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forage for chickens

 
Posts: 108
Location: Taos, New Mexico
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Maybe I missed it, but what I'm really burning to know is how realistic it is to expect one could provide all of their chickens nutritional requirements solely with what can be produced on the land?


I just read the section in Gaia's Garden on this, and he concludes it's not realistic, but then again the book focusses on home-scale permaculture.

I don't know if that means 1/8 of an acre or 2 acres.

When I look at that enormous list of high quality forage options, I cant help but imagine that mulberry, sunchoke, and clover alone might meet the 80 pounds of protein required per bird per year.

What is the word on it ?

Are any of you providing 100% of your chicken needs on the premises? If not, what percentage are you meeting? (please share your acreage too please)

Thanks!


 
Posts: 221
Location: Zone 6a, Wahkiacus, WA
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Howdy, Here is my working list of perennials for chicken paddock system for my area in Eastern Cascades, klickitat county. Still in the pine/oak woodlands, but right on the moisture border between forest and grassland ecosystems.

USDA Zone 5-6
45deg north lattitude
2,200ft in elevation
Continental climate, 4-5 month dry season from May-June to Oct-November
hot summers peaking in 100's
heavy clay soil
6 month frost free zone without microclimating
most precipitation as snow and early spring rain.


 
Andrew Schreiber
Posts: 221
Location: Zone 6a, Wahkiacus, WA
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paul wheaton wrote:I think there are two important angles on this.

1)  most chicken food per acre per year, and

2) most chicken food per acre in January

I would really like to see a top 10 list for each of these.  But I'm not even sure where to start to try and figure this out. 

I suspect that at the top of the list for #1 is gonna be mulberry.  Maybe wheat.  Maybe Sepp's russian corn. 

And at the top of the list for #2:  Kale?  Fall field peas/lentils that dried and are still sitting out there at chicken head level?  Sunflower seeds?  Winter keeper apples that are still falling off the tree?



My 2cents on the winter feed angle. If we are talking about dry temperate climates that will have snow on the ground preventing chickens from getting to stuff low to the ground, AND we are talking about the chickens doing the harvesting, and us humans not needing to tend to the plants (ie they are perennial and growing in a polyculture), and looking toward natives that are already great at growing in the Northwest.

1.) perennial wheat grass, blue bunch wheatgrass - (pseudoroegneria spicata) - native, mature plants produce large amounts of green forage and seeds, and are large and thus resistant to scratching

2.) Perennial wildrye, Great basin wildrye (Leymus cinereus) - native, mature plants produce large amounts of green forage and seeds, and are large and thus resistant to scratching

3.) Idaho Fescue (Festuca Idahoensis) Native perennial bunch grass, mature plants are large, resist scratching, forage and grain persists through winter.

4.) Wood's Rose (Rosa Woodsii) - produce LOADS of rose hips that persist through the whole winter. high in energy, protein (seeds) and Vit C.

5.)Yellow Dock (Rumex crispus) - very drought hardy, big tap root, produce LOADS of seeds per unit ground, which persist through winter. easy to harvest.

6.) Black Hawthorne (Cratagus douglasii) Native, edible berries, thorny thicker forming, good cover for birds and the berries will stay on the plants

7.) Oaks (quesrcus spp) Our chickens eat a lot of acorns, they seem to love them, and love the weevils which eat them. Takes a LONG time for an oak to start producing, but when they do produce it is heavy

8.) Crab apples (Malus sylvestris, Foeniculum vulgare) Produce large amounts of small fruit. Like apples, some varieties have particularly persistant fruit through winter. they take a while to start producing though...

9.) Dill and Fennel (Anethum graveolens) They produce LOTS of seed that our chickens seem to like. lots of seed for a small unit of ground. some fennel can perennialize, but our dill seeds itself just fine.

10.) Sunflowers and similar asters (Helianthus spp) lots of varieties, most produce seeds many that stay out of reach of chicken until they rot in winter and fall to the ground. I prefer natives like Balsamroots (balsamorhia spp.)

hope you find that useful


 
pollinator
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Location: Toronto, Ontario
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Is alfalfa unsuitable for chickens, then? I haven't seen it mentioned at all.

-CK
 
Andrew Schreiber
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Location: Zone 6a, Wahkiacus, WA
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Chris Kott wrote:Is alfalfa unsuitable for chickens, then? I haven't seen it mentioned at all.

-CK



I feed alafalfa to chickens all the time. It's also on the list I posted above.

We combine the layer chickens and meat rabbits often (like Joel Salatin's son's systems. Here is a link to an article about the system http://polyfaceapprentice.blogspot.com/2009/01/rabbits-and-layers.html) nd they eat the alfalfa that falls through the cages and kick it around to make bedding for bugs. A sort of continuous deep bed system.

Alfalfa is ctually a great forage for chickens if it is grown in soils with high Calcium, Potassium, and Phosphorous it accu,ulates it in the leaves. If the chickens get to eat some ruminant poop, (cow, sheep, goats, etc) or other roughage eater poop (like rabbits and pigs) regularly (every day) their digestive track will be inoculated with bacteria and micro-organisms to help them break down the better cellwalls of the leaves of plants like alfalfa. allowing the chickens to make better use of the leaves and transform the Ca/P/K into biologically available forms that they can then directly ingest.

-this information is coming from my study of applied animal nutrition, reading textbooks on the subject and -

I did not put alfalfa on my winter food list because, where I am at, the top of the alfalfa dies back. While it can be harvested and stored, it is not a type of forage that will stand through the winter allowing the chickens to graze it even when there is snow on the ground. However, Feeding dried alfalfa (or haylage if you are into that sort of thing) to chickens in winter is a fine thing to do.

Hope that helps
Andrew
 
                              
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A few thoughts after five years of reading and planting, still no chickens!

Regarding tagaste, I have never seen it for sale in the US. Is it highly invasive like French broom? And best left in Australia?

Does Alfalfa have to be dried before feeding it to chickens?

I don't think anyone has mentioned this, perhaps because it is so obvious. The bread of chicken has a big influence on the percent of foraging vs. required supplemental feed.


 
Chris Kott
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Location: Toronto, Ontario
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I am a fan of the question "Native to when?" Most "noxious" weeds that make the invasive list do so, in my opinion, because they are best at surviving the destructive practices of conventional agriculture. If it is spread by plowing, or resistant to spraying, the more so. No matter the potential value as a food crop for livestock, or the benefit of having plants that will live in and rebuild soil that has been destroyed by conventional agriculture, if we didn't bring it along when we first invaded, then it can't be allowed.

Just as an extreme example, North america used to have lions and camels, as well as a wealth of paleolithic megafauna the only real remnant of which are bison, which barely exist in the wild anymore as compared to previous ages. We are living during one of the most wide-reaching extinction events in history; how, exactly, did the last few hundred years become the benchmark by which we must assess ecosystem normalcy?

My suggestion for forage is to make sure whatever you plant is actually eaten by your chickens. Don't plant things that require browsers or grazers to keep under control, or else the Native secret police will come and whine at you. If you want to maximize calorie return for land use, I would suggest raising rabbits. From what I've read, they offer the best feed-to-meat ratio around, and chickens will readily eat rabbit droppings (rabbits are rather inefficient in their digestion, and need to eat their own droppings to cycle it through enough to derive sustenance from it, and even then they remain nutritionally significant for chickens). They will readily demolish pretty much any green scraps you throw at them and make them into chicken food.

My suggestion for the larger issue of "invasives" is that we need to focus on the resilience of the systems we create rather than the limitations imposed by geography and our truncated sense of time; robust, resilient systems needn't fear invasives, as they would be the ones to invade weak, less complex, less robust systems, even "native" ones.

-CK
 
Posts: 164
Location: North Carolina
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Gwen Lynn wrote:Regarding Mulberry Trees (and you all may know this already) you have to make sure you plant the right gender to get fruit. I love to eat mulberries, but didn't know this. I let a seedling grow in my backyard and wouldn't you know it... wrong sex, NO fruit. So I now have a big bushy shade tree that tent caterpillars get to feed off of...but I don't! Lesson learned!



Don't give up on the mulberry tree that doesn't bear fruit, just use the leaves to dry for tea. Makes a high calcium tea. Mix it with other herbal teas if you like to improve flavor. Makes good animal fodder too, as it is a good protein source.
 
Chris Kott
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So I recently had an idea with regards to all the woodchips I will be swimming in when I get this Manitoba Maple down out of the south end of my tiny city backyard. Scaling up from Ludi's armadillidae traps, I was thinking about making an open-bottomed box of two levels of 2'x3.5' pallets and filling it with woodchips (ramial wood, I'm getting everything larger than 3" in diameter sectioned into 4' lengths). My thought was that this would constitute a sowbug farm that you could harvest in a similar way to Ludi's traps, something like a sliced cucumber, or a dampened spot in otherwise dry ground under a rock. This could be fed to chickens. I'd love to hear what people think before I actually do this, but it's pretty much a done deal, except that I could raise it off the ground easily enough if there would be too many bugs. I can get ramial woodchips delivered for free from a local city arborist as long as I can take a truckfull, so I'd love to know if this sounds like a viable protein source for chickens as well as a good source of carbon for my compost, potential worm bedding for vermiculture, superior mulch, soil amendment, and probably some uses I haven't thought of yet. Wood alcohol, maybe? But could it work for chickens?

-CK
 
Melba Corbett
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Location: North Carolina
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I saw something on Youtube about several biodynamic/permaculture farms in France. Someone was using wood chips as a primary fertilizer source and mulch, but he said they must be composted first, as there is something toxic in the fresh ones, for your plants. Once composted, they are great, and the earthworms, etc., love them. I think you are on to something.
 
Posts: 48
Location: Idaho
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OK, this answer may seem off the wall, but stay with me. When I read "forage for chickens" I thought this thread would be about sprouting grains for them. While it does not apply to the question you asked, if you are raising chickens, I recommend looking into it. Saved me enough on feed that I could afford to go organic - I feed my cows the same way, although I let theirs grow out a little more. There are commercial units available for large scale operations, this is how I do it:

(Warning, DULL if you are not interested in the process, do not feel obligated to watch it - lol!)
 
Posts: 427
Location: Hartbeespoort, South Africa
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Not dull at all. Fascinating. Excellent. I think trays are the best way to go, not buckets only. Greens up superbly. Very attractive to the animals. Not to mention all the wonderful chlorophyll and nutrients. Appreciate the video. Thank you.

Edit: Could you tabulate exactly what you do when for us? Also you spoke of some kind of conditioner you put over the feed... couldn't quite catch that. What about Diatomaceous Earth sprinkled over? Rich in silica and minerals and destroys parasites.
 
Claire Gardner
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Location: Idaho
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Chelle Lewis wrote:Could you tabulate exactly what you do when for us? Also you spoke of some kind of conditioner you put over the feed... couldn't quite catch that. What about Diatomaceous Earth sprinkled over? Rich in silica and minerals and destroys parasites.



1. Winnow
2. Wash
3. Soak for 12 hours / drain (Pour the water on things you want to bloom - it is not a complete fertilizer but it makes things bloom like crazy.)
4. Leave in the dark under pressure for 48 hours, rinse 3 to 4 times a day.
5. Spread into trays, a thin layer that just covers the bottom, water 3 to 4 times a day. (You can recycle the water for a day or two.)
6. When grass is about 4 to 7 inches tall and about 8 days old, I sprinkle Redmond minerals on it and feed it to the critters. (I was feeding it to the chickens at 3 days outs - just sprouts, but have since learned that the chickens like it longer, too. I also was cutting the fodder into "bite size" pieces for the cows but have learned that is not necessary. DE on the feed would be fine in my opinion. My cows do not like their minerals, so this is my way of getting them to eat them.
 
Chelle Lewis
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Thanks so much Claire! Very clear.... and much appreciated.
 
Posts: 13
Location: Southern IL zone 6B
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Do you have to prepare the sunchokes in any way before you feed them to the chickens? Perhaps cut them up or cook em? I thought I read somewhere by mollisols that a quarter acre could feed 30 birds.
 
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From southern Queensland, my post would relate to southern US states. I did some tests some years ago which gave interesting results http://www.lrrd.org/lrrd21/7/simo21105.htm
One flyer as far as the chooks are concerned is South African boxthorn (Lycium ferocissimum). The birds will eat anything on it with relish. Leaves, fruits, the lot. You never see a dead leaf under the bush. The plant copes with all soils, drought, frost, the lot.  
 
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