Winter weeds for feed

Discussion in 'Feeding & Watering Your Flock' started by Kazfam, Feb 24, 2014.

  1. Kazfam

    Kazfam Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Hi All.

    Just wanted to post some success we have had feeding our chickens certain weeds we have found this winter in the vegetable garden, etc.

    In particular chickweed and Carolina geranium. The birds love these greens and I am cleaning up my garden nicely. There is something about "weeding for feeding" that makes the task much more tolerable (we live in Upstate South Carolina).

    They also enjoy wild privet leaves which abound in our woods. The deer like these too so there is a little competition.

    In addition - sweet gum tree leaves in the spring and summer are highly appreciated as well.

    We are trying to minimize the store bought feed (would like to eliminate all together).

    We have a good start on a mealworm harvest (for a winter protein source) and will be creating a couple of black soldier fly composts for a spring and summer protein source. Japanese beetles will be another source (I despise them so gathering them for feed will be satisfying).

    Going to grow sunflowers this summer to harvest the seeds for next winter feeding.

    A great book for more information on this topic is: The Small-Scale Poultry Flock: An All-Natural Approach to Raising Chickens and Other Fowl for Home and Market Growers
     
    Last edited: Feb 24, 2014
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  2. coop410silkies

    coop410silkies Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Hi, my name is Laurie, and I just want to pop in here because this is a great idea to share: weeds and things you can feed your flock in winter (and summer, too).I live in northern Colorado on two acres of high dry weedy field, and my hand raised flock free range and love it. At this time of year most everything is still frozen, and I'm not too sure WHAT they are foraging, besides the throw-aways I get from the school lunch program. I wish I had chickweed, and I do have dandelions and various grasses. My silkies, which have to stay in their run, like the grasses I cut up for them and almost anything else I can find that's green. I planted some mulberry trees last year, for the benefit of my tortoises, because the leaves are said to be high in Calcium, but I'm thinking the flock will do well with them, too. Sunflowers are a great easy-do idea. In addition to mealworms, you can also do crickets, and baby mice are appreciated. I raised some of my chicks in my pen for box turtles and bearded dragons, and they competed vigorously for the insects and live whole foods I fed the reptiles. Thank you so much for the book suggestion; it sounds right up my flocks alley.:)
     
  3. Kazfam

    Kazfam Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Hi Laurie.

    Wow - you and I are on the same track as far as natural feeing of our flocks. The random field mouse, caught by one of our outdoor cats, is often given to the girls too. My son has also given them the liver from squirrels he has dressed - supposed to be very nutritious. These ideas were gotten from the book I referenced - I was surprised that certain animal innards could be given.

    The author broke the foods into three groups:

    Green Forages
    Seeds and Fruits
    Live Animal Feeds (this is where he suggested the innards of dressed animals as feed)

    He suggested growing comfrey and stinging nettle to dry (making hay) and feeding at winter time. I may try that too.
    I find the tall grasses (usually by roadsides or along field edges) that have gone to seed are gobbled up. These appear toward the end of summer. I imagine the list is endless - we just have to do the work of harvesting (my girls wander too far when outside their run - even though we have 10 acres).

    I found out recently that the local feed I am using is GMO - I then researched all the local feeds and found that all of them were GMO. So, I researched non-GMO feed sources and there is nothing local. The price to buy non-GMO along with shipping is too prohibitive on my budget so I am on a quest to feed them as they were meant to be fed...naturally.

    I got the book from the library - try it and tell me what you think.

    Thanks for your input...stay warm.

    Linda
     
    Last edited: Feb 25, 2014
  4. lazy gardener

    lazy gardener True BYC Addict

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    Just some food for thought: I may be wrong here, but I was taught that anything growing at the side of the road is suspect for lead, heavy metal, and insecticide/herbicide contamination. Linda, who's the author of your book?
     
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  5. Kazfam

    Kazfam Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Good point...the roadside I gather from is the road my house is on...quite rural...little traffic...country side road.

    I agree you would have to carefully consider any roadside area for what is around it (run-off too, I would think) before using any of the plants.

    The author is Henry Ussery.
     
  6. lazy gardener

    lazy gardener True BYC Addict

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    I have his book and have found it to be the most comprehensive flock keeping book. He looks at the big picture, and not just at the chicken.
     
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  7. coop410silkies

    coop410silkies Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Hi, Linda.

    Thank you again for the book suggestion. I looked it up on the link you provided, and I think it covers most everything I want to do here. My library SHOULD have it, as Berthoud is a small agricultural town, and I will try to check it out.

    I hope it will have some things to say about dry land farming. We are ARID here: my two acres are supporting two elderly rescued sheep, and I'm told that that is about ALL it will support, chickens excepted, of course, without irrigation. So chickens it is, and I'd like to find a way to do hundreds of them, free ranging hundreds. Haha.

    GMO-free foods are Soooooo hard to affordably come by.

    Finding plants for chickens that will grow without irrigation is a top priority, because that's probably all that this parcel of dry ground is good for. I will say this: my chickens love field bindweed and will completely decimate the rampant growth here of this gardener's bane. I know what you mean when you say it's fun to weed when it's for your babies.

    I just moved here a little over a year ago. At one time I was an avid gardener, but I know nothing about farming, and I am incredibly frugal. I will stay informed, and if I get excited about anything, I will share. Happy happy growing. Chickens are here to stay.

    Laurie
     
  8. Kazfam

    Kazfam Chillin' With My Peeps

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    That is good to know lazy gardener. I love to hear confirmation of a source from like-minded folk.
    Exactly - the big picture - and it isn't overwhelming.
    Thanks for your input.
     

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