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Chicken fodder/forage success stories?

 
pollinator
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Tj Jefferson wrote:Cecile, nice idea on the catfish food. I will absolutely look into that. Eventually we want to not have to buy anything, let them molt on their schedule and go without eggs for a little bit, but this sounds like a cheap way to go. We are going to bank some eggs in slaked lime as a test, and if that works we should be good to go for a few months of poor laying.
Our main issue is actually the heat. They lay poorly when the temperatures are in the 90s, probably because the water warms up too. I am going to shade their water tank and see if that helps. Also, we will probably go with lighter colored chickens in the future when these guys burn out.



A long time ago, when people didn't own refrigerators, they did keep eggs without refrigeration. My sister in France told me that the tradition of pancakes at Candlemas  was a way to use all the eggs that had been saved in the fall. Candlemas is in early February, so that is quite a long time!
It is the US that is the odd one out with washing the eggs and refrigerating them. I don't remember getting eggs from the refrigerator section when I lived in France.
https://www.businessinsider.com/why-europeans-dont-refrigerate-eggs-2014-12
I have kept eggs about 3 months in cornstarch. They were still fine. I heard that slaked lime gives them a taste but I've never tried.
As far as the heat, yep, they sometimes walk around with their wings away from their bodies and their beak open. We have very sandy soil, so in the cool of the shade, they love to bathe. That seems to be what cools them best and fastest. Someone once told me they use a little fan blowing over a sac of ice. That would cool the coop pretty fast, i should think, but if you get quite a few hot days, that gets expensive.
 
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Location: Hot, humid, sometimes hurricane drenched west central Florida
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Tj Jefferson wrote:Leslie, we did quite a lot of reading, on here especially, to work in the poultry. The idea is that they are not a stand-alone, they are a part of the progression of the soil from degraded to full of life. It has been really really good for the field. We are significantly increasing our acreage in silvopasture, and this will necessitate other birds. We may do guineas or turkeys, but there is a niche here that benefits from ground birds.

As a part of that, the idea from the start, was to have them be more or less making their own ecosystem, like browsers in a maintenance of their own habitat. They have been exceptional at making topsoil out of wood chips, inoculating the soil, and making different depths of soil as they dig and bathe. They will be a good complement to sheep in the next buildout. What we wanted to do was to make something more sustainable. We could have just fed them in the coop and collected eggs as is common here. We could have had a mobile paddock to spread the poop and keep the bugs down. But the idea has been to make modular paddock spaces that will have their total requirements contained within. There will be paddocks for the summer that teem with bugs and are places of high manuring, fall paddock spaces under the trees dropping fruit and seeds, and spring paddocks with berries. They get moved once a week except for the middle of winter they stay in a few mulch piles and back to eden gardens. The fox predator pressure here is intense, and we can't free range them. We could, for a couple weeks. They would get cleaned out. Winter has been the problem.

Soldier fly larvae are only active in 50F+ weather as we have discussed on prior threads. We already are pretty well set in those temperatures. I am not going to raise them in the house! We do as I mentioned compost the animal parts in wood chips which probably turns into nice yield of bugs, and will occur deep into the winter. In large windrows there are bugs pretty much all year. The chickens then work to shred the chips to get their meal. It hastens the composting of the chips. Beyond that it seems to keep other birds fed over the winter. We have bluebirds all year. This makes me happy!

So not everyone's system will look the same. In Florida BSF seems like something that could provide year-round food. We used to live there! Unfortunately it most beneficial here when we have a surplus anyway. We are working toward out deficiencies. IF we were doing some meat birds raised over the summer it might be really great, but we really haven't gotten into that yet.


Ty, I'm envious of your energy and thoroughly through planning. I tend to fly by the seat of my pants and problem solve along the way. The bsf just showed up in my worm bin. But they sure vanish when the temperature drops below 60° or so. And if I don't put in something dry for them to eat I can't get them clean enough to throw to the girls. I throw the occasional dead thing in there and I worry about transferring any bad bacteria to the hens. And it just seems gross to fling a scoopful of wet slop over the fence for them to pick through. Am I wrong to worry about that?
Today I put a cup of catfood in a colander and they worked their way through the holes and I just threw them and the few remaining kibbles to the chickens. I'm trying to find the easiest way to separate the larvae from the compost. Right now it's a nasty wet sloppy black sludgey mess in there and thousands of wiggling larvae munching away. You can hear it. Wonderful, but ugh.
 
pollinator
Posts: 300
Location: Monticello Florida zone 8a
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Bryan Beck wrote: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.  


Share with us on the wiki!

Reducing bagged food for poultry!

Please and thank you!
 
Posts: 609
Location: Northern Maine, USA (zone 3b-4a)
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because of where i live, i select my chicken breeds for cold hardiness, temperament and egg laying ability. good ol' rhode island reds are hard to beat! got some isa browns last spring and are also a great hybrid. got some banevelders, blue orphingtons and some silver laced wynadottes. my best layer though is a 2 yr. old white leghorn. she pumps out a huge white egg a day, 9 months out of the year and is the only chicken i have that lets me pick her up. when i go feed them she sometimes flys off her roost onto my back until i fill the feeder. she's just a skinny tiny thing but she's just as cold hardy as the bigger birds. she was given to me as a rescue after a fox killed all of her buddies.  funny seeing her on the roost sandwiched between all these birds 2xs her size!
 
gardener
Posts: 532
Location: Central Texas
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Great thread full of useful information!
My neighbors are irresponsible dog owners, and seem to think their dogs have the right to go wherever they want & kill/destroy whatever they want; so my chickens, guineas, geese, and other poultry have to be cooped until I get the time & funds to develop a system that will allow them to forage more. Right now, I'm buying scratch grains & crumble as the main feed source, but am trying to produce more of their nutrition on site.
This winter I've been filling a bucket each day of mustard, turnip greens, chickweed, henbit, dandelion leaves, and various other green things growing in the field, which they quickly devour. Since it only takes a few minutes to fill the bucket, it's not a big deal. In the future, I'm hoping to get more legumes growing for protein, and may build a yard/paddock under some of the oak trees that produce a million acorns every year. I'm thinking alfalfa may be a good source of winter greens that can also be a protein source. For spring/summer, maybe cowpeas/black eyed peas. Since its just me, I usually have plenty of extra produce from the garden that I share with family and use as pig & poultry feed. I don't have time to cook squash for the birds, so I usually just crack/break them open and toss them in the coop. Within a day they rot enough to get soft and get eaten fairly fast. I grow passion vine on the outside/top of the coop and the birds devour any leaves/fruit that manage to grow inside the wire in their reach.
I don't have time to purposely cultivate BSFL, but they usually show up in the rabbit manure piles each summer, so I sometimes shovel some up for the poultry. My vermiculture project is still new, so I haven't built my population enough to consider feeding the worms to the poultry (plus I can think of many other, productive things to do with the worms LOL). My rabbit culls usually go to the pigs, but if I slaughter some for sausage or jerky I'll toss the scraps in the coop.
The chickens are definitely less selective than the guineas, peacocks, turkey, and geese; and will eat almost anything I toss to them. The challenge is just having a balanced diet available for them all year instead of whatever scraps are available at the time. Until I can get that figured out, I will most likely have to continue buying the grains & crumble for the base of the diet.
 
steve bossie
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i caught a bunch of small yellow perch out of my ice cabin. they are a invasive species here so theres no limit. i keep about 30 of them and dumped them in with the chickens. only thing left a few hours later was picked off fish heads and spines. ;)

 
Cécile Stelzer Johnson
pollinator
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KC Simmons: I really feel for you having bad neighbors with dogs. You may have to take them in a court of law: Destruction of private property is serious in any State, if you have the stomach for it. I would not recommend dispatching the dog because it is not its fault but I feel for you: My neighbor always has his dogs loose and when we are hunting, they always get in the way. It is really annoying!
Building paddocks that you can rotate is an excellent idea. I have one that is a small orchard with apple trees, nut trees, a couple of cherries and plums. Except for the nuts and the best apples, I would not mind letting the chickens pasture under: Right now, the trees are small [only one in good production] so most have their own surround to prevent the chickens from destroying them. Soon, they can be let loose under the trees. Chickens are great at killing any bug that might harm your trees, and when fenced properly, deer cannot do damage.
My other rotation is in the forest. There are a few acorns but my red oaks have the wilt, so I'm not sure how long I will have them. I will be planting some Bur Oaks, which are at least marginally resistant to this plague. The acorns may be too large for a chicken's gullet. So I may have to break them somehow so they can get at the acorn. But my fencing there is inadequate, so I let them in there in the afternoon till dark... and I worry.
I have 2 orchards that are not fenced, so I'm looking to fence them and let the chickens forage under, in rotation grazing. I'm thinking of a "main paddock" where they can go all the time, and 2 or 3 paddocks where they can go a couple of weeks at a time, arranged around the main paddock like more or less the spokes of a wheel. Chicken gates between the main paddock and the other ones could be sluiced open to let them in and out so they go back to the coop at night. Hoop/tunnels would have to be built to funnel them to the orchard farther away..
At least, that is the way I see it in my mind's eye. Water in the coop and the main paddock only so they have to come back once in a while to drink.
Good luck with your neighbors'dogs!
 
Cécile Stelzer Johnson
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steve bossie wrote:i caught a bunch of small yellow perch out of my ice cabin. they are a invasive species here so theres no limit. i keep about 30 of them and dumped them in with the chickens. only thing left a few hours later was picked off fish heads and spines. ;)



In Wisconsin, we have carps. They too are an invasive species here and there are a lot of sports fishermen who either fish them or spear them. Once they are out of the water, they can't put them back in, not even the guts [which might have eggs, I suppose], so they have to dispose of them... Guess who is going to be there this spring with a cooler by the dumpster to take some home for my birds? ;-)
You may recall also that Native Americans used to bury a fish under the corn in their 3 sisters garden. I have always wondered how that would work here. My garden is fenced but my Native American friend swore by the method. I'd be afraid of skunks coming in to steal the fish and ruin my crop, but Barb says it works, so I might try that. I don't know how many fish I'll get [for free!] but my chickens will get first dibs!
With the number of invasive species that folks are trying to get rid of, there must be quite a few opportunities for us to get fresh dead fish. Perch, carp or mussels.
Here, we sometimes have algae bloom and it gets dredged because it is so dangerous for even pets to go in that water! I'm trying to find a way to haul some of that to enrich my [very thin, sandy] soil. So far, what I'm missing is a way to haul it and spread it. [My Nissan Murano does not have a hitch and it might be problematic to install one. Aargh!] Plus I've never learned how to handle a trailer so.... Aaargh, Aaargh!
 
steve bossie
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Cécile Stelzer Johnson wrote:

steve bossie wrote:i caught a bunch of small yellow perch out of my ice cabin. they are a invasive species here so theres no limit. i keep about 30 of them and dumped them in with the chickens. only thing left a few hours later was picked off fish heads and spines. ;)



In Wisconsin, we have carps. They too are an invasive species here and there are a lot of sports fishermen who either fish them or spear them. Once they are out of the water, they can't put them back in, not even the guts [which might have eggs, I suppose], so they have to dispose of them... Guess who is going to be there this spring with a cooler by the dumpster to take some home for my birds? ;-)
You may recall also that Native Americans used to bury a fish under the corn in their 3 sisters garden. I have always wondered how that would work here. My garden is fenced but my Native American friend swore by the method. I'd be afraid of skunks coming in to steal the fish and ruin my crop, but Barb says it works, so I might try that. I don't know how many fish I'll get [for free!] but my chickens will get first dibs!
With the number of invasive species that folks are trying to get rid of, there must be quite a few opportunities for us to get fresh dead fish. Perch, carp or mussels.
Here, we sometimes have algae bloom and it gets dredged because it is so dangerous for even pets to go in that water! I'm trying to find a way to haul some of that to enrich my [very thin, sandy] soil. So far, what I'm missing is a way to haul it and spread it. [My Nissan Murano does not have a hitch and it might be problematic to install one. Aargh!] Plus I've never learned how to handle a trailer so.... Aaargh, Aaargh!

 if you can get some free arborist wood chips,
or bales of straw, layer the fish in the pile and cover well. in a month the fish will be gone and your chips are well on their way to becoming nice rich compost. i throw a tarp over the pile to keep heat in and pests out.
 
pollinator
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Cecile- most modern vehicles are predrilled for hitches and you can install yourself with basically no special tools. It won’t be a big trailer but you should be able to find the towing capabilities online.

My wife installed a hitch on her CRV by herself, I think it was about $100.
 
Kc Simmons
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Has anyone used amaranth as a source of protein? I was reading through one of the seed catalogues I recently received and it said amaranth contains protein. I've never grown it as a crop, but considered getting a pack of seeds or two to try growing for the poultry and pigs.
 
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tons of good ideas in this thread, i know its older but following
 
Cécile Stelzer Johnson
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Kc Simmons wrote:Has anyone used amaranth as a source of protein? I was reading through one of the seed catalogues I recently received and it said amaranth contains protein. I've never grown it as a crop, but considered getting a pack of seeds or two to try growing for the poultry and pigs.



I read that it is "growth depressing" : The "raw grain has a protein content of 14-18%. It is high in lysine and well balanced in other amino acids. Raw grain amaranth contains heat labile, growth depressing anti-nutrients for chickens, although Japanese quail are not effected" .
https://afs.ca.uky.edu/poultry/using-amaranth-poultry-diets
So there are a lot of good things about amaranth. Cooking it, or heat processing it will reduce the anti-growth stuff in it. Once they are laying though, they are all grown, it is all positive: More eggs good shells...
When my chickens need high protein, like around molting time, I go to Tractor Supply and buy fish food for them. It has about 30% protein and comes in pellets that look about the  size and shape of rabbit poop. I hake sure to have some on hand at all times. Otherwise, they get their regular mash and are happy with that too. since I gave them some of this catfish food for tossing in a pond, they have a wonderful plumage, very shiny.
In the winter, I also give them cracked corn, which is not that great for protein but I warm up lard and when it is liquid but just warm, I mix that cracked corn in it. cracked corn tends to go to powder, so adding the lard makes everything stick together and they eat every morsel!
For treat, I give them the [rather expensive] wild bird feed from Fleet Farm. It has raw peanuts, pepitas, sunflowers, everything for nut and fruit lovers. They clean that up in no time.
Here is a chart that will help on nutrition of various grains:
https://wholegrainscouncil.org/whole-grains-101/what-are-health-benefits/whole-grains-important-source-essential-nutrients
You will notice that most of the grains fall in the "good" category for protein. The site also has another site, downloadable,  for even more grains.

 
gardener
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I give them the [rather expensive] wild bird feed from Fleet Farm. It has raw peanuts, pepitas, sunflowers, everything for nut and fruit lovers.


I do this in spring so that any seeds they bury with their scratching in the chicken tractor grow and produce feed for them in summer. I have to be alert to harvest it before the wild birds though. The wild birds don't bother the wheat that grows over the winter. I always soak the seeds for 24 hours before feeding which is lake in the day before they roost and after  I have moved the tractor forward.
 
Cécile Stelzer Johnson
pollinator
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Hans Quistorff wrote:

I give them the [rather expensive] wild bird feed from Fleet Farm. It has raw peanuts, pepitas, sunflowers, everything for nut and fruit lovers.


I do this in spring so that any seeds they bury with their scratching in the chicken tractor grow and produce feed for them in summer. I have to be alert to harvest it before the wild birds though. The wild birds don't bother the wheat that grows over the winter. I always soak the seeds for 24 hours before feeding which is lake in the day before they roost and after  I have moved the tractor forward.



Not sure these seeds will grow. Since it is so cold here in the winter, they are tossed in their snow-free winter run, which is attached to the coop. I don't think any seeds will survive, but it is win-win if they do for you. If you look closely at the raw peanuts, they are scratched/ broken, so those won't germinate, Idem with the pepitas, but the sunflowers should make it.
I wish I had sowed their enclosure last fall with some kind of a crop before they were locked in and the snow came. We were surprised by an early frost/ snowfall, so i didn't have time. This coming fall, a mix of clover, winter wheat, winter rye will be sown, hopefully so that after snowmelt, something will start coming out. I have no doubt they will devour it fast.
In the winter, I like sprouting wheat. After 4-5 days, the wheat is about 4" tall and they love it.

I just discovered I may have 2 roosters the first one is lame and can't be friendly to the ladies in spite of trying. He eats and makes a funny crowing sound and at least attempts to please the ladies. He is otherwise in good spirits, with a very shiny plumage, so I was waiting to see what would develop.
This morning, a great big 'hen', right in front of me attempted to mount one of the ladies. I never heard this one crow, though, so I'll have to have a better look. No spurs, but s/he has the comb. It was born April 5th 2019. It is young so...
I think if it really is a boy, I will have to remove the other rooster because the lame one might get killed. This new 'rooster' is my largest bird, and much heavier than the other one so... The new ratio would be 2 boys and 35 hens
Do you have any advice, please?
 
Kc Simmons
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Cécile Stelzer Johnson wrote:
I think if it really is a boy, I will have to remove the other rooster because the lame one might get killed. This new 'rooster' is my largest bird, and much heavier than the other one so... The new ratio would be 2 boys and 35 hens
Do you have any advice, please?



My roosters usually do fine with 7-10 hens, and they don't go overboard with fighting beyond the normal "pecking order."
I've noticed the rooster at the top of the pecking order will usually have the most hens following him, while the lower ones may only have 3-5 girls. Everyone tends to get along as long as no one tries to take another rooster's hen.
 
Cécile Stelzer Johnson
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Kc Simmons wrote:

Cécile Stelzer Johnson wrote:
I think if it really is a boy, I will have to remove the other rooster because the lame one might get killed. This new 'rooster' is my largest bird, and much heavier than the other one so... The new ratio would be 2 boys and 35 hens
Do you have any advice, please?



My roosters usually do fine with 7-10 hens, and they don't go overboard with fighting beyond the normal "pecking order."
I've noticed the rooster at the top of the pecking order will usually have the most hens following him, while the lower ones may only have 3-5 girls. Everyone tends to get along as long as no one tries to take another rooster's hen.



Thanks, KC. Frankly, I like my littler, lame roo: he's got spunk and will get in the middle of everything like he is not even lame. He just is unable to perch or like the ladies. He does everything else.
I was secretly hoping that someone else would stand up for him too. Perhaps the large number of hens will buy him time so he can have a full life? I will monitor closely though, just in case.
 
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