How to mill your own food

Discussion in 'Feeding & Watering Your Flock' started by jasmer, Jan 28, 2013.

  1. jasmer

    jasmer Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Oct 15, 2012
    I was wondering if anybody has some suggestions for preserving forage from the pasture over the winter, whether I should feed it as "hay", rehydrate and make a mash, or invest in a pellet grinder. Our pasture will, hopefully, consist of orchardgrass, perennial ryegrass, timothy grass, dandelion, purlsane, and maybe some other chicke-friendly herbs and weeds. We plan on mowing this down regularly and baling up the clippings. We were going to do silage, but that just seems like a huge pain in the rear end. In addition to this we plan on providing fodder, sunflower seeds, and other fresh things through the winter that we can grow in the green house, as well as farming mealworms and earthworms and tossing any mice we catch in the house to them as well.

    But my biggest concern is the pasture clippings. I want this to help supplement and reduce our feed costs, or ideally replace them entirely, for our chickens and rabbits, and hopefully a couple goats or sheep. Since all BUT the chickens can readily and happily eat hay, that is how we're going to save it. For the chickens, would it be possible to kind of rehydrate this hay and run it through a food mill to just feed as a pulp or mash? Or should we invest in a pellet mill? Is there such a thing as a hand crank pellet mill? We want to avoid gas-powered and electrical farm equipment wherever possible, so with this in mind, what do you think would be the best way to provide our pasture hay to the chickens?
     
    Last edited: Jan 28, 2013
  2. ChickensAreSweet

    ChickensAreSweet Heavenly Grains for Hens

    If you do feed grass to the chickens pre-cut, make sure it is in short lengths, say 2-3 inches, in order to prevent impacted crop. For example, my lawnmower cuts it beautifully.

    You want to avoid mold at ALL costs. Moldy grass clippings can kill the chickens.

    If you get it really dry, there was a youtube video I saw once where a guy made his own mini-baler mold and baled his own hay for his small animals.

    Some people just collect it in bags but it needs to be soooo dry that I wouldn't dare (I have lost chickens to mold).

    I have given alfalfa hay straight to the chickens and they love the leaves, but left the long pieces to disintegrate and they would have been too long for them to eat safely anyhow. I do chop grass sometimes with my yard scissors for them and they demolish them.

    They will benefit greatly from grains, as well. Here:
    http://www.backyardpoultrymag.com/issues/1/1-4/Harvey_Ussery.html
    http://www.lionsgrip.com/chickens.html
     
    Last edited: Jan 28, 2013
  3. jasmer

    jasmer Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Oct 15, 2012
    Yeah we were going to make sure we know how to keep it nice and dry, and make a homemade baler. We only have 5 acres, but that should be enough to feed rabbits and chickens and hopefully also a couple sheep. :D

    Bagging it is what I wanted to avoid, and it's why I decided not to do silage. Somebody else told me that my crop choice was expensive and put me off to silage, but I got to thinking, his perspective comes from I think large-scale agriculture. I really can't see how planting some grasses and weeds that are rampant in my area already would be expensive, I believe most if not all of them are prennials, so just a one time investment and the odd reseed when I don't see it coming up like it should, right? A homemade hay baler and storing in the barn, I seriously can't see how that is more expensive in the long run than paying off larger equipment and a silo or buying silage bags/tarps every year....

    What do you think? We don't plan on selling any of our 'crop' to anybody, if anything we will give away excess from our garden to friends and family (and to the animals) and only want to raise enough animals to sustain a breeding population and fill our freezer. After an initial investment in improving our pasture, would this really start getting expensive to do to the point that we'd do better to buy hay and commercial feed?

    Now I'm paranoid, we're still pretty new to the homesteading thing, I don't want to make a super expensive mistake and regret it.
     
  4. ChickensAreSweet

    ChickensAreSweet Heavenly Grains for Hens

    Here is a webpage that mentions just loose-stacking hay, but this area isn't my area of expertise so I'm hoping someone else will chime in:
    http://www.earthtoolsbcs.com/html/bcs_implements.html

    (that is a walk-behind hay baler website)
     

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