Today's Quote

“If people let government decide what foods they eat and what medicines they take, their bodies will soon be in as sorry a state as are the souls of those who live under tyranny.” Thomas Jefferson

Friday, January 23, 2009

Feed Your Chickens From the Farm

The whole idea of homesteading is to be self sufficient. When you depend on a feed dealer for most of your feed, then you have defeated the purpose. Large livestock like horses and cattle require you to have a lot of land to produce your own feed. My grandfather always set aside 100 acres souly devoted to hay production to get the cows through the winter. Most of us small homesteaders don't have that luxury. However, smaller livestock can be fed from a smaller acreage especially if the homesteader is creative. Here is a list of ways to grow your own chicken feed. You may not be able to produce enough to keep from going to the feed store, but you can cut down your cost.
1. Free range in the spring and summer. Chickens are awesome bug hunters and seed gatherers. When chickens are allowed to free range they can provide all of their diet when given enough space to range. This means allowing them acces to several acres, not just a large pen.
2. Poppies. You can purchase poppy seeds at the grocery store. The kind that you can put in muffins is fine. Bring them home and plant them right away as they lose their viability rather quickly. When the poppy flowers ripen, harvest the seeds and feed to your chickens. They love them and it keeps them calm and mellow. I can't imagine why!
3. Grow sprouts. Also in the grocery store you can buy flax seed which you can sprout for your chickens. You can also plant a large bucket with the falx to be able to harvest more seed later. Flax is highly nutritious and most chickens love eating the sprouts. Rye grass seed purchased either at the feed store in large bags or in the hardware store in small bags also grows great sprouts. You can also grow a fenced in yard of rye, just for your chickens to visit once a week or so. You can't let them have permanent access or they will destroy the rye and eat every bit. Rye is a good fall and early winter grass depending on where you live. It likes cooler temperatures to grow properly. It also grows quickly.
4. Garden scraps and kitchen scraps. You know those tomatoes you left on the vine too long, or the broccoli that bolted with the sudden heat wave. Feed it to the chickens. They love your garden mistakes and leftovers. In fact it is a good idea to plant a little extra just for the chickens. Salvaging kitchen veggie scraps is another good way to get some fresh produce into your chickens diet, especially in the winter when fresh and green is a scarcity.
5. Grow a worm bed. Worms are cheap to raise. A couple dollars in intial breeding stock from the local store that sells fish bait will yield a constantly reproducing amount of chicken feed along with very fertile garden soil.
6. Eggs. Yes, chickens will eat eggs. It is a great source of protein and they love them boiled. I recommend boiling them or scrambling them because if they eat them raw then they might get the idea to eat the eggs as they are laying them. Once they start this bad behavior they rarely will stop.
7. Corn. If you have the space to grow your own corn, then by all means do so. Even a small patch of corn can provide winter supplemental feed for your chicken. Hang corn still on cob and in the shuck to dry. In the winter give your hens the whole cob and they will have a blast pecking away.
8. Sunflowers. Sunflowers are a beautiful summer addition to your flower garden and yard. Growing a large patch of them will also supplement your chicken feed in the winter. The best thing is that you don't even need to collect the seeds. The best way to use them for chicken feed is to harvest the whole head, let it dry in the sun, and then store is a dry well ventilated area. Then during the winter you can simply toss the heads with seeds intact to your hens. They love sunflowers.
9.Home grown maggots. I know, this sounds really gross. Your chickens will love you though. To grow your own maggots here is what you do.
1. Fill a 5 gallon bucket about 3/4 full with chicken manure.
2. Mix in approximately 1 quart of water
3. Place in one large shallow tray or several small shallow trays
4. Place the tray/trays in the shade and let them sit
5. When the manure begins to look crumbly like coffee grounds then
it is ready for the chickens.
6. Scratch the surface a bit to bring the maggots to the top and set
the tray in the chicken pen. Simple as that.

Between all of these methods, you can tremendously supplement your chicken feed costs. If you have a small flock you may even be able to supply all of their needs. Just make sure that your hens are getting a large variety in their diet. You will know if they are lacking something if their eggs have thin shells, or start to be different. If their production slacks off then they are lacking in their diet. So keep a good watch on your flock until you are sure that they are getting everything they need. If not get some commercial feeds and boost them back up until you can replace with a more varied and nutritious diet.


Holly said...

Wow-excellent post-thank you! We do free range our chickens, but these other ideas are very helpful. Holly

Kat said...

Thank you Holly and thanks for becoming a follower of my blog.