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Grain prices are crazy high. This leaves folks like me a bit angry that it's very tricky to make a decent profit raising meat birds. BUT, "instead of being angry at the bad guys" (whoever they are)it's time for a solution! (rant over)

I am just now starting a forage based system design for feeding Meat poultry, not just for layers. So far: rotational paddocks for regrowth, specific forage species for optimal nutrition, ....and that all I have so far. I'm envisioning a system where the birds are moved daily in a mini-paddock (a coop is too small for 50ish birds to supply enough forage.

I need help finding and posting:
•protien-rich plant species
•seed sources

I want to fill this page with seed resources, protein requirements, and results of my field work.
It'd be nice if some great tech savvy person could make a custom blend protein calculator once we have enough data.

If you want this let me know! Post suggestions for seed and data resources! Do some experiments!
Cheers, Huxley

______________

Wiki bit:

Potential High-Protein Chicken Fodder sources identified so far are:
[% protein indicated where available with sources: ND = nutritiondata.self.com ; … ]

Dryland plants:
  • Pigeon pea, toasted and ground (22% protein when raw - ND)
  • Kudzu (careful - invasive)
  • Mulberry (berries 11% protein - ND)
  • Will Ladino white clover ("Ladino white clover")
  • Dandelion greens (15% protein - ND)
  • Perennial brassicas?


  • Tree products:
  • Acorns, crushed (6% protein raw or dried, 5% as flour - ND)
  • Mulberry (berries 11% protein - ND)


  • Aquatic plants:
  • Duckweed (aquatic plant) - perhaps dried or included with feed being fermented
  • Azolla (aquatic plant)
  • Cultivated spirulina, if anyone can figure out how to do it practically and safely (56% protein - ND)


  • Critters, worms, bugs, etc:
  • Mealworms, farmed
  • Earthworms, farmed
  • Black soldier fly (BSF) larvae
  • Local food waste to feed BSF larvae to then feed chickens


  • Techniques and other sources:
  • Sprouted fodder
  • Fermenting feed to improve digestion, drastically reduce consumption and reduce waste
  • Fermented whole grains
  • Fermented whole and cracked grains, including the powder from cracking: now food, not waste!
  • Local food waste, possibly including fish and butcher's waste
  • Local food waste, possibly including fish and butcher's waste, to feed BSF larvae to then feed chickens
  • Maggot-y meat (keep turning till consumed - caution, smells!)
  • Chicken-tractor-style: compost made of bird bedding, manure & kitchen scraps   Video


  • Fermenting agents
  • Leave in sun
  • Unpasteurized apple cider vinegar
  • Brewer's yeast (spent is OK)

  • __________
    There are also lots of other chicken fodder threads to look at. Let's start a list:

  • Chicken diet without commercial feed?
  • chicken fodder/forage success stories

  • COMMENTS:
     
    pollinator
    Posts: 275
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    Check out pigeon-pea... We had some good results with it to bring some sick chicks back to life. Toasted and then ground... Good source of protein.
     
    pollinator
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    Duckweed and azolla can both supply chickens with the bulk of their dietary needs. Duckweed needs water rich in nitrogen because it's a heavy feeder. Azolla produces its own nitrogen from the air, so phosphorus is usually the limiting factor.

    YouTube contains a lot of videos out of India and Southeast Asia where aquatic plants are fed to poultry. It's usually best to wilt them, so that they can consume enough food and not have really runny poop. I read one article where they said that 0.7 of a meter or about one square yard of water surface could supply 80% of the needs of a full grown chicken, when duckweed is well-managed. They let them forage for the rest of their food.
     
    pollinator
    Posts: 180
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    Has anyone tried perennial brassicas?
     
    Posts: 235
    Location: Richwood, West Virginia
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    Here's something that reportedly grows like Crazy in your part of the country, and contains dry phyto protein no less than 16.5% to 22.5%  
    Staff note (Julia Winter):

    This link goes to a backyardchickens.com discussion of potentially feeding kudzu to chickens (but nobody in the discussion has actually tried it).

     
    Huxley Harter
    pollinator
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    After more research it appears that these birds grow too fast for forage alone. So this project will be set on eliminating as much bagged food as possible.
     
    Posts: 71
    Location: Southside of Virginia
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    Consider raising mealworms and/or earthworms for protein. Also acorns crushed if you can gather enough, but 50ish birds would require quite a bit. Sprouting fodder might be an option too. Perhaps change your breed to one that doesn't have that phenomenal growth rate so as to require a lot of bagged feed. The Delaware breed was developed as a good layer, with the cockerals finishing out for meat at a reasonable rate with quality. Just some ideas...
     
    Burl Smith
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    I imagine the vine could be kept under control with daily trimmings, but that might be too much trouble for some farmers.
     
    Posts: 30
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    I put a  mulberry  in my laying  bird run.  Hat tip to Paul on that point.  I  don’t  *Really* want purple stain flying out  of their vents.  But such a generous tree.  Akiva Silver calls it the giving tree in Trees of Power.
     
    pollinator
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    Let's not forget Black Soldier Fly larvae. May not do the whole job, but they can make a dent!
     
    Burl Smith
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    I lived with Kudzu on the corner of 16th Ave and 34th St in Gainesville Florida for some years, an upscale neighborhood, without the rampant overgrowth that feeds the hype.
     
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    According to some trials, meat chickens allowed to free range forage daily on landino white clover, had a 10% increased growth rate, and or overall 10% larger growth size. Landino white clover has up to 24% protien, is highly palatable to the birds, and provides phyto nutrients that improves the birds overall health, meaning healthier for the consumer too. The landino white clover didn't cut down on their overall daily feed consumption, it just speed up their growth rate/daily gains, which could allow for earlier harvest.

    To decrease overall daily food consumption, while maintaining daily gains, soaking or fermenting the feed, is something that is said to improve overall digestion and utilization, which can reduce feed consumption by as much as 40% depending on your type of bird. I haven't personally reviewed trials for these claims of grain soaking/fermenting, but am just passing along the information from people who have done comparisons; then maid claims to its effectiveness.

    Hope that helps!
     
    steward
    Posts: 3174
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    Food waste can sometimes be had for free, depending where you are.  Ideally you use the food waste to grow black soldier fly larvae, or earthworms, and feed those to the chickens.  

    Chickens can catch some viruses from humans, so there is some risk in wholesale feeding of, say, cafeteria or restaurant food waste to chickens.  I don't think the virus will survive a trip through a worm.

    (This is also why my idea of every restaurant having a couple of pigs won't work.  Pigs also catch colds and flu from humans.)
     
    Julia Winter
    steward
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    The Smithsonian had an article about kudzu a few years ago: https://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/true-story-kudzu-vine-ate-south-180956325/

    The myth of kudzu has indeed swallowed the South, but the actual vine’s grip is far more tenuous.

    In news media and scientific accounts and on some government websites, kudzu is typically said to cover seven million to nine million acres across the United States. But scientists reassessing kudzu’s spread have found that it’s nothing like that. In the latest careful sampling, the U.S. Forest Service reports that kudzu occupies, to some degree, about 227,000 acres of forestland, an area about the size of a small county and about one-sixth the size of Atlanta. That’s about one-tenth of 1 percent of the South’s 200 million acres of forest. By way of comparison, the same report estimates that Asian privet had invaded some 3.2 million acres—14 times kudzu’s territory. Invasive roses had covered more than three times as much forestland as kudzu.

    And though many sources continue to repeat the unsupported claim that kudzu is spreading at the rate of 150,000 acres a year—an area larger than most major American cities—the Forest Service expects an increase of no more than 2,500 acres a year.


    The hype didn’t come out of nowhere. Kudzu has appeared larger than life because it’s most aggressive when planted along road cuts and railroad embankments—habitats that became front and center in the age of the automobile. As trees grew in the cleared lands near roadsides, kudzu rose with them. It appeared not to stop because there were no grazers to eat it back. But, in fact, it rarely penetrates deeply into a forest; it climbs well only in sunny areas on the forest edge and suffers in shade.

    Still, along Southern roads, the blankets of untouched kudzu create famous spectacles. Bored children traveling rural highways insist their parents wake them when they near the green kudzu monsters stalking the roadside. “If you based it on what you saw on the road, you’d say, dang, this is everywhere,” said Nancy Loewenstein, an invasive plants specialist with Auburn University. Though “not terribly worried” about the threat of kudzu, Loewenstein calls it “a good poster child” for the impact of invasive species precisely because it has been so visible to so many.

     
    master steward
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    R. Steele wrote:To decrease overall daily food consumption, while maintaining daily gains, soaking or fermenting the feed, is something that is said to improve overall digestion and utilization, which can reduce feed consumption by as much as 40% depending on your type of bird. I haven't personally reviewed trials for these claims of grain soaking/fermenting, but am just passing along the information from people who have done comparisons; then maid claims to its effectiveness.


    Is that just for whole grain feed or would it also work for ground/cracked feed?  My current supply of food is comprised of cracked corn, flax meal and soy meal.

    How do you get chickens to eat duck weed?  I've scooped some up for mine and they just looked at it funny.  Is it better if they have direct access to the duckweed at the water's edge?

    There's a good protein calculator on Garden Betty's blog.  It's mainly for grains but there are quite a few listed.
     
    pollinator
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    Jay,  I heard about fermenting the feed cutting the feed bill in half on BackyardChickens.com.  I trialed it with quail, raising one batch on 28% turkey starter crumbles and the other on the same feed fermented with ACV and some spent brewer's yeast.  I found a 40% reduction in feed with the fermented feed.  I had to work hard to eliminate waste in the non-fermented batch and had no waste in the fermented batch.  Quail are brutal at wasting feed, so I would guess that it would be closer to a 50% (or more) reduction if steps weren't taken to reduce waste.

    I would very much like to try fermenting whole grains next.  With whole grains, I wouldn't have to worry about nutritional loss, so could order by the ton, and I wouldn't have to grind the whole grains.  I think it would take a bit longer to ferment, but I think it would be well worth it.  I don't think I'd feed grain if it weren't fermented, due to my experiences.  Dry feed was easy to load up to feed for extended absences, and I have yet to work out how to best do that with fermented feed.

    I haven't used duckweed yet, but I've read it's better to dry it.  I would probably try adding it as is to the feed before fermenting, as you're adding water anyway.  
     
    Posts: 409
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    My birds all love dandelion greens. Online diet sites tell me it's fairly high in protein.
     
    Dave de Basque
    pollinator
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    I suppose it's really hard to rig up a system to cultivate, since it's saltwater only as far as I know, but spirulina is what ocean fish eat (almost as much as microplastics 🙁)and it's higher in protein than beef steak, 56% protein raw according to nutritiondata.

    This is a crazy idea more than advice. I don't know if chickens would like it or eat it to start off (it tastes like fish, or more correctly, fish taste like it). Would it make chicken and eggs taste like fish?

    And how would you cultivate it on land responsibly without running the chance of salting up the surrounding land? Shrimp farms in Thailand have been a huge problem in the past for doing this, I don't know what the situation is now. Possibly a product of doing huge industrial monocrop operations with no regard for the environment and may have changed, I don't know. But it is something to be careful of at least.
     
    gardener
    Posts: 2521
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    Timothy, is it the live cultures in the ACV that do the fermenting?
     
    pollinator
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    In the summrs I ferment chicken feed.  We by whole and cracked local grains- lots of waste just in the grain powder from cracking!  So fermenting gets every last bit of powder soaked up and available for consumption.  Just leave the soaked/submerged grains in the sun for 24-72 hours and they will ferment themselves.  No vinegar needed, but it may speed the process.  30+ chickens and half a dozen turkeys are eating maybe a gallon or two a day of fermented feed.  Which equates to maybe 1 gallon of raw feed.  They'd be eating WAY more than that if it weren't soaked!  

    We're trying to get good forage established for them so they're all living in pens until the land can take their ravenous appetites a little better
     
    Timothy Markus
    pollinator
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    William Bronson wrote:Timothy, is it the live cultures in the ACV that do the fermenting?



    Yes, that's what I used.  The yeast I threw in at the beginning mostly got taken over by the ACV cultures; the smell changed as time went on.  I'd stir it to aerate it whenever I took some for the birds.
     
    Dave de Basque
    pollinator
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    Timothy Markus wrote:

    William Bronson wrote:Timothy, is it the live cultures in the ACV that do the fermenting?



    Yes, that's what I used.  The yeast I threw in at the beginning mostly got taken over by the ACV cultures; the smell changed as time went on.  I'd stir it to aerate it whenever I took some for the birds.



    OK, note to self: use homemade or bought but unpasteurized apple cider vinegar so it actually has some cultures left!
     
    Jen Fan
    pollinator
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    Oh, and another fantastic poultry food source is MEAT.  Also, butcher waste = maggot farm.
    If you can stand a bit of stink, one thing we like to do is put a gut pile in the chicken pen.  Flip the pile over every couple days to give them a fresh harvest of thousands of  maggots.  They'll eventually whittle the pile down to a bit of jerkified matter if you have enough chickens.   If you have younger chicks in the flock they'll hang out by the pile and eat flies all day.  So will ducks; ducklings are ESPECIALLY good at snatching flies right out of the air.
    Any butcher scrap that the dogs are done with I throw to the chickens and let them pick the bones clean.  
     
    Huxley Harter
    pollinator
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    Is soaking crumbled feed a good idea?
     
    Dave de Basque
    pollinator
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    OK, I'm straying into layers here, but inspired by a post of Huxley's on another thread, there are a series of chicken-tractor type solutions that work on soiled chicken bedding, other manures and kitchen scraps, almost all veggies, ... end of. Can't beat that for economy. The theory is that the "compost event" of making a compost pile out of all the above provides protein in and of itself. No feed at all. Surprising, and it seems to work. So who's to say no? Here's Geoff Lawton's video on his "chicken tractor on steroids." There's another version from Abundant Permaculture in Huxley's post above, and of course Justin Rhodes in his YouTube channel has lots of relevant videos, having visited loads of other people permaculture farms to see how they do things. I'm imagine that there's stuff that people focusing on broilers can take away?
     
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    We want to grow mealworms and we also fence off areas of weeds and let them eat that.

    https://youtu.be/va85wtobp7Q

    Here’s our fenced area.
     
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