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Popcorn for chickens?  RSS feed

 
garden master
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Hello permies!  I'm getting ready for chickens and would like to grow a bit of their food.  I believe they'll eat popcorn as part of their ration.  I have an old small pasture I could plant it in but I don't have a fence.  So here are the questions:

Is popcorn an acceptable type of corn for chickens?
Does it need to be crushed/cracked (for mature hens)?
How much popcorn would I likely get from a 20'x20' area?  I'd be hand planting so I can do whatever row spacing you'd suggest.
Do raccoons or deer bother popcorn?  I believe they love sweet corn but I'm not sure about popcorn...

Bonus question:
If I grow wheat or oats for the chickens, do deer bother those crops?

Thanks!

 
gardener
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Location: Cache Valley, zone 4b, Irrigated, 9" rain in badlands.
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Chickens will eat any type of corn without cracking. Whole popcorn is commonly added to chicken scratch.

A 20'X20' area could be expected to yield about 40 pounds of popcorn, or about 80 pounds of dent corn.

I plant corn about 1 foot apart in rows, with rows about 30 inches apart: In other words, 2.5 square feet per plant. My brother plants corn on 18 inch centers: 2.3 square feet per plant.

The popcorns that I have grown have cobs 4 to 7 feet off the ground, which minimizes predation compared to sweet corn which might only be 2.5 feet from the ground.
10-popcorn.jpg
[Thumbnail for 10-popcorn.jpg]
Popcorn and Fat Joseph
 
Mike Jay
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Thanks Joseph!  So if I have "normal" height popcorn, which critters would try to eat it on me?  Just trying to figure out if I need a fence and what style it would have to be. 
 
Joseph Lofthouse
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I've exhausted my knowledge-base. The field where I have grown popcorn isn't bothered by coons nor by deer.  I don't even know what "normal" popcorn is supposed to be like. ;P

 
pollinator
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I'm just now starting to grow corn for my chickens, so all my information is second hand. Critters will eat corn, any variety. A farmer friend in NY tells me that deer, raccoon, birds, and bear regularly get into his field corn (a dent variety). He has several hundred acres in corn, so he expects and lives with some losses due to critters. His fields are not fenced.

Where I am, rats are my main corn predator. Living next to a macadamia nut farm, rats are a given. We call them naked tailed squirrels. Happily my cats manage to control most of the rats that make it over to my farm. But I still have some various losses from time to time. I've grown two corn crops so far. The rats ate a little but not overly much. The other predators I have that would eat corn the feral pig, feral goat, and mouflon, but I have a dog that keeps them away from the growing area. My whole 20 acres is fenced, but it doesn't totally stop my corn predators. The farm dog does a far better job of it than the fence.

May I ask, why popcorn? Dent corn is far more productive.
 
Mike Jay
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Thanks folks!  Since I have copious deer and likely raccoons, I guess I'll have to put up a fence.  I was hoping they only cared for sweet corn but apparently I was overly optimistic. 

I didn't realize dent corn was that much more prolific than popcorn.  I was just thinking that I could grow popcorn and sell some at the farmer's market and give some to the chickens.  If it sells well enough, it could pay for more chicken feed than it would itself produce.  We don't eat much cornmeal or sweet corn so that's why they weren't on my list.

Now I have more corn questions but I'll start a new thread....
 
pollinator
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You might try some grain sorghum. It's easy to harvest. Just cut the heads off the top. Most of the corn predators don't seem to bother it. Birds can be a problem if harvest is delayed. White kernel varieties seem to be less attractive to birds.

Popcorn is low yielding. You could grow it to sell and feed less perfect ears to the chickens. Some varieties are very ornamental. It'd probably be worth even more sold for fall decorations.
 
Mike Jay
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Thanks Ken, you gave me something to Google.  I found a Purdue site that says:

  • Low temperature, not length of growing season, is the limiting factor for production in most of the Upper Midwest. Average temperatures of at least 80°F during July are needed for maximum grain sorghum yields, and day-time temperatures of at least 90°F are needed for maximum photosynthesis.

  • Luckily for me (and unluckily for sorghum) we rarely hit 90 here in the summer and usually hang out around 80.  So I'm guessing I'm a bit out of the growing range.  The site said grain sorghum is ideal for hot and dry areas.  I'd call my region warm and damp in the summer.

     
    Posts: 74
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    Mike,
      Keep in mind that a deer can jump up to about 8 feet, so a really high fence might be necessary to keep them out.  I finally had to do that with my main garden and pear orchard, they were decimating it. 

     
    Mike Jay
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    Oh yeah, I'm well aware of the deer fence height.  My orchard fence is about 7' and my garden is about 8'.  For a field I'd probably look into double fences, angled fences or electric to avoid the look of Alcatraz...  I'd also have to consider the raccoons and other corn nibblers.  That may lead me to electric but I'll figure it out.  Thanks!
     
    pollinator
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    Has anyone tried the hugh wire meathod?
    Supposedly a wire or wires set at 7-8 feet can be enough to kerp deer from leaping in.
     
    Mike Jay
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    Two gardens ago I had 4x4 corner posts and then took electrical fence wire and strung it around the garden at 1' spaces.  I didn't electrify it, I just used it as a cheap source of wire.  Periodically along the run I'd take a scrap piece of wire and run it vertically and loop it around each horizontal wire to keep the deer from squeezing through the spaces.  It worked well to keep the deer out and it was about 7' high.
     
    pollinator
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    I'm sorry but I can't stop laughing at the thought of a roasting chicken popping from the corn... like the guy that had it in his will that his pocket be filled with popcorn for his cremation...
     
    garden master
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    There are lots of grains you can grow for chickens besides the corn, most of them are also usable by humans too. Plus, you can use excess vegetables for chicken food.
    They love pumpkin, squashes, tomatoes, and all the greens plus they love fruits, especially figs.
     
    pollinator
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    I get free pumpkins from everyone after Halloween is past and feed them to my chickens.  The love them.  They eat the seeds first, but eat the whole pumpkin, right to the rinds.  They also get squash, corn, table scraps, anything that I clean up out of the garden, and sometimes scratch grain.  I grow Giant Ragweed for them and they love the seeds.  Mine don't really like oats very well though.

    Forgot to mention, I wouldn't give them banana peels.  They seem to think they are snakes or something and are pretty disturbed by them.
     
    pollinator
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    I didn't see mention of the "recreational" feeding of popped popcorn to chickens.  They eyed it warily the first few times I threw some off the deck to them, but got the hang of it not long after.  Now, they come running when they know I've got a bowl and am enjoying it outside!

    Mike J.--I would not give up on sorghum or at least the broomcorn varieties:  https://hort.purdue.edu/newcrop/afcm/broomcorn.html
    I recall my wife growing some here outside of Fargo and it did quite well.  I'm going to guess and say that we got the seed from Johnny's or Jungs....can't recall.  But it would be worth putting in some seed for a test.
     
    Mike Jay
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    Good points everyone.  I was after the popcorn since I would be eating/selling some as well.  As opposed to dent corn which I rarely eat on purpose.

    I do grow squash already but if it was deliberately for chickens I'd be using up a lot of space.  They'll get our extras for sure, I just don't think I'll devote extra squash space just for them.  And they already get all the grass and weeds they can pick, all our kitchen scraps and the garden weeds and excess.  Lots of apple scraps this year.  But come winter, those feed stocks dwindle and they're down to leaf compost biology, kitchen scraps and chicken feed.  Though I did get some sunflower heads that I'll let them pick at later in the winter.  And I have 5 buckets of apples that may get metered out to to them.

    Halloween pumpkins is a great idea Todd!  I probably missed out on that for this year but I'll keep my eyes out.  Mine love wheat berries and rolled oats.  So I'm assuming they'd like plain oats.  I'll pick up a big sack of organic wheat next time I'm driving down South so I can sprinkle that in their run periodically.

    Thanks John, I'll rethink sorghum/broomcorn.  It sounds like it may also do a good job as an annual screen between me and the road.
     
    Posts: 106
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    A couple points, corn is pretty low in protein, so not for a primary addition to the diet. An aspect of both Glass Gem and Oaxacan Green Dent and most likely other varieties I haven't tried, their ears formed really high off the ground which might help if you have a somewhat seasonal problem with deer. Here they have a tendency to not get serious about browsing my plantings until after the field is hayed in July.

       I am going to try growing some mangel beets for them this year. They are around 11% protein, so another supplement rather than main course.

    http://cru.cahe.wsu.edu/CEPublications/FS053E/FS053E.pdf
     
    Mike Jay
    garden master
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    Thanks JW, I hadn't thought of growing veggies for them, just oats, corn, amaranth, sorghum, etc.  I'm leaning towards fencing the field to keep the deer out.  Then I can do whatever I want.  Beets do grow pretty well here.

    I've had pretty good luck storing apples this year so I might just store more in the future and give them a half a dozen a day. 

    In the fenced garden I'm planning on a triple bed of sweet corn (8' by 13') and another of oats.  At least that will be food for me with a taste for the birds.
     
    J W Richardson
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    If you use wire sheep type fencing, you can grow smaller squash using the fence as a trellis?  I got some nibbling from the outside that I stopped with draped netting, it might work unless you have a ton of deer.
     
    Mike Jay
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    If I fence the whole area (food forest and annual crop area) I could then devote space to squash for chickens.  I'd probably just sneak a squash in here or there in my guilds.  Or I could grow them up the fence for the fun of it. 

    In the garden we just decided to grow half the squash we did last year so we can have more onion space...
     
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