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How to grow chicken feed on site

 
Richard Hauser
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Location: NJ
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During one of the parts of Paul's latest mega-part podcast, I think he mentioned that the reason that the lab didn't have chickens yet was that the feed for the chickens was not grown yet.
I would assume that Paul would not want to buy chicken feed, but rather grow it all onsite, so it would all be up to his high standards.
So is there any resources on how that could be done, i.e. raise chicken without grain or at least outside grain.
 
Su Ba
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I maintain a flock of about 50 birds without commercial feed. But then , I'm in an area where I can grow year around. But it would still be do-able in an area with winters. I'd just have to grow and dry feedstuff for winter's use. It would require a bigger garden, more diversity, and a drying set-up.

Currently I grow or forage much of the chicken feed. They have access to pasture and compost piles in the afternoons. They get meat via cooked roadkill and killed varmints (mongoose, rats, feral cats that the neighbors cull) plus slaughter waste, in addition to what they capture themselves (worms, bugs, lizards, mice, small doves). They get a wide assortment of things from the garden, some of which are specifically grown for them. This year I am also growing field peas, sorghum, corn, rice, job's tears, flax, and pigeon peas for them. I plan to try growing wheat, barley, oats, and sun hemp to see if it does ok. Don't know yet. Some other seeds I've grown for them include Aztec Spinach and amaranth. Plus they get plenty of foraged fruits (mangos, bananas, oranges, guavas, papayas).

Using commercial feed saves a lot of time otherwise spent gathering, growing, and preparing feed. So having chickens without ommercial feed can be done, but it will cost time.

By the way, I can only handle up to around 50 birds. Perhaps if I had more pasture devoted to chickens I could handle more. But 50 is fine. As the flock deminishes in numbers through the year, feeding them gets a lot easier and faster. So if one only had a dozen hens, it would be a cinch.
 
Richard Hauser
Posts: 28
Location: NJ
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Thanks for the reply and I completely agree that complete self sufficiency is probably not an efficient use of time.
My interest is as self-sufficiency as a goal, but balance against time constraints to figure out the best system that uses the least amount of time to create the maximum amount of feed.
And thank you for all your suggestions. I have so much to learn about plants, but I will research all that you listed.
I will be doing this in a region with seasons (Zone 5b), so my greatest question is about easy storables or field storables, but I would think this is a popular goal so feel free to keep your suggestions general to help other readers.
Of those listed what has the best bang for your buck, i.e. least work for most feed?

Is it possible to grow, cut and store the grains and leave the chickens to do the threshing/winnowing?
Two items I read about that you do not list are sunflowers and squash/pumpkins. It seems like you are in a warmer climate than I, but I'd think varieties of these would be available.
Do you think these would be good sources of chicken feed?

As for field storables it seems that something like sunchokes would be easy feed for hogs as they would dig up the tubers. Are there any perennial root vegetables that could be planted in a rotational grazing system that could be geared for chickens?
 
Cj Sloane
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Richard Hauser wrote:
Of those listed what has the best bang for your buck, i.e. least work for most feed?

Is it possible to grow, cut and store the grains and leave the chickens to do the threshing/winnowing?


Grains are def not the best bang for your buck. Potatoes are highest calories per acre, I think. Sun Chokes are close and better because they are perennial.

Here's a thread you should check out: http://www.permies.com/t/997/chickens/perennial-chicken-feed
 
Kelly Smith
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can someone explain why someone wouldnt want to feed chickens grain?
as i understand it, the birds' gizzard is specially designed/evolved to be able to grind/mash up even the hardest of seed.



 
Meryt Helmer
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Location: west marin, bay area california. sandy loam, well drained, acidic soil and lots of shade
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Kelly Smith wrote:can someone explain why someone wouldnt want to feed chickens grain?
as i understand it, the birds' gizzard is specially designed/evolved to be able to grind/mash up even the hardest of seed.


they just have different nutritional needs. their needs are close though and some people do just feed one type of feed to all their fowl. duck feed is just as hard as chicken feed but the ratio of protein and other things is a bit different.

 
Su Ba
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Chickens are opportunistic eaters. That means that they will consume just about most, but not all, food items that are available and if presented in the right way (cooked vs raw, ground vs whole, fermented vs fresh etc). That includes seeds / grains. As with most broad range eaters, concentrating the diet upon one item may or may not be detrimental to that animal. I'm not knowledgable when it comes to the agricultural studies done on feeding commercial chickens, but if you researched it I'm sure you could find plenty of rather detailed papers on the subject.

I see no reason why chickens cannot be fed grains along with other food stuff. The draw back is cost and availability. But feeding grain by itself as the total diet may not meet the birds needs. Even commercial feeds have other products and additives in addition to grains.

My own flock gets a wide assortment of foods. Seeds and grains are included, though not in large quantities. I would offer them more seed/grain if I had it, but so far I have only been able to grow a limited amount. I am gradually expanding my garden space for chicken feed.

As CJ Verde pointed out, homegrown grain does not give you the best return on your effort, cost, and space. I get incredibly more feed stuff per square foot of potatoes, sweet potatoes, and yacon. But I still intend to grow grains for the livestock because it gives them variety, enrichment in their lives, and a broad spectrum of nutritional elements.
 
Cj Sloane
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Kelly Smith wrote:can someone explain why someone wouldnt want to feed chickens grain?

The other issue is that some people who are allergic to grains can't eat eggs if chickens are feed those grains. I think this is particularly true with soy.
 
Lion Gladden
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On the question about pumpkins and squash -- absolutely! Chickens love those. I recommend you grow them (and most other items you intend to feed your chickens separate from their pens, or they'll eat most veggies before the plants can grow/mature. (I spent a lot of my childhood herding the occasional escaped-into-the-garden chicken out of there.)

I've never fed sunflower seeds to chickens, but I can't think of a reason you shouldn't. (Unless someone wiser than me is aware of a reason.)

I understand they like sunchokes too. I understand they need to be cooked to have real nutritional benefits for humans. (At least that's what I saw on a recent video.) I wonder if that's the case for chickens or not.
 
John Master
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Also I think that most permies are of the mindset not to help perpetuate the franken-grain centric world we seem to be stuck in. I only have 3 chickens but I even turned down free feed (a small amount) because I knew it was likely that the corn and soy were in there. That stuff is terrible, it's every other field around where I live which is sad cause we dont eat it and try to avoid animal products that were fed it. Chickens are jungle fowl and until just recently haven't had a combine harvester picking any of their food for them. Mine are doing great with 3/4 acre of bugs, worms, ants, grubs, kitchen scraps, grass, plants etc to eat and they are doing well so far.
 
I agree. Here's the link: http://stoves2.com
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