View Full Version : cheap chicken food?
03-08-2010, 09:23 PM
hey just wondering does anyone know what is the fastest, easiest growing forage for chickens. in wellington new zealand so need something cool climate. and can you use sand from the beach for grit?
05-08-2010, 07:54 AM
Not sure what feed is fastest & easiest in Wellington ... can't help with that sorry.
Check out this page for some info on grit ... it should get you started on the right foot.
05-08-2010, 09:30 AM
coarse grit from the beach would serve as "grit" but for the calcium side, you could look for things like cuttlefish bones, oyster shells.. thought I think you'd need to grind them up, eg with a hammer on a concrete slab or something. etc.
I'm not sure what grows best in NZ, our kiwi friends?
05-08-2010, 10:11 AM
Weeds. (no I'm not taking the p!ss I'm serious!) They grow fast and plentifully and you don't need effort to get the there.
05-08-2010, 10:25 AM
But are weeds enough?
05-08-2010, 02:34 PM
Chooks love weeds like puha. But if you want to feed the chooks completely yourself you need a pretty well planned set up. How much space/land do you have?
Maggots would be one of my choices. http://forums.permaculture.org.au/showthread.php?7069-Maggots-and-Chooks There are other threads on the forum about this too.
This is a great article on a rotation system for chooks that allows fodder plants to regenerate: http://forums.permaculture.org.au/showthread.php?5963-new-article-concerns-about-the-way-most-people-raise-chicke
Here's another useful thread on systems: http://forums.permaculture.org.au/showthread.php?5887-Chicken-living-plant-feeder
05-08-2010, 05:47 PM
magots are great and silverbeet will work well too. Swiss Chard in some places. And definatly the weeds - huge variety in those. Amaranth for oil seed.
05-08-2010, 06:32 PM
I get guppies for free every morning when I bucket out of the dam for the chooks water.I dump the water into their tub to clear it and then refill it.The smarter chooks grab the fish.
05-08-2010, 08:52 PM
ok well not everv morning.
How come I cant edit this?
05-08-2010, 10:50 PM
Because the guppy goddess is out to get you. :-)
06-08-2010, 09:22 PM
I'm in Welllington too. No chooks up here, but grown food for them before. I presume by 'forage' you mean something for extra health and interest, not to provide for all their dietary needs.
As mentioned, I vote for silverbeet. You can really squish it in, it grows in semi-shade, poor soil, year-round. You eat a few good leaves, chuck the rest to the chooks. And they REALLY love it when silverbeet flowers/seeds
18-08-2010, 07:09 PM
Sprouted grain is an easilly managed supplement , set up some trays feed one and start one every day .
19-08-2010, 04:34 PM
Well I've been working on which foods would work as replacements for grains. |So far I've had the idea of using dried root crops like beets and any other cull roots. I realized that the grains we feed are dried and are far more concentrated in food value. Dry corn is much higher in cals than fresh corn. So if we dried say our cabbage leaves etc and some roots like mangels, turnips and grated up the roots on a cheeze grator and dried them they would have higher cals for the volume the chicken can eat. Because thats what stops them from getting enough food value from root crops the water volume. I'm working on this and I feel this could work as a way to produce 100% our own feed.
19-08-2010, 05:27 PM
I wonder if there is any advantage in the dehydration thing. Surely the calorie thing is per kilo and without water the energy would be concentrated but dehydration should not (imo) increase the calorie count. The effort and energy needed to dry out the turnips would surely preclude the process. An advantage would be in grating the roots as chooks rarely eat the thing when given whole and access to the food would be improved.
I think it is great that you are trying things and look forward to hearing how things go.
19-08-2010, 06:18 PM
It's not that the food has raised calories, it that the chicken can eat MORE calories, often they can not eat the volume of food needed to get thier calorie needs met when eating watery root crops or leaves. As for the energy for drying a person would just use the sun or in winter over the wood stove. I would think the energy would be the lowest if you can grow it yourselve compaired to driving somewhere and earning money to buy feed?
20-08-2010, 12:06 AM
Digging i feel you are missing an important point. Its not just about calories. Its also about protein. Grains have more proteins than most vegetables. You should look at growing more leguminous crops that chickens like if you want to grow their food. Consider finding out what teh ratios of carbohydrates and proteins and fats shoudl be for chickens and fact that into your recipes. But do be careful. The idea that your chickens could become malnourished makes me feel ill.
I don't know why you think a bird could eat more food because its dried than wet. That doesn't make much sense to me. Some animals that eat dried food need to drink more water.
20-08-2010, 04:08 AM
No I have not missed that point either, I was just first introducting the whole concept if homemade dehydrated foods. You asked me why I think a bird can eat more food dry than wet, remember that feed grains dehydrated. In fact all animal pellets are some type of deyhdrated food stuff. Have you ever eaten dried fruit or meat? You CAN eat more because the food is concentrated. If we are buying dehydrated animals feeds why don't we just make our own?
Yes we would have to feed them a mix of root crops and leaves to get the full mineral,protein, etc.
20-08-2010, 09:02 AM
ok, I don't want to argue about whether they can eat more or not.
I think it is important though.. about protein. Chooks present us with nice little parcels of protein most days, that protein has to come from somewhere.
20-08-2010, 10:46 AM
I agree very much about the protein. Here I'll give some amounts to get started. Let's take corn fresh on the cob the way we eat it and then dry like popcorn the way we feed it to animals.
Wet Corn per lb 8.7 grams protein and 400cals
Dried Corn per lb 36 to 40 grams protein and 1600 cals
Let's compair that to kale leaves fresh per lb 14.1 g protein and 227 cals, beets 5.1g and 195 cals. So if we dried the kale and beets down 85% to 6oz they would have 19.2g protein and 422 cals. Parsnips would give 6.6g and 340 cals per fresh lb, mixed with Kale that would be20.7 g and 567 cals for 6 oz.
It seems to me the goal is to find food that have 300 to 400 cals per lb fresh because then the dehydrated amount would be rich enough in cals. I'm trying Jerusalem artichokes because they come back they have 7g protein and 345 cals/lb.
Heres something else to consider how many food calories can you get from 100sq ft growing wheat? Well if you were really good at it you might get 25lbs of wheat from 100 sq ft. At 1500 cals per lb = 37,500 cals and 1440g protein per 100 sq ft.
What could we get from parsnips at 100 sq ft? The highest might be 450lbs at 340 cals per lb =153,000 cals and 2970g protein per 100 sq ft.
So on the same piece of ground we can produce 4 times more food value and double the protein not using grain. Perhaps thats why the old timers use to winter over their animals on root crops?
It seems to me one of the greatest challenges with raising chickens is producing the present types of grain diet. If you don't have machines to grow your grain you will not be feeding it to animals you'll be keeping it for your human use.
20-08-2010, 12:13 PM
It could be an important discussion dear digging.
Can you tell me the source of your analysis? Just out of curiosity.
Is this something you have been working on for some time? I am curious to see things that could replace grain as a base food for chickens.
20-08-2010, 02:08 PM
Yes I agree it is important, where I live there is no grain production at all. I'v gotten my numbers from a few different places. The one on yields per 100 sq ft is from John Jeavons book "How to grow more vegetables" Very detailed data that is based on proven yields they have gotten over time. The other info on protein and cals you can get from various books and online. Here is a good page for human meal planning but you could really use it well for animal feed planning! It gives very detailed nutritional info on many different foods. So far one thing I've learned is it seems the maxi amount of cals we can get from 100 sqft is around 200,000cals and only a few food will produce that. Most seeds and nut only give around 30,000-40,000cals but peanuts they can yield 60,000cals. At first we tend to think about protein in food production, but it turns out the true challenge is to reliably grow enough calories. I would think the root crops could be stored live in the off season and just dried as needed. During the summer I dry many of of garden trimmings like carrot tops and the like for winter feeding.
I'm glad you are interested because this could be a helpful key in aiding ourselfs to truly become food secure.
20-08-2010, 03:32 PM
Glad to see some numbers coming into it, a shame that all of your units are mixed (feet, grams, pounds) makes it a bugger to go through and understand the nubmers.. how about keeping it metric?! :-) no worries either way, we can adjust.
your wheat yield equals over 10 tonnes per hectare! that is quite high, though i guess it might be possible with intensive garden style cultivation.. fyi.. if dryland farmers near where I grew up get 2.5tonnes per hectare they are happy. Ok, so english farmers and others in wetter areas get substantially more..
I'm not sure how you came up with the conclusion that the limiting factor is calories rather than protein etc.. explain your reasoning?
20-08-2010, 04:39 PM
Ha I'm all mixed because I'm Canadian! The books and stuff I use are all mixed too. Yes you are right that is a very high amount for wheat. That volume is based on hand care and cultivation and maximue yields people have been able to get.
OK the point about calories vs protein what I'm talking about is when we realy start trying to grow a large amount of our own food going past salad and carrots what will happen is you will find it harder to get the full volume of calories you'll need every day. We get alot of calories from fats and meat and refined sugar. Look at the kale and corn again, Kale has 14 grams of protein but only 227cals per lb compaired to say potatoes of 8g and 340 cals. Now the next problem you have is to eat about 9 lbs to get your needed calories!
So what helps add cals to our diet? Fats, (At this time I don't need any more calories from fat!! :blush:
Where can we get fats? We can grow seeds and press them, takes alot of sunflowers etc. Where else? From animals and they form their fats like us from ......SUGARS,...... from calories.
Also eggs don't just have protein do they, they have fats, and so this brings us back to the calorie needs. I believe this is more of the reason the homesteaders raised pigs, the fat! Fats are used for many thing in our lives, cooking, baking & soap making etc. Right now fossil fuel has hidden the challenge of getting fats and calories into our diets because of the glut. Fats come from sugar which really is the solar energy via plant made sugars from co2, nitrogen gas goes into the protein. Well one more point even if your a vegan or such IF you take away refinded sugars you will be very challenged to get your calorie needs met!
I'm not saying protein is not often a limiting factor for many people in the world, but in your own personal goal of food production and food production for your animals calories play a very large part.
24-08-2010, 09:26 AM
Tetragonia tetragonoides (warrigal greens or new Zealand spinach - is this the same as puha?) might be worth trying.
Also have a look at mealworms (Google is your friend) - you can grow them in a mixture of oats/other grains and bran in plastic tubs. A damp sponge will attract them to the top for collection. Some chooks may need to be trained to recognize them as part of their complete breakfast. I also throw the occasional handful of worms from the worm farm in to the girls too...
24-08-2010, 07:39 PM
Yes bug are a great chicken food source but since we are trying to find ways to not feed grain to chicken perhaps there are other methods and traps we can make to bring bug food to our birds.
24-08-2010, 08:31 PM
Roadkill should do it.
Paul Wheaton has a great (explicit) vid on teaching chooks to eat slugs.
NZ spinach and puha are different plants. But chooks love puha too.
25-08-2010, 12:41 AM
Haha I didn't notice there were two more pages of this thread! I apologise if my last post was slightly off the current topic. =P
Protein supply is important but it must be balanced by fats if we (or our stock) are not to suffer from "rabbit starvation" (Wikipedia is your friend) where the body effectively becomes poisoned by proteins which it cannot assimilate. Basically, in a wild or feral chicken (Gallus gallus aka Red Jungle Fowl) most of the proteins are supplied by insects and other invertebrates, then by seeds/grains - often naturally dehydrated. Fats are probably largely supplied by seeds, though animal fats do play a part. Protein content of eggs that domestic hens produce daily (an unnatural situation) may to some extent come from these sources, but are also synthesized using a variety of amino acids found in the birds diet (both plant and animal foods). Don't worry too much about protein - if they are eating insects they are probably getting enough. Fats are important but as long as there is a seed component (e.g. wild or domesticated grains) in their diet they will manage their own levels.
As eco4560 pointed out, weed utilisation is a key strategy for any poultry system - most weeds produce vast quantities of carbohydrates/roughage in their leaves and seeds, as well as being mineral- and amino acid-rich. Free-ranging birds generally know what they need, and serve themselves.
There was a great article on chook forage plants in the Australian magazine Organic Gardener (http://www.organicgardener.com.au/magazine) recently - recommended species included chickweed (Stellaria media), cleavers (Galium aparine), spinach (Spinacia oleracea), beet/chard (Beta vulgaris c.v.) etc. The article also recommended grated carrot as part of a homemade monthly worming mash to repel intestinal worms. If anyone is interested I can drag out the mag and post the recipe here...
25-08-2010, 01:23 AM
Here (http://www.birdcare.com.au/mealworms.htm) is a (perhaps overly) comprehensive article on breeding mealworms. The feed is mostly bran with some wholemeal flour and yeast. Bran can be obtained from a number of sources including rice/wild-rice, and easy to grow grain crops such as oats (good for cold/damp climates). Wholemeal flour component can be from spoiled home supplies or just ground up from wild/weed grains collected locally. Yeast can be bought or cultivated from raisins in a flour and water mix (see here (http://angiesrecipes.blogspot.com/2008/03/natural-leaven-adapted-from-dan-lepard_17.html)for a recipe).
25-08-2010, 04:35 AM
Bingo! That is why chickens are harder to raise than say geese or ducks, then naturally developed eating more seeds, where as ducks and geese eat plants more.
I stll think we could greatly reduce the purchased grain portion of thier diet with grated dried roots crops and other dried greens IF they also could free range collecting extra bit of bugs and wild weed seeds. I've read on different forums how people start out wanting to raise thier own food and get chickens then they add up the cost of all the feed and they say it does not pay even if they range the chickens, but if we could reduce that feed bill say by 75% then maybe chicken could be more affordable?
25-08-2010, 06:57 AM
Maybe conventional chickens are just way too cheap. Also there are the eggs they produce and the digging and pest control they do. It's never that simple.
25-08-2010, 09:40 AM
Concentrate on building your soil invertebrate population/biodiversity first. In my small suburban food forest chooks can range for up to three weeks without supplementary feeding of any kind before they stop laying. Even then they are still healthy and happy.
They are mainly taking insects (slaters/woodlice/silverfish/cockroaches from the cool compost and woodpile, worms, grasshoppers, moths and other lepidopterans) and some grass as greens but they will hammer any and all weedy forage species while they wander.
Calorie intake is not a problem here in the subtropics but you might need to store some food for cool temperate winters. Wild grasses in seed can be obtained for free from road verges and vacant lots everywhere. You could harvest and store it in stooks or a barn and feed it out as whole sheaves just as you would with homegrown oats for horses. Don't be afraid to try grains even in cold areas. Just choose an appropriate low-maintenance variety and feed as above to minimise processing. Chooks are much better at threshing grains than we are anyway!
I certainly wouldn't bother drying fodder - its probably not worth the effort. Root crops would definitely be worth experimenting with though, especially in areas with a short growing season. Let us know how you go with it...
05-09-2010, 03:40 AM
Here are some amounts and food types I've come up with that could replace grain feed to chickens where I live. This would provide about 390 cals, so even a large chicken in cool weather should have enough calories.
Broccoli, leaves, raw
Qty: 1.0 x 1 ounce (28g)
Cattail, Narrow Leaf Shoots (Northern Plains Indians)
Qty: 3.0 x 1 ounce (28g)
Fireweed, leaves, raw
Qty: 1.0 x 1 ounce (28g)
Fish, whitefish, broad, head, eyes, cheeks and soft bones (Alaska Native) [sheefish]
Qty: 1.5 x 1 ounce (28g)
Lambsquarters, raw (Northern Plains Indians)
Qty: 3.5 x 1 ounce (28g)
Rose Hips, wild (Northern Plains Indians)
Qty: 1.5 x 1 ounce (28g)
Qty: 4.0 x 1 ounce (28g)
Salsify, (vegetable oyster), raw
Qty: 2.0 x 1 ounce (28g)
Seeds, sunflower seed kernels, toasted, without salt
Qty: 0.5 x 1 ounce (28g)
05-09-2010, 10:19 AM
Are the rosehips dried or fresh? They're really hard when dried, would a chook eat them like that?
Are unshelled pumpkin seeds ok for chooks?
05-09-2010, 11:09 AM
I personally would mince up everything or shred it, thus it would get hard as it dried out, because for myself I need to have food to carry my birds through a 6mth winter. These numbers are based on weights of fresh foods, so the size would go down after drying. As for the pumpkin seeds I read a study of a lady that raised her chickens on worms and zuccini seeds and all. Once the seeds were dried I think they would need to be chopped perhaps?
05-09-2010, 11:39 AM
Do chooks actually eat rosehips? I know that possums do, but birds round here don't generally. They're hard on humans because they have all these irritating hairs inside them with the seeds. It'd be good to know if chooks are actually ok with them.
05-09-2010, 03:18 PM
well that is a good question, but so far what I have noticed is that by the end of winter there is not one left on any wild plants. And we do have wild chickens here called ptarmigans and they eat wild fruit and seeds.
05-09-2010, 05:55 PM
When I was looking into the best feed to grow for chickens and rabbits, one of the books I came across said that of all the grains Barley had a high protein rate and corn/maize the lowest.
I am of the opinion that chooks dont really like wheat. This is based on the fact that they leave a helluva lot of it lying around to sprout.
The rocket I planted for them was demolished in a day,cabbages go the same way as was the red clover and lucerne.They ate all the green of the silverbeet leaving the stalks and roots alone so it regrew which has been helpful.
Barley would probably grow better for us than wheat and so would oats being cooler temp type plants.
a mix of barley, oats maize, wheat and seed Amaranthe would probably be a good idea.
Comfrey was also reccommended for its high protein count.
I discount the scientific evidence to the contrary as this appears to be based on comfrey extracts rather than the whole plant whihc supposed balances itself out.
I also learnt that deep green leafy vegetables have high levels of calcium.
Chooks in the wild do not have access to shell grit so you have to ask yourself where are they getting the grit to keep their eggs hard?Snails?
One of the reasons given that Chinese for example dont suffer from calcium deficiencies is because they eat very large quantities of green vegetable.
(my mothers bosses are chinese and they are shocked at how little Europeans actually eat).
Chooks are ominivorous, like us they eat anything that is edible, so looking to a wide range of various things would be wiser than trying to pare it down to one or two.
For root crops you could check out chopped up mangolds, they love cooked potatoes in any form same with pumpkins.
Despite what Michealangelica says they dontseem to like chokos at all, havent tried them on cooked ones tho.
06-10-2010, 11:09 PM
Yes Chooks are omniverous like humans....Chooks will even eat each other....
The more a variety of food a chook has accsess to the better all round it will be.....
Grains aint the bees knees, and neither are the ready made pellets,but are handy to supliment untill a full time self foraging system is under way,(it can take a few years) at most,if your aware of how to do it....Forever... if you dont.
Weeds are one of natures best foodplants,tho not all are edible:n::n: and a really benificial plant to have in poor soils as an aid to improving any site.. Funny how some wastelands are so overgrown..
Insects and other small creatures including,worms,maggots, etc..breed in such high numbers as to be the easier,quicker option, Running poultry in a "free range" system will/should have the added extra bonuses of all the good things associated with sunshine and fresh air,and a more balenced diet.
Fodder trees... Lotsa tree species,tagasatie,accacias etc etc,are grown by Permies as a year round multi benifitting tree in small and large gardens... including leaf drop,shade,shelter and millions of chook beak sized seeds, for younger sized poultry (babies) as well as adults can scratch and seek and eat from early life..young babies only have tiny mouths,theyd choke on grain..Ive heard and belive that germinated grains are best,as they have the fresh new shoot,but over soaking or delay in being eaten freshly softened grains,can even poisen your flock,and humans alike.
A person who doesnt like chemical fed chook food,only has limited choices of clean food.....
I only trust my own stuff.. they love our left overs,and gobble stale bread and left over from dinners and BBQs..left overs are never ever wasted.....
The more space a chook has to roam the better and healthier it can be.....
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