Cover crop for chickens

Discussion in 'Feeding & Watering Your Flock' started by rbrand, Aug 18, 2009.

  1. rbrand

    rbrand New Egg

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    Jul 3, 2009
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    Hi,

    I want to plant a fall cover crop for my garden, primarily for the benefits to the soil. But, I thought a side benefit would be for the chickens to free range in it. They love to eat my pole bean leaves.

    A couple of the crops recommended by seed companies, vetch and Austrian field peas, have seeds that are reportedly toxic to livestock!

    Does anyone have advice on what fall cover crops to plant and not to plant for chickens?
    Thanks.
     
  2. bigredfeather

    bigredfeather Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I'm going to plant Winter Rye. It's cheap, great for the soil, and I can feed it to the chickens. I just picked up 25 lbs yesterday. I won't let them free range on it, but I'll cut some down and feed it to them.
     
  3. Happy Chooks

    Happy Chooks Moderator Staff Member

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    Would they be able to free range on it? I want to plant something in their run that they can forage whenever they want it. I was thinking winter wheat.
     
  4. bigredfeather

    bigredfeather Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Quote:Sure you could. I would plant just regular wheat in the run. Wheat has a lot of good things in it for chickens. Winter Rye is a much better for the soil. I considered planting wheat in my run last Fall, but never got too it. You could go to the feed mill, get a bag of uncleaned wheat, and plant that. At my feed mill, uncleaned wheat is less than $5 for 50lbs. I would let the wheat get a good start before turning your chickens lose on it. They'll have it down to bare ground quiclky if it didn't have a good start. If you let it get around a foot tall, it should last awhile.
     
    Last edited: Aug 18, 2009
  5. Happy Chooks

    Happy Chooks Moderator Staff Member

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    Well, would it be okay if I planted rye then? They roam our orchard, so good for soil is good for trees.
     
  6. bigredfeather

    bigredfeather Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Quote:Either would be fine.
     
  7. Junkmanme

    Junkmanme Chillin' With My Peeps

    My lawn is mostly perennial rye grass. Although my chickens don't go there, I have given them cuttings from the lawnmower.

    Also, I have Alfalfa growing between my front fence and the road. Often I go grab a few handfuls of alfalfa and throw that to my chickens. They love it!

    A former partner of mine had been a farmer in Nebraska as a young man. He told me that after his Winter Wheat got up a little bit, he would turn his cattle into the field of Winter Wheat. The cows would eat it down part-way and that would make the wheat "stool-out" more and provide him with a heavier crop of wheat.

    [​IMG]
     
  8. rbrand

    rbrand New Egg

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    Jul 3, 2009
    Albuquerque, NM
    It looks like I've got a few options for a dual purpose ground cover.

    Winter rye may be the best option as a soil amender.
     
  9. poltroon

    poltroon Chillin' With My Peeps

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    What about oats or clover? I'm thinking about a mix. I hadn't thought about rye; it looks like a good choice.
     

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