consideration is the ground you have them on. I have ten in 100 square meters and they are tearing up the place. Winter is oh-so-much-worse when it comes to keeping the ground anything but yucky. So, i would say the ability to rotate is a huge factor in making it a sustainable thing. Having the ability to rotate means mobile units that can house the chickens even in winter. It also means having the land to move them in. It also means having decent fencing that is mobile.

The other consideration is the eggs. We found out, even before they started laying, that they were a hot commodity. People really want the eggs. Sales/donations help mitigate the feed bills (and the vet bills, since chopping heads isn't on the table).
So, if you want eggs to continue without culling, you have to figure out a way to rotate in young layers at a sustainable rate (ie. equal or lesser to the death rate). One option is getting a rooster from time to time and have them lay new chicks. Another option is to buy/gift in. All of this without raising your head-count too much. The final solution is to totally discount the eggs as a product, but you'd be disappointing a lot of people, raising your costs, and be unable to pay back little favors with eggs (a huge reason to have laying chickens). There's some actuarial science in finding out that information, but I suppose it can be done. We haven't got there yet.

William
 
Angelika Maier
Posts: 709
Location: cool climate, Blue Mountains, Australia
2
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I don't think it is sustainable if you are vegan. If you give the eggs away at least the eggs are used. But in former times the chicken were always butchered as soon as they don't lay.
And what are you doing with all these roosters? If you are lucky you will always get 50% roosters out of a hatch and I can tell you that we get 70%. Either you have a vegan farm with
no animals and scratch your head were all the fertilizer comes from or you eat meat (you can give the yummy meat away though.. I would not because a home raised chicken tough as it is is one
of the best things you can eat).
Growing grain is easy when you can keep the mice away but storing is difficult. You can always ask neighbours for food scraps or give your kids a bucket to bring to school. YOu can ask your greengrocer and
our neighbour gets old dairy from a supermarket (but he does not tell us which).
 
William James
gardener
Posts: 1010
Location: Northern Italy
23
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Angelika Maier wrote:And what are you doing with all these roosters?


Good question!
Either you separate them into their own flock (apparently they are not aggressive if there are no females around) and you do without the eggs, you choose not to hatch your own (buying/gifting in only female chicks), you give them to people who are okay with butchering animals (I suppose not the best vegan option, but it's one way), or you only take battery rescues and separate out the odd male that found his way into a chicken farm.

Personally I don't have roosters and I probably won't ever get them. I found out the evils of factory-hatched males after the fact, but I suppose I could have got them in another way.

Just to be clear, I'm not personally promoting this as the best way to do things (I generally think it has several flaws, but alas it is not me who decides), and I'm not against other people killing their chickens. This is more of a personal challenge for me as a designer, not a personal choice.

If there are people like Chris out there that want to do things this way, I accept that and I'm very interested in finding a way for them to do it and making it the most sustainable thing it can be.

William
 
Angelika Maier
Posts: 709
Location: cool climate, Blue Mountains, Australia
2
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I get old bread too which I soak in water. Usually you can pick it up at the bakery in the evening. But don't overdo that or you get sick animals. If the bread goes moldy, don't ever feed that, but it is a great ingredient in a raised bed or in the compost because it is nitrogen. Or ask at restaurants or any other institution which deals with food.
From a permie standpoint, when you live in a cooler and wetter climate ducks are better than chicken and the conversion of food is better and they eat more greens. We have both.
 
Peter Ellis
Posts: 1311
Location: Central New Jersey
36
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
A couple of thoughts. First, as I alluded to before, history tells us very plainly that yes, chickens are really sustainable on a small scale. Raising chickens on a very large scale, especially in confinement, is a new thing. Chickens were domesticated long before we were hauling cheap grain thousands of miles to feed them.

Second, whether you are buying grain shipped in from miles away, or feeding them free scraps shipped in from miles away, both of those are equally dependent upon fossil fuel propelled off property inputs. That is to say, they are equally unsustainable.

The sustainable answer is to grow/raise enoug food for your chickens on your property. The corollary is that you only raise as many chickens as you can support.

Yes, chickens are eminently sustainable, humans have been keeping them sustainably for hundreds, if not thousands, of years.
Whether a given person on a given piece of land can keep them sustainably is a different question.
 
Angelika Maier
Posts: 709
Location: cool climate, Blue Mountains, Australia
2
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I don't think that food scraps are unsustainable, they otherwise go to the landfill.
 
William James
gardener
Posts: 1010
Location: Northern Italy
23
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Angelika Maier wrote:I don't think that food scraps are unsustainable, they otherwise go to the landfill.


It's true, it's good to capitalize on a waste stream.
Some people like the idea of having no inputs on their site, so they think that having no food scraps is more sustainable. Plus there's transportation involved in getting them to the site, which lowers the energy transaction and probably uses fossil fuels.

William
 
Michael Cox
Posts: 1575
Location: Kent, UK - Zone 8
45
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
One of the big issues with depending on an off site waste stream for animal feed is that if it is interrupted for some reason it can leave you very vulnerable. Lets say you break a leg and can't drive to pick up your restaurant supplies for your flock of 50 hens... you need to buy in a lot of feed in a hurry and the birds digestions will not be adapted to it.

Also, as someone who works full time - an additional time consuming step that needs to be done daily probably pushes chickens from the realms of "yeah, I can cope with these before and after work" to "hmmm... I'm leaving the house at 7am and not back before 11.30pm tonight... cruising past the restaurant to pick up scraps is off... so they get no dinner".

 
Mountain Krauss
Posts: 130
Location: Northern California
1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
That's the power of a compost pile-- it stores calories/nutrients, either in their original (food waste) form, or in a different form (the bugs, microbes, and fungi that have come to the pile).

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=vLl3Nf6vBNc
 
Angelika Maier
Posts: 709
Location: cool climate, Blue Mountains, Australia
2
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Sure you must compromise. Say you are buying chicken food now, but you run some trials planting grain. And you know were the waste streams are, just in case.
I get old bread, nearly delivered in the exchange of eggs. So if you have no time you can get people to do stuff for you in the exchange of eggs. Our neighbour throws her kitchen scraps
without asking directly in our pen. I think it is important to have as many options open as possible.
 
Roger Taylor
Posts: 103
Location: New Zealand
3
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Angelika Maier wrote:Sure you must compromise. Say you are buying chicken food now, but you run some trials planting grain. And you know were the waste streams are, just in case.
I get old bread, nearly delivered in the exchange of eggs. So if you have no time you can get people to do stuff for you in the exchange of eggs. Our neighbour throws her kitchen scraps
without asking directly in our pen. I think it is important to have as many options open as possible.

What sort of scraps do the chickens eat? Any tips for getting chickens that are picky, to eat them?
 
Cj Sloane
pollinator
Posts: 3646
Location: Vermont, off grid for 22 years!
78
bee chicken fungi solar trees
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Roger Taylor wrote:Any tips for getting chickens that are picky, to eat them?

Cull the picky ones.
 
William James
gardener
Posts: 1010
Location: Northern Italy
23
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Roger Taylor wrote:
What sort of scraps do the chickens eat? Any tips for getting chickens that are picky, to eat them?


Here's the thing about kitchen scraps.
1) Placing organic material in a box without a bottom works the best. That way things aren't flying all over the place. They can kick stuff around and it stays contained.
2) The organic material that you put in there is as much about drawing soil organisims to the pile as much (or more) than it is about having the chickens eat the stuff.
3) Hunger is the main determining factor as to whether they will eat scraps or not. The other 2 factors are how much fruit and grains are in the kitchen scraps.
4) If you really want to get rid of the waste and not see it or have rodent problems because of it, flow-through vermiculture is better. You can then use the castings with poopy bedding to get awesome compost without the "scrappy look".
5) Chickens will only eat like 40% of what you lay out, unless they get hungry. Even then it's like 80%, so there will be leftovers in any case. See #2.
6) If you really want them to eat stuff, the best way is to chop it up really small in a blender and mix it with feed. We do that for a mix of carrots, garlic, comfrey, and nettles (their medicine). Mine don't really eat Oats and i want them to, so that goes into a blender (you can try sprouting the oats as well).
7) We have 5 people eating and producing a small amount of scraps (most things usually get eaten in some way). We have 2 or 3 potential bins that can get hit with kitchen scraps, plus 2 flow-through vermicomposters.
Scraps+straw+poop+time=awesomeness with near-zero effort.

edit: (that was supposed to be an 8, but I'll leave the guy with the cool glasses to prove how awesome it really is!)

William
 
Angelika Maier
Posts: 709
Location: cool climate, Blue Mountains, Australia
2
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Old bread must be soaked in water. Our greengrocer has a box outside and I always get some they love watermelon pumpkin cabbage tomatoes etc. I throw everything in and the rest you can rake up (one day). Grain we only feed what they eat immediately, it's just too expensive. Weeds. Snails, slugs. And there is this guy who breeds, I think it is maggots and soldier flies. I always wanted such setup but never came around. Google "protein out of thin air".
 
Dan Boone
gardener
Pie
Posts: 1696
Location: Central Oklahoma (zone 7a) ~39" rain/year
181
forest garden trees woodworking
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
As many have observed chickens on a small scale were historically sustainable. But it's important to remember that historical peoples sometimes had available inputs that many of us do not - like lots of child labor.

I am prompted to this observation by my memory of the summer I was seven years old, when my mother thought nothing of sending me out for sevaral hours a day to collect wild greens (lambsquarters, dandelions, horsetails) for her chickens. How much difference this made in their nutritional lives I dunno, but they were kept in a coop and wire run due to predator pressure ranging from least weasels to bears, and they were always happy to see my dishpans full of weeds.
 
Chris Gavin
Posts: 11
Location: Lemmon Valley, Reno NV
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Here you go, Vermont is pretty cold in the winter. When you think outside of the conventional box anything in nature is possible.
http://permaculturenews.org/2013/12/06/grow-chickens-without-buying-grain-feeding-compost/
 
Phillip Swartz
Posts: 38
Location: Upper Midwest - Third Coast - USDA Zone 6a/b
1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Chickens are notorious for eating almost anything. They need to have certain nutritional requirements met just like humans but how you go about that can vary widely. Authoer Derrick Jensen talks extensively of foraging chicken feed from grocery store dumpsters. If I ever move to a more urban environment I would like to attempt this.

Crops grown in situ can be great feed for chickens. Late this fall I moved my pastured chickens to an old garden that was being killed by frost. The chickens polished off all of the greens and nibbled the turnips right out of the ground. They love turnips! I also took my left over pumpkins and smashed them on the ground inside their fenced area. Given enough time and enough chickens all that will remain of pumpkins is the stem.

I've been wondering how to feed chickens with no purchased grain for many years. I think the important principles are planning out well in advance your rotation. Chickens should always be raised in transport coops. A diverse cover crop and vegetable mix could sustain them through the winter with supplements of stored squash and root vegetables. I'm thinking that one would want to plant a multi species cover crop mix in spring that produces seed crops like sunflowers, millet, barley, oats, amaranth, etc. in addition to root crops like mangrels, beets, turnips, radishes, etc. One could plant several different plots and rotate the chickens throughout the season. It is likely that you will need to supplement with stored foods in winter. However, if you simply let the grains mature and fall over then the chickens could do the harvest work for you. Having other livestock in the mix and utilizing insect protein as part of the chicken diet will help.

To make this work reliably I think one needs to do hard calculations about protein requirements for your flock and plan the crops accordingly. It is my sincere belief that this can be accomplished but will initially be much less convenient way to feed chickens though once the procedure is ironed out you may find that the chickens perform better and are more economical to keep.
 
Mountain Krauss
Posts: 130
Location: Northern California
1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I've never done a calculation about how much protein our chickens need, I just make sure there are plenty of weeds and insects for them to feast on. I've noticed that they will feed preferentially on clover and vetch when they are growing among the grass. They also swarm when I turn over compost, or move rocks or wood piles.
 
Bart Brinkmann
Posts: 23
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Chris French wrote: also I have been a vegan for 15 years.


I feel compelled to ask why you are a vegan. Is it by choice or because of a medical condition? If it's by choice and you truly have an aversion to consuming any animal products, it seems hypocritical to raise an animal that you intend to exploit for food, even if it isn't for your own consumption. Then again, if you're vegan simply because you don't prefer the taste of meat, dairy, etc... then by all means, exploit away.
 
Joseph Lofthouse
pollinator
Pie
Posts: 1726
Location: Cache Valley, zone 4b, Irrigated, 9" rain in badlands
321
bee chicken food preservation fungi greening the desert
  • Likes 2
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
In these parts, we often have a few feet of snow on the ground during winter. That impedes foraging, but nevertheless, the wild birds like pheasants and turkeys survive. We can make things even easier on chickens by supplementing their winter diets. Cabbage, turnips, beets, and carrots can be stored in root cellars. Squash can be stored in areas above freezing. They all make great chicken food. They need to be shredded or chopped or cooked before feeding. Apples store well and make great chicken food. Some types of apples do not drop from the tree until near spring. They make great winter-forage that doesn't require harvesting. Potatoes store well, but should be cooked.

Corn can be easily harvested by hand in large enough quantities to be practical for feeding to chickens during winter. Some strains of sunflowers or sorghum might be suitable. Other grains like wheat or rye take a lot of labor to harvest by hand. They don't need to be threshed before feeding to chickens, but non-threshed seed heads take up a lot of storage space. Seeds can be collected all summer long from many different species and stored for winter use. Maples and elms drop huge quantities of seeds that are easy enough to sweep up and store for later use. A shop vac may not be sustainable, but it sure simplifies seed collection. And there is no need to keep varieties separate if all you are doing is collecting bird food.

I grow just about all of the vegetable seed needed for my farm. I winnow the seed prior to storage. Winnowing isn't perfect, so the chaff contains a lot of edible seed. Chickens love picking through it. That could just as easily be saved for winter feeding.

English walnuts make great winter bird-food. I gather the nuts in the fall or winter, then feed them by crushing with a hammer or by stomping on them.

Beans or peas may be suitable for growing as winter bird-food.

Grapes were hanging on the vines all winter until a couple of days ago when the birds finally discovered them and ate them all up. There are lots of plants that produce seeds that remain above the snow. Many of them would be suitable for winter foraging. Around here, Russian olive is one of the pheasants favorite winter-forage trees. Mountain ash is another tree that often carries it's fruit until near spring.

Sun-facing slopes, and the ground on the sun-ward side of buildings is often free of snow. That makes them good places for winter forage crops. Things like winter-wheat, rye, chard, brassicas, winter-peas, dandelions, spinach, favas, etc...

It's times like this when supplemental food is critical.


 
William James
gardener
Posts: 1010
Location: Northern Italy
23
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
One thing I was thinking about when it comes to sustainable small chicken keeping is climate. Joseph's post makes it clear that having winter food is critical, so the ease in which keeping chickens changes with the climate. It's probably easier in places where it's sunny and things are growing year round.

The other thing to consider is how they are kept. If they're scavenging all day and have enough rich land to eat off of, I can't see why not. If you're raising them in a small perhaps even closed space it might be more of a problem.

William
 
Cj Sloane
pollinator
Posts: 3646
Location: Vermont, off grid for 22 years!
78
bee chicken fungi solar trees
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Joseph, could you describe and/or show pics of your storage systems a little more? What kind of containers? Do you use a root cellar? Do you dry some items? If so, how?

Here's a pic from 6 weeks ago, before all of our latest snow, showing a chicken about 20' harvesting some grapes and maybe staghorn sumac berries:
 
William James
gardener
Posts: 1010
Location: Northern Italy
23
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Bart Brinkmann wrote:
Chris French wrote: also I have been a vegan for 15 years.


I feel compelled to ask why you are a vegan. Is it by choice or because of a medical condition? If it's by choice and you truly have an aversion to consuming any animal products, it seems hypocritical to raise an animal that you intend to exploit for food, even if it isn't for your own consumption. Then again, if you're vegan simply because you don't prefer the taste of meat, dairy, etc... then by all means, exploit away.


I don't mean to answer for Chris, but what I can do is point to what I feel is a flaw in the way the question is posed.

Chris doesn't eat meat and I would suppose it's for many of the same reason most vegans are vegans. He also likes the friendship of chickens. These chickens produce eggs. The eggs, if not consumed would have to be thrown away, fed to the birds themselves (my chickens love to eat eggs, btw), or gifted to other people. Perhaps Chris does one or more of those activities, potentially others.

Nothing in the description I have just given points to the exploitation of animals. Chris could also make a head-dress from the feathers they naturally shed, that also would not (at least in my book) constitute exploitation. It is simply looking for the best uses of the products that naturally come from the chicken. I don't think he's installing lights to raise egg production, giving them hormones, or whatever tricks are out there to produce more eggs then the chickens are willing to give.

I realize that some people view "uses" as exploitation, but for met it's really up for debate and really depends on the single individual's attitude toward the elements that surround him or her. I know vegans who keep bees in the same way, whatever honey production or harvest that happens is a far-off side effect of the main objective of giving bees a home.

Same thing here, in my opinion.
William
 
jimmy gallop
Pie
Posts: 194
Location: east and dfw texas
3
bee chicken forest garden hunting trees woodworking
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Turn them loose and they will feed themselves.
the cow fed on grass and hay,milked the cow and fed everything on the farm or in town with the milk or poop.

corn meal and corn stalk is what they overwintered most everything on,
grew it themselves and ground it daily by hand.kept it on the cob till use
also added the whey they kept back just for that
winter was very lean times feed just enough to survive.
that's why the hog was fattened in the fall when there was lots of excess acorns and such and cool weather come he was butchered to last till spring and beyond
thanksgivings time of plenty but needed using
same with the spring calf by winter grass was gone and they were down to feeding hay and corn time for the calf to be butchered if not sold they didn't usually feed them out like we do now .
In the latter part of summer they grew storage crops beets turnips carrots rutabagas to keep in ground and harvest,or store whatever they could.
 
Joseph Lofthouse
pollinator
Pie
Posts: 1726
Location: Cache Valley, zone 4b, Irrigated, 9" rain in badlands
321
bee chicken food preservation fungi greening the desert
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
My storage system is rather laid back...



This is wheat, popcorn, walnuts, and squash seeds. I had meant to grab some sunflower seeds. I like 5 gallon buckets with screw on lids because it keeps the mice out... Same with glass jars. I grow my own seed for my vegetable garden, but I end up growing decades worth of seed each year. Much more than I can plant or give away. I store the garden seeds, for example this 2 year old wheat, in glass bottles. I end up feeding the excess to birds. I like the crates for storing corn, because they are open, can be stacked, and allow air circulation to better avoid mold. Works in my climate, might not in a damper one. The squash seeds in the cardboard box are from fruits we ate, but I didn't want to save the seeds, so they were dried for feeding later on to the animals.

The dehydrated squash in the basket are crookneck. They will eventually be crushed so that animals can eat the seeds.


The walnuts crush easily and are full of nutrition, even seed moths.


Then I scrounged around for forage foods...

Virginia creeper and raspberries ready to be eaten.


Grapes have been available all winter.


Alfalfa seeds:


Alfalfa greens: ready to eat:


I hear that violets are edible, so the first flower of the spring deserves a spot in this post, even if I might not choose to grow them as chicken food.



 
The permaculture playing cards make great stocking stuffers: http://richsoil.com/cards
  • Post Reply
  • Bookmark Topic Watch Topic
  • New Topic