Forage, Compost, Fodder, and Low-cost food options for a flock of five to eight on 2000 square feet

Discussion in 'Feeding & Watering Your Flock' started by iPringle, Mar 29, 2017.

  1. iPringle

    iPringle Just Hatched

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    We've got eight chicks at the moment. They are eating the Purina starter. We're looking to end up with four hens and a rooster. If we end up with four hens and four roosters than three of the roosters will be culled leaving us with a flock of five. Of course, if we end up with seven hens and one rooster we'll keep all the birds.


    I'm looking to feed this flock on as little as possible-- money wise. Ideally my input would be compost, kitchen scraps, and grocery store discardings alone. I don't know if I will be able to create/obtain this much material to sustain eight birds. So I've sourced whole barley from my local co-op for $7/50# bag and plan to supplement with fodder. I additionally plan to have mature bushes in their 2000 square foot run to help supplement them (honeysuckle, elderberry, mulberry, blackberry) and I have just sown Bocking #4 for them to forage as well as to add to the compost. Lastly I can source free straw from our horses for deep bedding to add an additional location for protein, and spoiled grain and sunflower feeds from the horses for additional feed when needed.

    Lastly, I will add milk, egg shells, and meat cuttings as they become available.

    Does this seem like a sustainable and relatively cheap means of feeding them? My only financial expense that goes solely into the chickens is the barley. I hope that at the peak of the summer I won't need to even use this and really expect this to be needed more in the colder half of the year.

    How do I go about gauging the amount of feed needed when I plan for them to be foraging for most of their food? Anyone else who uses a compost system for the bulk of chicken feed have any input? I know it's definitely viable as there are numerous videos and articles outlining it.

    For fodder everything says that they need between 2 and 3% of their body weight in fodder each day plus a supplement of grit and calcium. That comes out to about a pound of sprouted barley per day for a flock of five. Does that sound a little on the low side to anyone else?

    Lastly, what is the best way to introduce chicks to foraging, scratching, bugs, and greens? I threw some spinach into their brood box yesterday and a few of them played with it, but none consumed any of it. Can I put a shallow tray of dirt with bugs into their brooder and let them figure out scratching and then also just keep up on the greens? For reference, these chicks have been with us since the 11th, which puts them almost three weeks since we bought them at Tractor Supply. That's as approximate on age as I can get.
     
    Last edited: Mar 29, 2017
  2. PD-Riverman

    PD-Riverman Overrun With Chickens

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    You sound like you have Plenty of time to go all through this----and yes it will take time, to sprout, collect, etc, etc, etc. A lot of people only feed their chickens in the winter---You did not say where you live) because they have very large fenced in or protected foraging area's for the chickens. I forgot what the protein value of fodder is but I know its not enough---but you can grow soldier fly larva, crickets, worms, and many other high protein type bugs to supplement their other feed.
     
  3. lazy gardener

    lazy gardener Chicken Obsessed

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    Bocking #4 and not #14? Care to elaborate on your decision re: that choice? Care to put your general location in your profile? It will help immensely with appropriate communication. Considered Siberian Pea tree/shrub? Sowing white or red clover in their forage area? How bout plums, service or June berries? Mulberries?

    Bee kissed is the queen of deep litter management in the coop, as well as providing free range as primary food source, supplemented with fermented feed. Check out her video on DLM: Her birds have a coop. It is never locked up b/c she has 2 LGD that protect her range from any would be predators. She simply offers FF at the end of the day so they can "top off" their crops for the night after free ranging all day. They have access to a meadow with diverse plantings, an orchard, and a wooded area, which I think is mostly hard wood. For more information, you can PM me.

    General "they say" information indicates that 16% protein is the minimum protein level to maintain the condition of a laying hen. I'm curious about your growing zone. I'm in zone 4, so frozen ground for almost 6 months of the year. I also have heavy hawk predation. Within the last 2 years, I've had to move my flock from primarily free range to kept in a covered run 90% of the time. I got a dog to help with that issue, but she is not earning her keep in that regard. I think your success will depend on how much extra protein you can provide on a regular basis. Animal protein is perferred, but you can bulk up your protein with other sources. I've heard some folks using kitty kibble and cat fish pellets. You can also purchase bulk vitamin, mineral, and protein additives to further balance your grain offerings. One issue you face is that as the birds eat the protein source close to their coop, they will cover a continuously larger range which will make them more prone to predation.

    BTW, I sprout wheat to provide greens during my long winter season. Consider yourself lucky that you can find Barley at $7/50#. The last time I priced barley, it was $26/#50. Wheat was the same price 2 seasons ago. I considered myself blessed to find wheat at $12.50/50# last fall. Barley is wonderful to sprout.
     
    Last edited: Mar 29, 2017
  4. Red-Stars-in-RI

    Red-Stars-in-RI Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I feed my chickens probably 75% on a mix of food and garden scraps, plus what they dig up in the run, which is picked clean of greenery but has a nice layer of leaves and pine needles to promote composting, bugs, etc.

    I'm sure I could get that extra 25% with a little extra effort...and will probably get there eventually.
     
  5. iPringle

    iPringle Just Hatched

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    Oops! I live in Central Virginia along the east side of the Blue Ridge. It's zone 7a or 7b depending on the map. We can grow a lot of stuff that is beyond our zone, however, because out springs start in early March and even as early as February and we don't see a frost until November. Additionally, my area is classified in a temperate rainforest, it's very hot and very, very wet (we average four inches of rain April through September and three inches the rest of the year). But I sort of disagree with being called 7b, I think we ought to be an 8. Our winters are very mild, I haven't seen the ground freeze up for more than maybe a single day since 2013 when I moved here. We get maybe two snows a year and the ground doesn't stay covered for more than about two days per storm.

    There are two areas where the chickens will be, probably rotate on a weekly basis to let the insects and plant life recover. The main run be has a mostly southern exposure, it's on the east side of the house so it gets the morning sun and shade from noon on. The run is roughly 70 by 25, but it's kicks out to almost 40 on the north side which brings the area up to 2100 square feet. The secondary run is full sun dawn to dusk and is about 2500 square feet.

    PD-- I have lots of time for doing things that assist in cost cutting! I work 8 to 5 Mon-Wed and 6 to 3 Thu-Fri, so I just make it easy on myself and wake up at 4am every day of the week.

    Sprouted barley has a crude protein content of 15.5%.

    lazy-- I actually ordered Bocking #14, I omitted the '1' by accident! We do have #4 for the horses, and if the chickens tend towards it more than #14 I might grow some in their run for them. The horses definitely prefer #4 to #14 and will turn up their noses to #14.

    I've sowed white clover through their run. If it's a hit I'll sow my other bag in their run too-- but my second bag is for my vegetable garden, want to experiment with a living mulch on a few rows and see how it does. But I will look into the peas. We figured we'd give the chickens some of the berry bushes we tend to use less often and in the fall we'll let them into our fruit area to eat our fallen berries/fruits.

    They will have 24/7 access to 500 square foot section and dawn to dusk access to a full run dawn to dusk. This is to increase security since the 500 square foot area will be totally fenced in, including a cage on the top. The other areas will be fenced in from dogs and such but won't be covered on top. The main run has trees to help break the line of sight for predatory birds and we have some hounds which will be with the chickens most of the time to discourage predation. We live in a city and all our neighbors own chickens, none have ever lost a single bird to predation and some don't even have a fenced in yard for them!

    And yes, I am so glad to have found it at the co-op for such a good price. I have bought 100# of it because I couldn't believe how cheap it was. I was almost convinced I couldn't find barely for less than $40 or $50 per 50# bag, and then I thought to look at the co-ops catalog. Really glad I did because they also sell horse feed at half the price of Tractor Supply for the same product, so we're going to make the switch to their grain next month.

    And as an aside, I'm jealous of you. Getting to live in Maine! That's where I and my family are from, but I came to school here in central VA and then got married and bought a house... Most of the family is from up in Aroostook, and my parents live in Stonington.
     
    Last edited: Mar 30, 2017
  6. lazy gardener

    lazy gardener Chicken Obsessed

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    Interesting about the #4 being more palatable. Is it sterile, like the 14? My birds really aren't interested in it, but I've planted it in my orchard to use as green compost. Have you looked into Back to Eden Gardening? There's a neat video on the concept if you do a google search. I'm converting garden to BTE, and the orchard I planted 2 years ago is a BTE in progress. Bee Kissed, who I mentioned is from W. Va. Sweet that you can offer year round free range. Your dogs don't chase chickens? My predator load is incredible. If I left my coop open for just a night, I'd loose a lot of birds. One gal a bit south of me lost 8 birds to mink. An other gal, not far from her has lost 5 to either mink or weasel. Have you considered electronet? Premier 1 carries it. It's a very good product, with the main benefit being that you can move your range around at will. I used it exclusively until the hawks started thinning my flock.
     
  7. iPringle

    iPringle Just Hatched

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    My understanding is that all the Bockings, 1 through 21, are sterile which is a function of being a cross breed. Bocking #4 is actually the one used for feed the most because it makes larger leaves.

    I've looked into the Back to Eden and I might give it a shot in our food forest we've started working on, but I mostly use Ruth Stout, good ole compost, and hugelkulturs for growing in. I really thought a lot about BTE when I started out with the garden but the up front cost was a lot higher than I wanted to pay and our soil is relatively fertile all by itself (we live in a 300 year old tobacco field that was converted to housing in about 1900, the fertility in the soil has managed to really withstand the test of time).

    We have two hounds, a black and tan/walker and a blue tick, and they are both very kind to the chicks. They're fairly use to critters and know what is part of their pack and what isn't. For example, they won't chase our meat rabbits or my wife's guinea pig, but they are our main defense against raccoons and ground hogs-- both of which they will run down and kill. They don't like my turtles, but I think that's because the turtles are not handled often so they don't see them as something we care about. The black and tan/walker has developed a mild herding tendency with the chicks which is working nicely for us because we started letting them into the yard during the day for a few hours and she'll make sure they get back into their box to come in when it's time.

    Only predators we have that venture into/live in the city are raccoons. According to neighbors they have never seen foxes, and according to animal control there hasn't been a fox sighting in my general (2 square miles) area since 2014. We have some hawks that live in the neighborhood, but none have attacked chickens and I think they live off road kill from the highway on the other side of the river. I think the city has so little wild life because there is so much protected national and state forest all around that they don't need to risk city life.

    I looked into the net, but a) it's against our city ordinances, b) the entire yard is fenced in with welded wire/cattle panel already, and c) I have 300 feet of welded wire sitting in my basement.
     
  8. lazy gardener

    lazy gardener Chicken Obsessed

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    Sounds like you are doing a lot of the same things I am working on. I have a HK that was started 2 summers ago, and am working on it as the old bones and time allow. Mine is a bit unconventional though, b/c I have no top soil to cap it off with, and it is not built into a trench, but is backed up against a drop off between newly leveled ground and the "uncivilized" ground below it. I am capping it off with garden debris, leaves, grass clippings, and what ever other material I can get my hands on. Kind of a HK, lasagna hybrid. I grew an incredible crop of squash in the one finished section last summer. It did require a lot of water b/c of the many voids between the logs. I have been a fan of Ruth Stout for many many years. Also, using a lot of Eliot Coleman ideas, but you don't need many of his techniques where you live. BSF larvae would be a winner for you.

    I get my wood chips mostly delivered for free from a local tree care company. Don't get enough of them, but have had 5 loads delivered to date. I can pick aged chips up at local dump/composting area, but that requires shoveling on both ends of the load.
     
  9. Katherine Robertson

    Katherine Robertson Chillin' With My Peeps

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    We are in central VA too! Just started a flock. Let's exchange notes!
     

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