Gardening for Chickens, 2008 - 1st report

Discussion in 'Feeding & Watering Your Flock' started by digitS', Aug 3, 2008.

  1. digitS'

    digitS' Songster

    Dec 12, 2007
    ID/WA border
    Hi Everyone,

    I harvested my 100 square feet of Spring wheat and peas this past week.

    Production didn't go quite as planned. (Does anything ever go quite as planned? [​IMG]) The Alaska peas matured more quickly than the wheat. Since the pea pods had begun to shatter even tho' the wheat wasn't quite mature, I decided it was necessary to harvest the bed.

    The wheat is still drying in the yard. It will be a little "light" since the seed was still in what the farmers call "the dough" which means that it is still somewhat moist.

    Growing peas with millet will show a similar maturation problem. I planted these 2 much later since millet is seeded about the same time as corn - much later than wheat. The millet plants are still small and crowded by the peas. The pea vines are gaining NO support from the millet while the peas are interfering with the millet's growth.

    I'll soon harvest the peas (off the ground [​IMG]) and that should allow the millet to grow more normally. This isn't how I hoped it would work out, at all.

    The black oil sunflowers are growing as normal (by themselves) and flowering now.

    I harvested quite a few beets this week and attempted to feed the greens and those roots that split to the 8 week old pullets. They are young and inexperienced with anything but their feed and lettuce. They showed no interest. So, I cooked some of the beet plants and the chickens ate a little of the greens. I cooked and cut up some beet roots - except for some skin, the roots were gone in minutes. The 2nd time I gave the pullets cooked beets, even the skins were eaten.

    I have large gardens and this experiment can be continued next year. I'll try to convince DW that we don't need so much ground but the chickens need more.

    Last edited: Aug 3, 2008
  2. arlee453

    arlee453 Songster

    Aug 13, 2007
    near Charlotte NC
    Intereresting info.... trial and error is sometimes the only way to get things sorted out!
  3. cmom

    cmom Hilltop Farm

    Nov 18, 2007
    My Coop
    I've never tried that. I have planted squash, cantalope, watermelon in with my corn. I have thought about planting beans and peas. Peas should be especially good as they are nitrogen fixers and corn loves nitrogen. I currently spread amonium nitrate in the corn patch prior to planting, approx 6000 Sq. ft. The soil is very fine sand.
  4. leasmom

    leasmom Songster

    May 25, 2008
    I planted chicken scratch seeds and wild bird seed for mine and mine too didn't do what I didn't grow enough for it to help, I am still feeding them the same way-oh well.
  5. digitS'

    digitS' Songster

    Dec 12, 2007
    ID/WA border
    I've actually grown something similar to wheat and peas years ago - oats and vetch. This was for hay, however. Over the years, I've seen cow peas grown with oats for livestock, as well. But, it is different these days. For one thing, I don't remember the last time I sat on a tractor . . . must have been about 25 years ago. Another thing, I'm trying to harvest the seed of both the wheat and peas - not cut this crop green and dry it for hay. Finally, this is a garden experiment (thankfully) and not done in a field. I have a large garden, however, and might be willing to give up a couple thousand square feet of it to the chickens if I had a reasonable expectation of success.

    Chickens like zucchini and other things from the garden (beets, too [​IMG]). It isn't really difficult to come up with something that they "like." The problem with zucchini, beets, and most other veggies is their relatively low protein levels. We can't really feed too much of this stuff to the hens or they won't be getting enuf protein to produce eggs. Something like lettuce would not only be low in protein but low in calories. The hen would be at risk of starving to death if it was forced to eat very much lettuce!!

    Peas look like a good choice for a "chicken gardener" and I'd hoped to avoid building a trellis for the peas to climb on by planting them with the wheat & millet. Doesn't look like it worked very well but I'm still NOT building a trellis over such a large area [​IMG]. I don't think I need to, anyway. Even Alaska peas are short and can stand up reasonably well by themselves. That seems like the best way for me to grow them in 'o9 - - by themselves. Wheat and millet too - by themselves.

  6. digitS'

    digitS' Songster

    Dec 12, 2007
    ID/WA border
    Thrashed out the wheat and peas that have been drying in the backyard. It's an easy peasy process (sorry [​IMG]). Picking the pea pods separately a week ago, while trying not to let them shatter, wasn't so easy peasy.

    There was 3/4+ pound of peas [​IMG]

    and, just short of 5 pounds of wheat.

    For 100 square feet (100/43560 of an acre), that's about 2500 pounds per acre, yield. That's not wonderful but not terrible [​IMG].

    The problem was the peas, which probably both interfered with the growth of the wheat and shattered with maybe one-third loss on the ground. Obviously, these things need to be grown separately, at least in my garden.

    So, would these 2 crops make a contribution for a chicken-keeper? At the rate they produced, 1/10th of an acre (4350 square feet) would have yielded 250 pounds. I think I can do better. I'd like to get about that much with giving up about one-half that amount of ground [​IMG].

    The pullets had a little wheat for the 1st time - some pecked and dropped, some ate it hungrily. I intend to soak the peas with the wheat overnight and cook them together in an old rice cooker. It has about a 20 minute cooking cycle. We'll see what the birds think of that but I have every confidence that it will be a hit in the henhouse.

  7. kmom246

    kmom246 In the Brooder

    Jul 20, 2008
    On the topic of peas... I grew "short" peas - they grow about 3 ft tall - without a trellis. Let them grow together. flop around, etc. When the peas were big and getting fat, I pulled severak whole vines at a time and tossed to the chickies. They ate the pea pods, peas, and leaves and played with the vines. When they had stripped and trampled the vines to mere strings, I tossed them on the compost pile. I only grew a 4 ft x 4 ft area this spring as an experiment. I'm going to grow more this fall so they have something green during the winter. I am enjoying this integration of chickens and garden and the cycles of life. Many blessings, everyone.
  8. digitS'

    digitS' Songster

    Dec 12, 2007
    ID/WA border
    Quote:Yes indeed, and thank you!

  9. Jashdon

    Jashdon Songster

    Mar 29, 2008
    Snohomish, WA
    Thanks for your posts on this subject. I have been curious about doing something like this myself. I hope you keep posting so that we can all learn from your experience. I just came across an article at that has some information about growing sunflower seeds for the prupose of feeding poultry. Also there is some info about using the dried stalks and heads for littler in a coup. Might be helpful in your quest to grow for your chickens. Thanks again.
    Last edited: Aug 12, 2008
  10. Dennis1979

    Dennis1979 In the Brooder

    Jun 17, 2008
    Houston, Texas
    didgitS - where did you get the wheat seed? Can it be ourchased in small quantities?


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