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Winter food for cold climates

 
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Has anyone tried drying kale, collards, mustard greens, or whatever to store for winter feed for chickens in cold climates?  I know people can feed their chickens with compost, but that wouldn't really work for me for various reasons, so I’m wondering if I can just take a bunch of my extra produce and hang it until it’s dry.  Kind of like hay made from garden produce.  If I can hang it until it is completely dry, I’m hoping it wouldn’t get moldy and I could supplement my birds’ food for the winter with it.  I tried something like this with comfrey, but my chickens just don’t like it.  They love red cabbage and that keeps pretty well, so along with squash, I supplement their diet that way, but I need something that will last through the winter.  Anyone have any experience with this?
 
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The closest I have come is raspberry pruning 'hay', for rabbits.

It worked.. kinda. With enough air-space it would dry, if piled up it would mold/rot, so much space needed. Then when dry it gets very fragile, so a lot of leaf matter ends up as dust on the floor instead of food in the rabbit.

I decided it wasn't worth the time despite the pruning needing done anyhow...

Kale can soldier on well into the winter, esp with a bit of shelter.. greenhouse?
 
Trace Oswald
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Dillon Nichols wrote:The closest I have come is raspberry pruning 'hay', for rabbits.

It worked.. kinda. With enough air-space it would dry, if piled up it would mold/rot, so much space needed. Then when dry it gets very fragile, so a lot of leaf matter ends up as dust on the floor instead of food in the rabbit.

I decided it wasn't worth the time despite the pruning needing done anyhow...

Kale can soldier on well into the winter, esp with a bit of shelter.. greenhouse?



Hey Dillon.

I currently have hoop houses, not a true greenhouse.  They extend the season, but it get too cold here for plants to last through the winter.  I have 30 or so chickens at any given time and my hoop houses aren't large enough to grow enough food for all of them for long, but you're right, I need to make a more concentrated effort next year to do a later planting of things like kale that can stand some freezing temperatures.

My idea for a drying rack would be to sort of mimic the ones I have seen for drying fish.  They are pretty large, stand-alone racks.  I would need some kind of tarps to keep the rain off, but with no sides, I have pretty good breezes in the summer to facilitate drying before winter.  Storing without breaking the plants into dust like you mentioned would be another concern.
 
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I tried drying duckweed and comfrey but hit upon similar problems..... lots of space required, needs to be completely dry or it goes mouldy and crumbles very easily.

I tried adding it into some wet food (excess courgette that I froze earlier in the year) but still a lot of wastage.

I’ve been thinking about whether it’s feasible to make some kind of suet/tallow based flock block incorporating dried greens along with other goodies?
 
Trace Oswald
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Laura Nunes wrote:

I’ve been thinking about whether it’s feasible to make some kind of suet/tallow based flock block incorporating dried greens along with other goodies?



That might be the answer I'm looking for, at least as a high calorie supplement for the really cold weather we get here.  Great idea.
 
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Laura Nunes wrote:I’ve been thinking about whether it’s feasible to make some kind of suet/tallow based flock block incorporating dried greens along with other goodies?



Before I started saving all the fat for the dogs, I'd make suet blocks from all the fat I saved.  You can fill a receptacle of your choice with greens and whatever else, pour the fat over it and it's good to go when it's cooled.  You can freeze the blocks for easier handling.

I've found that chickens are quite good in the cold.  They eat more, but I didn't do much more than make a cookie tin waterer heater and give them quality feed.  I've had no issues with temps down to -40ish even for weeks.  They've got a great down coat and, as long as they can roost together, they'll huddle up and be just fine.  I also never had any issue with the chickens and snow.  They would almost always be out in the snow, regardless of temp, unless it was super cold and also windy.  Give them whatever makes you happy, but they'll be fine with access to fresh water twice a day and a quality feed.  

I did have Chanteclers, which have a small, pea comb and my Araucanas also had small combs, so no issues there, but I did pick up some other breeds with large combs and I did see a touch of frostbite on a couple of those girls.  They really are very easy to keep well without going to too much extra work.
 
Trace Oswald
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Timothy Markus wrote:

Laura Nunes wrote:I’ve been thinking about whether it’s feasible to make some kind of suet/tallow based flock block incorporating dried greens along with other goodies?



Before I started saving all the fat for the dogs, I'd make suet blocks from all the fat I saved.  You can fill a receptacle of your choice with greens and whatever else, pour the fat over it and it's good to go when it's cooled.  You can freeze the blocks for easier handling.

I've found that chickens are quite good in the cold.  They eat more, but I didn't do much more than make a cookie tin waterer heater and give them quality feed.  I've had no issues with temps down to -40ish even for weeks.  They've got a great down coat and, as long as they can roost together, they'll huddle up and be just fine.  I also never had any issue with the chickens and snow.  They would almost always be out in the snow, regardless of temp, unless it was super cold and also windy.  Give them whatever makes you happy, but they'll be fine with access to fresh water twice a day and a quality feed.  

I did have Chanteclers, which have a small, pea comb and my Araucanas also had small combs, so no issues there, but I did pick up some other breeds with large combs and I did see a touch of frostbite on a couple of those girls.  They really are very easy to keep well without going to too much extra work.



I'm not worried about them getting cold, I'm trying to save money on their feed :)  If I feed them high calorie food, they eat less, so it lasts longer.
 
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Look up sprouted barley fodder, it's pretty neat, it lets you keep animals fed on fresh grass year round in any climate. And it lets you grow barley and put it to good use without having to dehull it. You could do it in a basement or a root cellar, it's fairly simple.
 
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I like the idea of preserving forage in suet.
I feed a mix of layer crumbles and black oil sunflower seeds, plus scraps, but they never seem to finish what I give them.
They spend lots of time scratching around, even in below zero  temperatures, while feed sits in the pan ignored.
I reason they must be fine, but I do wish I could feed them more scraps, so I'm looking into vermicomposting as an interim step.
 
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I've got a couple thoughts.  First, if you have a hoop house, could you get kale growing in there?  Kale seems to be able to handle down to about 15 degrees.  In a hoop it might make it pretty far into winter for you.  Elliot Coleman can keep greens going through his Maine winter with a low tunnel inside a hoop house.

Second thought is to sprout seeds for them.  Not just barely sprouted, let them get 6" tall.  I tried this last winter with a seedling tray of potting soil and a bunch of oat seeds.  When it was 6" tall I brought it out to the chickens and they devoured it.  I learned to make up a hardware cloth top for the tray so they couldn't scratch out the seeds/soil.  Once they mowed it down I watered it and put it back under grow lights and it was ready for another meal in about 4 days.  I think I got 5 feedings from one tray of oat seeds.  So if you have a sunny spot you could do several trays and rotate them so you could always have something green for the girls.
 
Trace Oswald
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Mike Jay wrote:I've got a couple thoughts.  First, if you have a hoop house, could you get kale growing in there?  Kale seems to be able to handle down to about 15 degrees.  In a hoop it might make it pretty far into winter for you.  Elliot Coleman can keep greens going through his Maine winter with a low tunnel inside a hoop house.

Second thought is to sprout seeds for them.  Not just barely sprouted, let them get 6" tall.  I tried this last winter with a seedling tray of potting soil and a bunch of oat seeds.  When it was 6" tall I brought it out to the chickens and they devoured it.  I learned to make up a hardware cloth top for the tray so they couldn't scratch out the seeds/soil.  Once they mowed it down I watered it and put it back under grow lights and it was ready for another meal in about 4 days.  I think I got 5 feedings from one tray of oat seeds.  So if you have a sunny spot you could do several trays and rotate them so you could always have something green for the girls.



Yeah, I need to make a better effort to keep kale growing into the winter.  I haven't tried the grow tunnel-hoop house combo, but it seems worth a shot.  

I have a bag of seed oats, I think I'll give that a try as well.  Good idea.
 
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