Diet for happier pet chickens

Discussion in 'Designing, building, making and powering your life' started by feather fun, Apr 24, 2008.

  1. feather fun

    feather fun New Member

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    Ive been looking for weeds,grasses, anything that chooks enjoy eating to grow in the chook pen. They make heaps of noise in the morning and dont seem at all interested to the pellets or bird seed im feeding them. i seem to be cooking a corn on cob everyday just to keep them happy.

    Im running out of ideas !

    :?:
     
  2. DJ-Studd

    DJ-Studd Junior Member

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    Re: Diet for happier pet chickens

    Tagasaste, if you have somewhere to grow it!

    I am led to believe that this makes a really good chicken fodder!
     
  3. paradisi

    paradisi Junior Member

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    Re: Diet for happier pet chickens

    just about anything green is fair game for chooks - tho trying to grow in the chook pen is usually a waste of time - they'll eat it to bare dirt in next to no time.

    chook tractors are one way to move them around the greenery you do have growing or provide them with off cuts from your plants - do some research to see if what you have in the shrubs/treee may be poisonous to them, if not on the lists try them and if they eat it good.

    try some grain with your pellets - I buy a ready made mix from the local stock feed place - has pellets and half a dozen different grains.

    try

    https://forum.backyardpoultry.com/index. ... d940192cd3 or
    https://www.australianpoultryforum.com/

    for some semi pro advice
     
  4. IntensiveGardener

    IntensiveGardener Junior Member

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    Re: Diet for happier pet chickens

    i'v been looking into this too because grain is becoming so expensive. I'v planted one of the chook yards with wheat (after fencing the chickens out of that yard). I figure that the chooks will harvest it themselves and eventually leave me with a combination of straw and chook manure for the garden.
    I'v also noticed that they love the green scraps from cabbage family plants, particularly rocket.
    Another idea is to soak and/or sprout various things for them. For example both oats and peas (dried) are too big and tough for the chooks, if you sprout them they will love it though.
    A worm farm can be a good source of chook food, just throw them a few handfulls of worms from time to time. The worms could be fed scraps which the chickens wouldn't otherwise eat.

    Comfrey is great chook food. It is one of only a handfull of plants which contain vitamin B12.

    As for tagasaste, i'v got about 10 trees (cut to shrub size) in my chook pen. The tops are cut for cow food and the chooks graze from the lower branches, picking off any leaves they can reach.
    I'v many books which suggest Tag as a fodder crop for both livestock and chickens. They also claim (correctly) that Tag seeds are great chook food. The problem i have found is that when i plant Tag in chook pens, with nitrogen rich manure feeding them, is that they rarely seed. The trees growing elsewhere seed fine but the ones with too much nitrogen just produce leaf. Its kind of like giving peas too much nitrogen fertilizer and getting lots of leafy plant growth but few flowers or pods.
    For fodder Tagasaste can be very handy because its evergreen. All scientific tests reveal it to be very high in protein. When i feed it to my animals though they only eat it as a last resort. Often the cow leaves half of it. When i give the animals a choice between tag and anything else (grass hey, poplar, willow, radishes etc...) they always eat the Tag last. I'm not sure why this is the case but its a little bit of a worry. Its much better than no food though :)

    anyway i guess the best thing for them is variety.
    cheers,
    IG
     
  5. SueinWA

    SueinWA Junior Member

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    Re: Diet for happier pet chickens

    Don't bother cooking the corn for them, just feed it raw... They love it!

    They also love weeds and greens tied in bundles. I can throw cast off out lettuce leaves into their pen, and they ignore them. But bundled together and hanging from a crosspiece, they peck at them until they're gone. Then they play with the end of the string.

    For buying smallish amounts of grains for sprouting or planting, look for bulk foods in grocery stores or health food stores. It's not treated with chemicals like some you buy from feed stores (although occasionally you may find some that are heat-treated to prevent sprouting). Get small amounts at first, soak them overnight, then keep them damp and see if they sprout. Everything I've tried has sprouted, with the single exception of one that said it was milled, and I think it meant husked, and that probably caused them to dry out.

    I intend to plant a mix of seeds for my chookies, then just knock it down and let them harvest it. Not only do we need to feed them, but we should keep them entertained!

    Sue
     
  6. Loris

    Loris Junior Member

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    Re: Diet for happier pet chickens

    Mum tells me that her mother (born late 1800"s) used to have a big tin that sat on the side of the wood stove. She would throw in all the scraps, peelings, offcuts etc and it sort of just steams away and then in the afternoons, she would stir in enough pollard to make it porridgy and maybe some mollasses for vitamins and that was all they ever fed their poultry on.

    From our experience, we find that chooks need a much higher level of protein than what you might imagine. This is because the eggs are all protein and their levels have to be kept up. In a free range situation, although they get the green pick, they also get the bugs, worms and frogs they need for protein. We make sour milk for them, just using cheap powdered milk. It also contains calcium which they need. Again, we sour it and mix with pollard to make it go further. I like to feed this especially in spring as it helps to get them on the lay after winter.

    It is illegal to feed meat products to chickens in Australia. If it wasn't, I imagine that they would really like things like fish guts (for those who have aquaponics) and other high protein snacks.

    The practice of feeding grain to poultry was mainly for protein levels. When we have extras in the garden like this year, pumpkins and chokos, we boil this for them as it is easier for them to eat when its soft. In winter, we give them turnips and the tubers off the arrowroot cooked.

    They tell me that cassave leaves have a high protein level. I'd be trying some of these also to see if they are palatable.
     
  7. JoanVL

    JoanVL Junior Member

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    Re: Diet for happier pet chickens

    Mine get pellets plus loads of thrown out stuff - next doors and a couple of friends give me their veggie and fruit waste, our won stuff of course, then I pick weeds from my yard and my son's yard - mainly English plantain and purslane.

    They love pumpkin seeds, bacon rind, and grubs from the garden. I particularly love giving them curl grubs.
     
  8. Michaelangelica

    Michaelangelica Junior Member

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    Re: Diet for happier pet chickens

    Comfrey is about the only plant that keeps up witch chicken's voracious appetite for anything green.

    if you let them run about during the day they will sort out their own diet themselves.

    Juliet de Baircli lLevy in her book "Hrbal Handbook for Farm and Stable" has some suggestions.

    I related my experiences making a chook friendly herb garden in another thread somewhere?
     
  9. MikeB

    MikeB Junior Member

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    Re: Diet for happier pet chickens

    Hmm my chookens (named by a young niece many years ago) get all the grasshoppers I can catch, grass, chickweed when I can find it, mangoes left by the flying foxes and mixed grain. Yes it is expensive but I don't have enough dirt to grow anything for the specificaly. For a treat they get prawn shells and heads (only after the have finished laying hmm prawn flavoured eggs, not a favourite of mine thanks) and crushed cuttle fish quills picked up from the beach plus vege scraps. All my old girls are allowed out and wander the yard and help with insect control and of course the never ending mulch shifting until they finally fall off their perch.
     
  10. Noz

    Noz Junior Member

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    Re: Diet for happier pet chickens

    You've already got some great answers, but I wanted to add that our chickens love rolled oats, meat scraps, worms and fresh greens. They show enthusiasum for the normal food, but only when they are really hungry.
     
  11. ho-hum

    ho-hum New Member

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    Re: Diet for happier pet chickens

    2 ways to feed chooks greenery, either leave attached to the stalk branch, for example, pigeon pea or 'mow' it and feed them a shredded salad of what you can catch in the mower bucket.

    Cassava is an excellent chop and drop crop for chooks but from everything I have read it should be left to wilt for a day due to the alkaloid content of the leaves. Chooks struggle to pick bits off unsecured plants. If you toss a bunch of long grass in a chookpen, they really wanna pick off bits and not deal with a 12'' stem that they struggle to swallow.

    There are 2 plants I know are really beneficial to chooks - both tropical growing. Firstly, rocket and secondly, pawpaw. The beneficial effects of both these plants go well beyond mere food value as chooks actually launch themselves at both these plants when offered. A bit like oats for horses, chickens will gorge themselves on these plants.

    Chooks are always chasing protein as part of their diet, whether it is grain, plant or even meat based feedstocks. If you find something your chooks are eating some particular thing, then check out [via the NET] its protein content. You should be able to alleviate a lot of unnecessary grain purchases if you can supply adequate protein to your animals via your own efforts.

    I have no experience with comfrey but from my readings it may have an alkaloid poison side effect. Our chooks are mostly far too smart to be poisoned by any one species of plant or any one species of 'owner'. Can it be wilted like cassava to reduce this issue???


    cheers,
     
  12. gardenaholic

    gardenaholic Junior Member

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    Re: Diet for happier pet chickens

    Mine get all the weeds from the garden. I continually add to a large scratchy in the middle of the yard. They will then spend the day going through it. I then just rack it back up add to it. This is also good for stubborn weeds as by the end they are dead. I then take the left overs and place into my compost bin and repeat the process. I also manage to get a lovely lot of soil from the base of the yard, seed free. I have healthy, excersised, unbored chickens. They also get crushed maise and chicken pellets as well. The crushed maise makes the eggs taste yummo!!
     
  13. MikeB

    MikeB Junior Member

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    Re: Diet for happier pet chickens

    I forgot to mention that prawn shells will make for very orange yolks as will a lot of corn. Onions are a no no i have been told as well as advacado skins. mangos, paw paws etc are available at different times of the year. Nothing looks quite like a duck chook or goose with a yellow neck from scoffing mangos. :D
     
  14. BorisMcb

    BorisMcb New Member

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    Re: Diet for happier pet chickens

    The note by IntensivGardener 3 May 2008 on using tagasaste as chook tucker, v interesting.
    In similar vein, hav been using wattles. Long term experiences in the chook-yard yet to observd.
    However, hav done extensiv tests on acceptability by chooks of various acacia seeds. Results can be seen in Acacia Study Group Newsletter. Do internet search on "Acacia study group newsletter". Then, look at nos. 98, 99 and 101.

    Best wishes,

    Boris McB
     
  15. fuzzy butt

    fuzzy butt Junior Member

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    Re: Diet for happier pet chickens

    I found out by accident that chooks love Barley hay and straw. My boss planted barley for his sheep and the left overs (the hay) he sold off to those wanting mulch and a covering in their gardens............that was until barley began sprouting in everyones gardens and they were horrified :lol: so I got a whole heap of bales and put it in with the chooks. They love it. And it doesn't matter if it sprouts because they knock it down anyway. You can put it in a chook shed about a foot deep and within a week you have mulch without the seed :D PERFECT!
     
  16. Comet

    Comet New Member

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    Re: Diet for happier pet chickens

    Hi:
    I too have been searching for ways to feed our livestock with soaring prices and the desire to - know what you feed.

    Several things have worked well and some I want to try as time goes on. First - the suggestions about Comfrey are very good. I have planted it everywhere I can and it's a wonderful and prolific plant. In our Pacific Northwest climate in the US, I get two to three cuttings. The chickens love it. I have tied it up and just tossed it in the yard. Either way, they seem to gobble it up without a problem. We throw all our veggie scraps into a container everyday, as well as, the crushed up egg shells. Our horses and goats love comfrey too. It strengthens the immune system. I have been using it as a poultice on our German Shepherd dog. He has a sore on his shoulder, and the vet can't figure out what is causing it. I decided to soak it and it's almost completely healed after four times. It was an ongoing problem for eight months. Comfrey is also called Boneset. It can help heal broken bones and heal infections and take out soreness. I haven't had any problems with the toxicity scare and I don't worry about it. I think the FDA would love to see it irradicated so we could all buy drugs instead.
    I planted it around my orchard trees so that when they're tall enough, I can let the chickens in there to forage. I also let them clean up the garden area after each season. I plant a cover crop then and let them forage for awhile on that. It helps them and they get more fertilizer down on the soil and scratch it in.

    I've been researching Jerusalem Artichokes and it seems to be an amazing plant. If you plant one acre of the tubers, then the next year you have enough to plant twenty acres. Here, in Oregon, it's probably considered a weed plant and it can be invasive, but in a controlled environment, I think it would do well. I'll let you know. The tubers can be eaten (by people) like a potato or dried and ground for flour. The stocks can be fed or grazed by livestock. It gets tall and you can actually bale it like hay. Horses, cows, pigs,and goats, as well as, chickens love it. The protein content is higher than alfalfa.

    This year I have planted fifty sunflower plants to dry for the chickens. They love sunflower seeds (horses and goats too). I also have planted a large crop of corn and a neighbor and friend has offered to crack it for me. We are all farmers here so someone has some kind of needed equipment. I was wondering if I can feed the corn to the chickens whole? I'll be making my own silage chopping box not unlike the old paper cutters we used to use as kids. My 83 year old uncle told me that he used one like it to make all their cow silage from the corn stocks. Chickens and horses will eat it right up.

    I wantd to mention that the amino acid methionine is crucial to chickens. A deficiency will result in sparse feather development, slower growth, and sometimes feather pecking. At it's worse stages - it can cause cannabalism. The poultry industry uses synthetic methionine, but if you want to raise your chickens organically, you can use corn and worms. The production of the synthetic methionine, causes some harmful byproducts - it's made with compounds that contain cyanide and mercury. Worms are easy to raise and their castings can be used for the garden.

    You might consider planting boxes around your chicken coop and yard. I have sunflowers and comfrey, as well as, rosemary and flowers planted in mine. I take the rosemary and cut off a handful to soak in water for about a week. ( I also let comfrey soak in water for 48 hours to use as a garden fertilizer and for one month for a tomato fertilizer - it contains a lot of potash), and then I take the rosemary water and wipe down the top of the laying boxes. I use it to wipe out the boxes when they're cleaned and to wipe the rooste bars. It helps with bugs and smells nice. You can sprinkle diatemaceous earth in their favorite dusting holes to help rid them of mites and vermin too.

    I think the idea of sprouting wheat for them is fantastic! I'll be trying that. If you have the room to store 55 gallon barrels of wheat - you can buy it very cheaply and make your own mash to mix with other veggie scraps.
    Happy farming and enjoy those peeps,
    Lisa
     
  17. SueinWA

    SueinWA Junior Member

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    Re: Diet for happier pet chickens

    Someone asked about comfrey being a danger... as long as livestock have access to good feed, they will only eat the amount of comfrey (and other plants that are only toxic in larger amounts) that they feel they need. This has been noticed by many people, Pat Coleby among them. Livestock usually only eat toxic amounts of plants when they don't have access to good pasture.

    Jerusalem Artichoke: If you want to control it, plant some in the middle of your chicken yard (you'll have to cover it to get it started). When it is growing, the chooks will take what they need. But if it starts to spread, the chooks will act like 'moat keepers' and peck and scratch at the perimeter where the new plants are spreading out.

    Whole corn: most chickens don't care for the large corn kernals. Also, they also have a hard time breaking down large, hard seeds, and don't get enough nutrition from them. The same goes for whole, unshelled sunflower seeds. It doesn't take many to fill their crop, but the amount of nutrition they're absorbing is much less than if they were eating shelled sunflower seeds. A few here and there is no problem, but the shells have bulk butno food value.

    Sue
     
  18. Paul Cereghino

    Paul Cereghino Junior Member

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    Re: Diet for happier pet chickens

    There's a great article in this months backyard poultry that has a discussion of the woes of high feed prices. They describe a system where someone is doing fairly large scale compost piles using other peoples food wastes, and they let their chickens free range in the compost area. They provide NO feed except a supplement when chicks are about.
     
  19. ppp

    ppp Junior Member

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    Re: Diet for happier pet chickens

    a better reference to find the article? or are you suggesting we should go and subscribe to the magazine!?
     
  20. Mango1

    Mango1 Junior Member

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    Re: Diet for happier pet chickens

    Saw an awsome idea on Gardening Australia on the week end.

    They planted sweet potatoe in the chook pen and placed a low cage over the top of the plants. The chooks ate everything that grew thru the cage and fertilised the plants at the same time. The cage stopped the chooks totally destroying the plants.

    I dont see why you could not do this for other plants also. Sweet potatoe is high in protein and very prolific, so its a win win situation I guess, producing food for humans and chooks.

    Now I just need someone to convince my wife that chooks in the backyard will not attract snakes and Im sweet.
     

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