Can anyone provide info on plants that would be used to build soil, but are also edible for chicken/quail? I have an area that I want to plant with Nitrogen fixing plants. My first thought is that False Indigo would work nicely, but I'm not sure if Chickens or Quail can eat that safely. I'm looking for a good dual purpose plant.
How about either Siberian Peatree (Caragana arborescens) or Siberian Peashrub (C. siberica).
Either one produces pea pods, the peas being around 30% protein. Great poultry fodder.
The tree typically grows to 12-20 feet, while the shrub will only grow to 2-4 feet.
The chickens can easily harvest the shrub pods, but must wait for the tree's pods to fall.
However, the shrub's seeds are (in my opinion) way too valuable to use for chook feed.
Legumes; Cow Peas, Fava Beans, ladino clover, medium red clover, crimson clover, berseem clover
Buckwheat; bio accumulator, kick starts phosphorus cycling* Draws pollinators like mad. *High level consumption of greens can cause photo-toxicity with sunburn, blistering, tingling, and unpleasant sensations.
Radishes, bio accumulator, mineral cycler, quick cover and done in as little as 25 days- Radishes are my defacto quick cover crop when I need to fill in small areas that have failed in pastures. Toss out radishes with some more clover seed to fill in gaps. Bolts in early summer and will drop more seed to germinate late season. Also kills many nematodes, so is a natural soil fumigant.
Tree Lucerne/Tagasaste/Chamaecytisus Palmensis - nitrogen fixer, hens love scratching around under them and eating the seed pods. It coppices easily and is very hot burning. just don't cut it in the winter time. Stock love eating the leaves and its very nutritious. Loves the dry too. Awesome plant
John Polk wrote:How about either Siberian Peatree (Caragana arborescens) or Siberian Peashrub (C. siberica).
I'll second the peashrub - will also flower super-early and help feed/draw in the pollinators :) Just be sure to plant in a medium to dry soil, not soggy wet.
Thinking Milo (grain sorghum) might be an option with your hotter summers - it's not nitrogen fixing but it's a lot of good biomass and a nitrogen sponge, helping to preserve and cycle what N you do have
The Eleagnus family seems like a good fit; Autumn Olive and Goumi are the ones I'm personally familiar with, and make people-food as well as chicken-food. Ditto for Russian Olive/Silverberry, and wikipedia lists several other cultivated species/hybrids. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elaeagnus
'Theoretically this level of creeping Orwellian dynamics should ramp up our awareness, but what happens instead is that each alert becomes less and less effective because we're incredibly stupid.' - Jerry Holkins
Almost every backyard chicken raiser feeds purchased grain produced by eroding the soil and pouring on chemical pesticides, herbicides, and fertilizers. I worked for a farm that had a large pastured flock that was reasonably well managed on good quality pasture with daily rotation, and the hens still ate 1/4 pound of grain a day.
For those playing at home, the average confinement cage layer set up feeds 1/4 pound of grain per bird per day. Although the pastured birds produce a better tasting egg with more micronutrients from the foraging of green plants and legumes, it is an ecological wash. The extra calories from forage and insects went into fueling the chicken-like activities of the chicken. In essence, on any kind of agricultural productive scale beyond the feeding of food scraps and natural foraging of a couple of birds per household, pastured chickens are an ecological wash.
Pastured broiler birds killed for meat have an insignificant reduction in grain per pound of gain. Once again, it is a better tasting and more nutrient dense product, but on even a moderate commercial scale it still takes conventionally produced corn and soybeans to make it happen.
Rabbits or sheep would make a much more naturally productive animal in a perennial system. A handful of chickens on a big back yard and food scraps are fine, but will never yield close to the same amount of protein with only raised inputs that grazers will in the higher rainfall cool grass regions of our country.
If you have to have chickens, you could plant pure stands of clover, lay down boards to kill it off in 8" strips, and then hand plant kernels of short day #2 yellow corn, milo, pearl millet and sunflower to make your own blend for birds. You can then compost all of the grain and oilseed plants in the fall, or if you had rabbits or sheep you could graze or cut/feed all the crop residues. The clover will produce your nitrogen needs, and the mulch of the kill strip will hold moisture and soil, and fill back in with clover as the grain and oil seed crops rise above it. I'd late summer over seed daikons and purple top turnips to scavenge nutrients and provide root crop feed in the late fall and winter as well.
If you are interested in coming up with a real productive plan that could produce a large amount of food, let me know. I've run a variety of productive agricultural and ag related enterprises over the decades.
I live in the suburbs and have considered trying to raise quail outdoors. I'm choosing quail because the square footage requirements are lower and they are quieter than chickens. This is of course a trial.
One of the main reasons I wanted to try it was because I watched the Back to Eden documentary and saw how Paul was raising chickens on mostly yard and garden waste, while getting high quality compost at the same time. The eggs will be a bonus.
I will only have about a 10x20 garden this year to supplement my families vegetable needs. Outside of the garden, I want to grow native plants that will help supplement the chicken feed. I was of course thinking that legumes could built soil as well as provide bonus protein at the same time.