Home Feeding Ideas and Solutions Discussion Thread

Discussion in 'Feeding & Watering Your Flock' started by triplepurpose, Jan 1, 2012.

  1. triplepurpose

    triplepurpose Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Oct 13, 2008
    Hey everyone,

    I'm been doing a lot of experimenting and research recently about home feeding, and wanted to start a thread for people to share their experiences and tips with each other. I hope this will be a source of useful information and inspiration to anyone looking to provide more of their chicken feed from their own household, gardens, etc. This might include home recipes for feeds you have come up with, ideas you've had, experiences good and bad, what works for you and what doesn't. Thoughts on how to culture larvae, edible plants (wild and cultivated) you've had success with feeding to your chickens, etc. Do you grow food for your chickens, like greens, fruit, or maggots? Do you get old bread from bakeries and feed it? Do you use scraps from the kitchen?

    I know this is a broad topic, so let me give a few pointers right off to give the discussion some direction. Please take a sec to read these before jumping in:

    1. Let's keep this inspiring and positive! If you've had a bad experience with something, feel free to share. But if you are one of those people who strongly believes that anything other than 90-100% store-bought feed is a ridiculous, dangerous idea, then I strongly ask you, please, to reconsider before posting "nutrition orthodoxy" criticism and dragging this into an off-topic debate on home feed vs. store feed. That is NOT what this thread is about. This thread takes it as a GIVEN that a well-managed home feeding system is superior to one based rigidly on store-bought feed, so the subject of this topic is HOW to achieve that, not whether we should try. If you strongly disagree with this premise, I would politely ask that you please refrain from posting to that effect on this thread--although you are of course free to start such a debate elsewhere on the site! Polite debate is after all a healthy thing. [​IMG]

    2. This is not intended to be a thread about "treats." If you feed your chickens frozen blue berries for just for funzies, that's fine and good. But the topic of this thread is ideas for ways to replace to a greater or lesser degree the portion of our chickens' diets that consists of purchased feed mix, not merely to provide them with entertainment and pleasure (although it's quite possible to do BOTH, as anyone who has ever released chickens onto an active compost pile can attest)! [​IMG]

    3. Please emphasize pragmatic, inexpensive solutions as much as possible. Brainstorming and experimenting is encouraged. But if you have to purchase something imported or processed at great expense (financial, to the environment, or whatever) to fill your home-feeding ration, you might as well IMO be buying store feed mix. Let's strive to find and share solutions that offer economical benefit, environmental benefit, or some other health or performance benefit that makes them worthwhile and valuable to people--or ideally, all three! The ideal home feeding ingredient is something you grow or otherwise produce yourself with minimal or no labor and input cost or collateral damage, or something locally sourced that would otherwise go to waste (like food scraps or milling by-products, etc).

    Thanks for contributing or just stopping by, and let's have fun!

    Cheers,
    Jackson
     
    3 people like this.
  2. BarredBuff

    BarredBuff Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I am all for this thread! I love trying to find ways to cut animal bills even if productivity is sacrificed a tad. Right now my chickens free range, and get table scraps everyother day almost. Then 6 lbs of grain in the morning (tossed out) and 6 lbs of layer feed in the feeder (free choice type feeder). It seems to be doing good production has actually increased [​IMG]
     
  3. triplepurpose

    triplepurpose Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I'll go first. Here's a few of the things I currently do.

    I've recently been making a mixed ration which I feed for two or three days at a time (twice a day, morning and afternoon) and keep in a covered bucket. I aim for 1/3 greens (any edible greenery, and I try to have at least several types in each batch for diversity of vitamins and minerals), 1/3 "calories" (this means fruit and starch foods from my land), and 1/3 "protein" (which so far has mainly been layer pellets, although I have also incorporated small amounts of soldier fly larvae, and pidgeon pea seeds). I splash a little EM into the bucket so it ferments and also so it doesn't start to rot. The idea is also that the beneficial microbes are good for their digestion, etc--the "probiotic" effect. I got the idea from talking to an acquaintance about her feeding system and reading about Korean Natural Farming.

    I don't free range for practical reasons, but I am also experiencing with "compost runs." That is, building compost piles in two separated runs, and having one pile active and being foraged through by chickens while the one in the other run is being built up with garden waste and scraps and greenwaste. The hope is that this will provide lots of free protein (why culture and collect larvae when you can just let the chickens collect their own wild insects from the piles--my compost is always crawling with roaches, pill bugs, ants, and BSF larvae). An added benefit is that the chickens have fun, and aerate the compost and fertilze it with their droppings.

    The chickens also get a scrap bucket about every other day from the kitchen (which contains some edible tidbits, but also a lot of inedibles that just get buried into the litter). They also get thrown fresh greens from the garden (the ones that are "cosmetically flawed" or too old, and can't be sold). After we drink the water from our coconuts (and it's easy on a hot day of working to go through coconut water faster than you can use the meat), I split them open and lay them out in the run and let the chickens pick them clean. These are a great source of protein, healthy fats, and some good sugars.
     
  4. triplepurpose

    triplepurpose Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Quote:Oops, I see I wasn't first after all... [​IMG] Welcome, Barredbuff! [​IMG]

    That reminds... so far I have not noticed a decline in productivity on my newer feeding system. But I agree, even if productivity is "sacrificed" a little, it's not really a sacrifice in productivity if it makes it more economical, is it? [​IMG]
     
    Last edited: Jan 1, 2012
  5. Ariel301

    Ariel301 Chillin' With My Peeps

    Nov 14, 2009
    Kingman Arizona
    I have discovered some things that can make a pretty good dent in the feed bill and your reliance on commercial bagged feed.

    Kitchen scraps: Keep a bucket next to your kitchen trash can, and any food waste you would normally throw away--peels, bread crusts, vegetable and meat scraps, leftovers no one wants to eat, plate scrapings, whatever--goes in the bucket. Once a day, the bucket goes to the birds.

    Duckweed: Everyone's favorite pond nuisance is actually a high protein food source! I don't know how I ran across this on the internet, but apparently duckweed (a small, floating plant that grows on ponds in just about any climate and reproduces quickly, generally considered a pest) is very high in protein and minerals. There have been studies on using it in Asia as a human food source, and over there some places raise it as animal feed already. If you don't have a pond, you can grow it in those little plastic toy swimming pools. It's easy to grow, just put it in some water (add goldfish to provide extra nutrients for the plants and control mosquito larvae if you want) and let it go. Once it really gets going, it can double in size every 24-48 hours. Scoop it up as needed. You can speed its growth by adding some fertilizer to the water or even just household ammonia used for cleaning. (or a little handful of manure every now and then if you don't want to spend money) Chickens take pretty well to eating it. And it doesn't taste too bad at all on a sandwich, use it like bean sprouts in the kitchen (washed, of course).

    When I am able to get chickens again, I am going to experiment with mealworm farming, growing mangel beets and collard greens, and growing some raised beds of bermudagrass/alfalfa with a wire cover so that the chickens can graze on the greens without eating them all the way to the ground.
     
    3 people like this.
  6. Clay Mudd

    Clay Mudd Chillin' With My Peeps

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    it's an ongoing experiment for me. In the spring of last year, I build a portable coop/run setup, with the run being 8x8 and covered. As the chickens destroyed the grass, I threw leaves, grass clippings, etc in there to make a deep litter mulch pile, kind of similar to the OPs "compost run" idea. It ends up being a great bug farm.

    About every six weeks, I moved it to a new location, then surrounded the run area with a temporary fence and planted a mixture of field peas and buckwheat. Once the plants were well established, I moved the fence away and let the chickens got at it. I found that they'd generally graze the leaves for a while, then wander on to something else. It helps that they have a couple acres to forage in, much of it wooded. The buckwheat petered out in midsummer, but that's about when the peas started coming it. I picked a few pounds... shelled some to grind or sprout, and threw a few, unshelled, into the run. Kind of fun, watching a chicken bash a pea pod on the ground to get the peas out. [​IMG]

    Once the peas started dying, I put the fence back and planted assorted greens in the same spot. Meanwhile, I've planted Austrian winter peas, fodder radishes, mangels, and more greens inside the fenced "real garden". I've been gathering greens for them in a "cut and come again" mode for a couple of months.

    With the colder weather, I've left the run in place for several months, and it's become a spectacular bug farm. [​IMG]

    Meanwhile, I've started raising meal worms, but that's going slowly, as the temperatures are suboptimal right now.

    Plans for the spring include planting comfrey and amaranth.

    edited to add:

    A local brewery supplies me with spent grain, which I add to the primary feed, which is sprouted wheat, oats and peas (or lentils, depending) toppeds with fish meal and kelp.
    In addition to the stuff planted where the run was, I plant clover everywhere, and have take to throwing excess veggie seeds anywhere I think they might grow.

    And of course, nature has already provided us with tons of chickweed and dandelions. [​IMG] And garden/kitchen scraps get thrown in the run as well.
     
    Last edited: Jan 3, 2012
  7. BarredBuff

    BarredBuff Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Quote:Oops, I see I wasn't first after all... [​IMG] Welcome, Barredbuff! [​IMG]

    That reminds... so far I have not noticed a decline in productivity on my newer feeding system. But I agree, even if productivity is "sacrificed" a little, it's not really a sacrifice in productivity if it makes it more economical, is it? [​IMG]

    Yes very, very true........ [​IMG]
     
  8. sueche

    sueche Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I was just thinking about going out to the farmers market. I used to go get scraps all the time for my rabbit from the vendors dumpster. They toss out great veggies, I am gonna get some greens for my girls this week.
     
  9. idispatch4911

    idispatch4911 Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I don't have much to contribute, but I've been adding in some of my grandma's 30+ year old wheat food storage. It smells musty and old, but will still make a loaf of bread. So instead of throwing it out, I mix it in the feed to stretch the feed a bit more. Don't have any ideas of what I'll do when those 6 buckets (5gal each) are gone... Maybe I'll ask around grandma's neighborhood and see if any other 80 year old ladies have some wheat to get rid of...? [​IMG]
     
  10. triplepurpose

    triplepurpose Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Quote:Do you know the Latin name of that plant? I'm wondering if it's the same thing as the Azolla species of water ferns (I believe that it and similar floating plants are often confused, and I've heard them all called "duckweed" by different people). Anyway, I grow some of the Azolla genus plants (not sure the species name), in water basins next to the chicken coop (with a scoop of compost and a few minnows) and use it to feed to the chickens. I got the idea from this article: http://www.agriculturesnetwork.org/magazines/global/small-animals-in-focus/azolla-livestock-feed. Mine definitely do enjoy eating it (it's often the first thing they'll go for if given choices). Right now the only obstacle I seem to have is growing enough of it to meet the demand! [​IMG] I've also tried eating it myself--it has a sort of pleasant, nutty taste.

    One caveat I would add is that because of it's rampant growth habit, Azolla can be a REALLY invasive pest if it gets loose into waterways, so depending on your location be careful about that. I have an acquaintance who operates a water garden nursery, and considers it a most noxious weed. Ironically enough, my original plants I got from him, after he succeeded at irradicating it from his property... [​IMG]
     

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