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Supplementing chicken forage with sprouts in conditions of limited space

Chris Kott


Joined: Jan 25, 2012
Posts: 796
Location: Toronto, Ontario
    
    9
So here goes. I've been playing with this idea for a while now because I live in a city with a 20'x35' backyard, partly shaded throughout the day by three conifers, probably Norway Pine, on neighbouring properties, and an Elm whose crown I am seeking to raise (it's overdue, the branches will soon reach the roof) and turn into hugelkultur along with a Manitoba Maple and clean pallets from work. I can increase the amount of forage available, but only by so much.

My solution to this is to grow trays of sprouts on my roof and rotate those. What I need to know from anyone who knows more of chickens than I, is what type of sprout, if any, could I use? What would be best for them? Or what variety, I should say. I would love to be able to make this work.

-CK
                


Joined: May 03, 2011
Posts: 51
Hi Chris,

I have heard a lot of people like to sprout mung beans for their chickens but honestly, chickens love it all. Most grasses, grains, herbs and beans are good. My hen will even gobble up garlic and chives in their very beginning stages. I think the more variety the better. The only concern I would have is that what makes some seeds sprout may make others mold so do a single seed at a time or make sure they all require the same amount of soaking and watering.

Have you considering growing your own worms too?

Blue Waldman
John Sizemore


Joined: Mar 27, 2011
Posts: 96
Location: West Virginia/ Dominican Republic
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UluPey05VEQ&feature=related
Try a scaled down version of this. It is being done in many areas using corn or what ever seeds are available.


I am the first generation of my family to grow up on the grid eating out of the super market. I hope to be the last.
Leila Rich
steward

Joined: May 24, 2010
Posts: 3890
Location: Wellington, New Zealand. Temperate, coastal, sandy, windy,
    
  80
As far as I know, there's not a lot more value in keeping grains beyond the 'just sprouting' stage, so light isn't required.
I haven't researched the benefits of longer sprouting though...
My mother has a three-bucket wheat-sprouting system:
Bucket 1: wheat, covered in water for about a day. She has lots of chickens, so does a fair amount at a time.
Bucket 2: bucket has holes drilled in bottom.Grain drained, covered and left for 24 hours or so. Bucket shaken up if someone goes past
Bucket 3: bucket has holes drilled in bottom. Grain used as soon as sprouted, lasts a few days, so more 'sprouty' by the end. Rinse every couple of days.
As has been mentioned, do a germination test; I wouldn't mix varieties unless they germinate at the same time. And different batches of dry grain can have totally different sprouting times, dependant on age.
Some grains are higher in protein than others when sprouted, so it's probably worth using them for bulk and adding others for variety.
Chickens love sprouted blue peas and buckwheat.
Oh yeah, make sure the birds can't access the buckets
jacque greenleaf
volunteer

Joined: Jan 21, 2009
Posts: 464
Location: Burton, WA (USDA zone 8, Sunset zone 5) - old hippie heaven
I've used the bucket system, and it works well. Chris, I note you are in a long cold winter area. You will find that three days will not be long enough for the grain to show visible sprouts in three days during the winter, unless you keep your sprouting buckets in a heated space.

Your chix will happily eat the soaked grain, even if it isn't showing any sign of sprouting. My understanding is that as grains sprout, the available nutrients change noticeably, including the ratio of the fatty acids omega3 and omega6. So if you are interested in that change in nutrient availability, keep your buckets in a warmed space.

Longer sprouting times can result in fermented grain, and the chix love those too!

tel jetson
steward

Joined: May 17, 2007
Posts: 3097
Location: woodland, washington
    
  53
I sprout maize, durum wheat, whole un-hulled oats, and barley for our chickens and turkeys. I tried a few different beans, but they didn't work well and the chickens didn't like them. and the beans are a lot more expensive than the grains. I sprinkle kelp meal and some mineral balancer on the sprouts before I feed them.

I started with using buckets. little one gallon buckets with holes drilled in the bottoms. the grain turned into a hot and moldy block pretty quickly. the birds still ate it, but mold wasn't really what I was going for. now I use propagation flats. works great. no mold. that other folks use buckets successfully suggests that you might have more luck than I did with that method.


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Chris Kott


Joined: Jan 25, 2012
Posts: 796
Location: Toronto, Ontario
    
    9
Thanks for all the helpful information. If anyone has any further advice for growing more forage on limited space, I'd appreciate it.

-CK
                        


Joined: Jan 01, 2011
Posts: 40
Location: Berkeley,CA
What I grow here in California is probably different from what can be grown in Toronto, but one of my favorite chicken grains is amaranth. If you have the space there are huge varieties available or if you're like me and you don't there are ones in more manageable sizes. Our chickens love to eat the thinnings in the spring then at harvest you get a ton of small grain from each plant and alot of good compost fodder.
greg patrick


Joined: Mar 17, 2012
Posts: 168
Location: SoCal, USDA Zone 10b
    
    3
Sounds like we're in the same boat. We stopped graining our birds but are still sitting on a couple hundred pounds of barley, corn, flax and alfalfa. What to do? We're soaking a few days, then putting down an inch of potting soil into those black square 1x1 trays. The soaked seeds go on top with a little soil on top. I want them to look like a green carpet before they go in the coop. The research I've been able to put together says the longer they grow, the healthier the feed. Malted barley tests closer to grain than greens do, so I'm letting them get nice and tall. But what do I know. . .
-greg


'Science is the father of knowledge, but opinion breeds ignorance.' - Hippocrates
Abe Connally


Joined: Feb 20, 2010
Posts: 1404
Location: Chihuahua Desert
I grow fodder for my rabbits (basically wheat grass): http://velacreations.blogspot.com/2011/12/rabbit-fodder.html

Yes, it can be beneficial to raise them past the sprout stage, as the protein content goes through the roof as it grows that lovely grass.

But, that's for rabbits, I don't know if chickens can make use of the protein in grass as well as rabbits.

It takes one pound of seed to make 8lbs of fodder (grass, seed, roots and all, they eat the whole cake). I can basically double the feed value of the grain by feeding it this way, which means I need 1/2 the amount of grain for the same feed value.

I do know that most sprouts have significantly more nutrition and less nutrition inhibitors than the plain grain. So, that means, for the same amount of grain, you get more feed value (more efficient).


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Chris Kott


Joined: Jan 25, 2012
Posts: 796
Location: Toronto, Ontario
    
    9
Thanks everyone. Abe, as per usual, your contribution provides helpful answers backed up with scads of supporting data and figures; I hope your posts are as helpful to everyone else.

Another question: How much outdoor space do chickens require to live like a chicken? In my 20'x45' yard, how many chickens could I leave out? I am thinking about using two movable electric chicken fences and moving them with a large mobile coop once a week over my whole garden, giving me five 9'x20' paddocks. Can I keep two or three layers, or am I dreaming? What is generous and what is crowded, in terms of sq. ft./chicken, keeping in mind for the former that we are talking about a small urban lot with a long arms' reach between houses.

Cheers,
-CK
greg patrick


Joined: Mar 17, 2012
Posts: 168
Location: SoCal, USDA Zone 10b
    
    3
We kept six in the same space and could have easily doubled that number. We fed lots of supplemental greens.
Chris Kott


Joined: Jan 25, 2012
Posts: 796
Location: Toronto, Ontario
    
    9
Okay, I've been meaning to go through to respond directly to some of these posts, so I hope it's all right if I do so in the body of one post.

So I suppose I'll experiment with leftover seeds and stuff to see what they like best, but if it makes more sense to grow out the sprouts, I don't see a problem doing that in the summer, especially. I like the system in the video you posted, John, although I don't think I'd do cattle that way, except in extreme need, like a bad winter. This looks way better than conventional feed. I have roof access and plenty of space, so I think I'll just use trays and lay them flat, but the aridity of that situation will necessitate the same kind of drip irrigation, if not more. Leila, I see myself doing more bucket and low-to-no light sprouting in buckets in the winter, and then I can see it having amazing potential. In terms of winter sprouting, Jacque, I will probably put the trays on shelves in my basement, perhaps with some fluorescent agro lighting, and see which chix do best on what, and proceed from there. Tel, propagation flats are probably what I'm thinking of when I say trays. Mineral balancer I can understand, especially considering the calcium requirements of laying poultry, but is kelp for taste, or does it do something else? I would appreciate any advice on specific grain choices outdoors for my climate from any who know. If I had more space, I would probably paddock rabbits before chickens, considering the feed to meat conversion ratio, but in an urban environment where they don't let you kill the coons and squirrels eating your garden and killing your (*illegal*) chickens, I don't think they let you kill your spent layers within city limits, let alone producing animals for meat.

I would also like to know if there are nutritional reasons to feed the chix both fermented grain and fresh sprouts, if anyone has an idea.

Thanks again everyone for all the input. This will make my project much easier.

-CK
greg patrick


Joined: Mar 17, 2012
Posts: 168
Location: SoCal, USDA Zone 10b
    
    3
Chris Kott wrote:I would also like to know if there are nutritional reasons to feed the chix both fermented grain and fresh sprouts, if anyone has an idea.

Thanks again everyone for all the input. This will make my project much easier.

-CK


You've got to ask yourself why you want to grain your birds, sprouted, fermented, or otherwise. I've done quite a bit of research and experimenting with fermented grain and spent brewers' grain as feed. Overall: Fail. Fermented/spent grain helps quite a bit boosting myrastic acid but completely buggers the Ω3 (75% reduction @15% DW). Spent grain is the waste product of brewing, usually barley. It has most of the carbs washed out but retains most of the protein, so it's better nutritionally than regular grain or malted/sprouted barley, but even so it still looks a lot more like grain when you look at the FA profile of the eggs/milk of fed livestock. Supplementing with flax and B6 brings up the Ω3, but then the labor and flax cost you a bundle and getting the mix right is a pain in the ass. Too much flax or too little B6 and production drops for layers and growth rate drops for roasters. Plus, since you need to supplement with whole flax seed and B6 (yeast) if you feed fermented grain, the chicken poo gets really gross too. If you are limited on space and animals, feed the sprouted grains but supplement with 15% by weight whole flax seed + B6. If you want, yeast will provide the B6 that is blocked by the flax, so feeding what would be the equivalent of 'beer trub' or yeast fermented grain would work quite well except for the labor (buying and sprouting and brewing), residual grain leptons/gluten/glidanin in the eggs (may cause autoimmune issues according to those much smarter than myself), and the gross/weird poo thing resulting from supplementing flax to boost the Ω3. We tried it and are back to letting the girls out on pasture when the hawks aren't around and just supplementing with completely sprouted grains, alfalfa flakes and lots of soft greens.
-greg
Chris Kott


Joined: Jan 25, 2012
Posts: 796
Location: Toronto, Ontario
    
    9
So what non-grains, then, should I sow to build good forage conditions on my tiny scrap of urban lot? I figure if I'm growing in propagation flats, I should be able to grow in trays what I'm growing in the ground, insofar as tender green stuff goes. So apart from not-grains, what should I look for? Will something that fixes nitrogen work better? There's so much I need to figure out, even if all my questions were answered, I think I'd still end up doing a fair bit of experimentation. I'd love to happen upon a forage ingredient list that will give them a complete chicken diet so that they get everything they need there outside of whatever they get from picking compost and eating bugs. I might not soup them until they're done laying, but they need proper nutrition to make healthy eggs too.

I was also wondering if anyone knew of chicken breeds that are good for urban settings. Also, while the winters can get very cold here (-20 C used to be the norm most winters, temperatures of -40 C after wind chill pretty usual in the extremes), the summers are damn near tropical owing to the continental climate. I was wondering if there are any breeds that do exceptionally well in such conditions.

Thanks everyone.

-CK
Tyler Ludens
pollinator

Joined: Jun 25, 2010
Posts: 5326
Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
    
  20
I would include parsley and dandelion, both of which contain a lot of nutrients ( people should eat them too!) Collards produce a lot of leaves and contain calcium, protein and vitamins in large amounts in addition to anti-cancer compounds.


Idle dreamer

Chris Kott


Joined: Jan 25, 2012
Posts: 796
Location: Toronto, Ontario
    
    9
That's great stuff, Tyler. We get lots of dandelions. I'm going to harvest the seed from all the ones I can find going to seed before I get my chickens, and I'll grow them for seed on my north-facing lawn to get more seed. I do intend to sow forage crop seed in grazed paddocks, but I want to throw a forage crop seed guild together that will do for a lawn too. I was thinking about letting some go to seed just to save some for off-season sprouting, and perhaps to convince some of my neighbours to let me use their lawns in the same way in exchange for eggs. I have a feeling that if I can work out a simple, robust system, even pursuing that angle for more grazing space would likely result in the lawn owners having chickens of their own in future years.

I have found that plants with broad, thick leaves, like hostas or, in the edible category, collards, tend to do well with temperature extremes, as long as I put them in the areas that get shaded in the heat of the summer sun. Those are all ones I plan to grow this year for me to eat .

We just got two dozen eggs from a farm about 45 mins north of where I work. One of my dad's business associates is part of a buying club that gets eggs from this one farm. They have a mobile paddock going that is set on a moveable track system, and the coop can be slid progressively along one long wall of this paddock, but it's like someone who really likes trains and bicycle mechanics set their traditional coop and run in a cage that moves the whole length of his ranch house. Really cool system. I would love to have enough space to have a setup that big and be able to move the paddock daily and still give grazed-over pasture the full month or more to recover.

Oh, and what is the deal with winter wheat? I assume it dies if you get snow?

-CK
greg patrick


Joined: Mar 17, 2012
Posts: 168
Location: SoCal, USDA Zone 10b
    
    3
Alfalfa, chard and borage are my chick's favorites, with kale and an good herb-lettuce mix as close seconds. They ate all the barley I was going to brew with too. They ate the fenugreek. And the taro. And the lavender. The strawberries. The ginger. The pineapple. The avocado. Fallen oranges. Pickles. We found that by growing greens behind a fence they have to reach through keeps the plants alive and growing. Think cold frame covered in chicken wire with the height depending on what's under it. That way they can only eat what grows right up against the fencing. We hooped over the chard and that was a huge hit. It really cuts down on labor if you aren't continually re-planting.
Greg West


Joined: Mar 22, 2012
Posts: 4
I have been prepping by broad casting amaranth, buck wheat, wheat, pigeon peas and flax seeds in our chick pasture.
I am also experimenting with growing wheat grass in trays on top on our rabbit hutches, I figure after the rabbits graze the grass I can throw the root mat to the chickens.
I have also started a bunch of mangels which i'll feed the beats to the chickens and the greens to the rabbits.

I have worm bins under the hutches to thrive on the rabbit droppings and the worms will go to the chickens.
Patrick Mann


Joined: Dec 06, 2011
Posts: 224
Location: Seattle, WA, USA
Has anybody tried feeding chickens Jerusalem Arthichoke? I have a glut of those.


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David Bates


Joined: Dec 05, 2011
Posts: 79
Location: Mountain Grove, Ontario, Canada
Patrick Mann wrote:Has anybody tried feeding chickens Jerusalem Arthichoke? I have a glut of those.


"Glut of Jerusalem Artichokes" is like "Round Circles"

If Chickens like those and Mangles, I'm set... do they?


much of what my neighbours consider to be good I consider to be bad
Chris Kott


Joined: Jan 25, 2012
Posts: 796
Location: Toronto, Ontario
    
    9
Sorry, what are mangels? And as to Jerusalem Artichokes (same as Sunchokes?), I know I've heard Paul say on his podcast that pigs will root them out themselves, and they seem to like a lot of the same things as chickens, so I'd think at most you might need to dig up the chokes and throw them to the chucks.

-CK
David Bates


Joined: Dec 05, 2011
Posts: 79
Location: Mountain Grove, Ontario, Canada
Chris Kott wrote:Sorry, what are mangels?


Chris,
From the OSC (in Waterloo) seed packet:

Prized for years as a tasty cattle feed. Produces large red roots 4-6" in diameter or larger. We do not recommend them for human consumption. Culture: similar to beets.

From what I have read in other threads on Permies they are massive, earth digging beets. I hope my Pigs like them
Chris Kott


Joined: Jan 25, 2012
Posts: 796
Location: Toronto, Ontario
    
    9
Okay, so when I want pigs to till a field, I sow mangels and maybe sunchokes? I will try some to see how they do.

-CK
Tyler Ludens
pollinator

Joined: Jun 25, 2010
Posts: 5326
Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
    
  20
I've developed a pretty efficient system for raising free-range land crustaceans (woodlice/slaters/sowbugs) for chicken and fish food. I find a damp area of soil - a spot in the veg garden is fine - put a pile of moist organic material such as kitchen scraps on the soil, and cover with a few flat rocks. In a few days I come back and turn over the rocks and find this:



They can be scooped up by the handful.
Chris Kott


Joined: Jan 25, 2012
Posts: 796
Location: Toronto, Ontario
    
    9
That's a good idea, Tyler. I wonder if the same thing would work on a larger scale, or in a few smaller spots spread out over a paddock or sacrifice area. Do you think they're actually breeding there, or are you just gathering all the ones in range to a foodsource (the difference being if they are actually breeding there, this could be carried out indoors during the winter or could be scaled up outside, whereas if they're just coming from not-so-far and not-too-wide, then there would come a point in a small space where the chickens will have eaten every sowbug in sowbug-crawling distance, and it would no longer work)?

Thanks,
-CK
Tyler Ludens
pollinator

Joined: Jun 25, 2010
Posts: 5326
Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
    
  20
They're breeding in the mulch of the garden, but the kitchen scraps seem to attract them to a concentrated area. I don't have chickens foraging in this garden, so they're protected. I don't think it would be as effective in an area where chickens are collecting the critters on their own, this is more for collecting them to feed to chickens in a different area, or to feed to fish.
greg patrick


Joined: Mar 17, 2012
Posts: 168
Location: SoCal, USDA Zone 10b
    
    3
We do something similar. We have empty wire coils in our goat pens. We pile up leaves and such under them, wet the area down good, then flip them over after a few weeks and let the chickens scratch. Same with rocks, paving stones and cinder blocks. Today I'm putting cut sod under the coils.
greg patrick


Joined: Mar 17, 2012
Posts: 168
Location: SoCal, USDA Zone 10b
    
    3
I just read Jo Robbinson's Pasture Perfect and she says feeding up to 30% grain to chickens won't adversely effect their Ω3, so I'm going back to giving my laying hens about a half cup of organic barley each day to supplement their daily foraging expedition. They're laying more consistently, the yolks are still orange, and the hens seem happy. -g
Chris Kott


Joined: Jan 25, 2012
Posts: 796
Location: Toronto, Ontario
    
    9
Whoah! I'm back again. What about nettles? And any opinions on good backyard layers? The best breeds for what I'm working with, I mean, not general opinions on backyard layers. I know what you were all thinking, cheeky buggers.

-CK
Jay Green


Joined: Feb 03, 2012
Posts: 587
    
    8
What are you looking for in a chicken, Chris? Do you want optimal lay for a short amount of time, do you want excellent lay for a longer period of time(years) and a meaty carcass when the retired layer is through, breeds that go broody and reproduce their own kind, feed thrifty, hardy....what are your most desired traits for your poultry needs?
Chris Kott


Joined: Jan 25, 2012
Posts: 796
Location: Toronto, Ontario
    
    9
I hadn't gone into that, thanks Jay. I don't know how I'd prioritize my needs that way. I was looking at chanteclers because of their winter hardiness, but they are big birds. I think optimally I'd be looking for a smaller, food-efficient breed hardy to temperature extremes that forages well, for starters. I'm just looking for layers right now, and little fertilizer machines. As to laying characteristics, I would obviously love it if they could lay year-round. Failing that, I'll take what I can get. Quality and longer lay period would be preferred to overall number of eggs, but I wouldn't mind if I was able to count on like half a dozen eggs a day off of my property. I would be happy with two a day, but then I'd be eating them all myself. Again, I am trying to house chickens on the downlow. No dozen chanteclers here. No roosters, either, although I wouldn't be displeased by some broody dispositions that would let me buy fertilized eggs when we have to take spent layers "to the country" (where we harvest them without worrying about no-kill laws that would certainly exist if it were legal to keep chickens in the first place. Maybe I worry too much?). This trait seems to go hand-in-hand with the maternal drives that lead the broody hen to mother the chicks into learning proper forage skills, along with general chicken-ness.

-CK
Renate Howard
pollinator

Joined: Jan 10, 2013
Posts: 755
Location: zone 6b
    
    9
I think bantams are the way to go for you. They have a higher feed-conversion ratio than the larger birds, laying more egg mass per pound of feed. If you get silkies there's evidently a good market for them in Asian communities where they are a traditional food for pregnant women or those who have just had a baby, so you could possibly sell any roosters live to them if you're squeamish about killing. (Bantams are rarely sold sexed, unlike full-size birds!) The other perk with silkies is you're very unlikely to get complaints from neighbors about you having them - they're quiet and very cute; if that's a potential problem. Our full-sized hens would cackle when they laid an egg, when they wanted to lay an egg but another hen was in their spot, when a big bird flew over, when they were bored... It could be pretty loud if you're nearby, tho nothing like a rooster.

If you mean "garden" like you want to grow vegetables, then you'll need to keep your chickens out of that space or they'll eat/dig up your plants. If you are saying "garden" like the British - meaning yard you will be ok.

For your fodder, be sure to incorporate a little chicken manure into the system - it puts some micro-organisms into what could otherwise be a sterile system, along with fertilizer and trace nutrients. Also look into wicking systems - simple cotton string like cotton yarn from the craft store will wick water at least 7 inches, so if you poke/drill some holes in the bottom of your trays you can put strings at 3-4 inch spacing down to a tray of water below the trays that is easy to keep filled, allowing your trays to always be at the perfect moisture level. On a roof you may need to refill it twice a day on hot days but if it dries that fast any other system would result in just fried plants. You can put manure in the water reservoir and the nutrients will wick up the string with the water - I've done it with fish water back when I was raising and selling tropical fish. The poo in the water resulted in phenomenal growth in the plants and cut way back on disease problems.

For alternative greens, look at the bulk seasonings - you can get mustard, coriander, fennel, anise seeds in bulk amounts for fairly cheap that way. They've grown well for me when I've planted them but you may want to ask how fresh they are or do a small test before investing much money. They are still far more expensive than wheat or barley but you can add some in the mix for variety. Milo and some beans are toxic at some stages of early growth.
Chris Kott


Joined: Jan 25, 2012
Posts: 796
Location: Toronto, Ontario
    
    9
Squeamish...That's cute. I'd probably caponize the inadvertent males. It apparently makes them behave exactly like hens, except no egg-related cackling. Also, it apparently improves the character of the meat, making it less stringy, and increasing size and volume of the wings. I hadn't thought of caponizing roosters before. Thanks, Renate! I thought I had heard somewhere that silkies were noisy, but I suppose I could be mistaken. I like the bantam idea. I've found some called Black Bantams, but am not familiar with them. Most breeds have a runty version they call bantam nowadays, though. Would you suggest something specific?

-CK
Renate Howard
pollinator

Joined: Jan 10, 2013
Posts: 755
Location: zone 6b
    
    9
I think whatever you can find in your area. The silkies around here are selling for $25/pair or trio, so they have a good ability to pay for themselves if you hatch some eggs, but we have some really tiny mixed breed bantams that lay the same size eggs as the larger bantams. The eggs are almost exactly half the size of a large supermarket store egg - we've done volume testing, but you get more yolk (which is where the good stuff is, imho!)

We were able to get an incubator for $35 and have been steadily hatching eggs since then, whatever surplus we have that I don't feed to the pigs. A lot of other people in the area are doing the same thing, then they meet for swaps either in parking lots or online. People who just want to buy are always welcome. Mostly it's advertised on Craigslist. Paying $2 or $3 per chick is way cheeper than buying from a big chick company (they charge $50 shipping and have minimum orders of 25). Also chicks from free range hens, I think, are more likely to be healthy because of the more ideal nutrition they can get and lack of antibiotics, etc. that the large warehouse - type poultry farms must use.

Cochins have always been a favorite of mine but they tend to go broody and quit laying for weeks at a time while trying to hatch eggs. But silkies do the same thing. If you have a source of fertile eggs that can be a good thing. You can get bantam ameraucanas that lay green eggs. The full-sized ones of those have always done the best for us in the past - they seem more alert to predators and lay pretty consistently tho the eggs are smaller than from some other breeds. Our bantam hens laid eggs way before the full-sized ones did after their winter break.

A completely different idea would be to get some coturnix quail for eggs. Snake hobbyists sometimes raise them, they are ideally adapted to small spaces and are very good egg layers. Some people even keep them in fish tanks in their homes (not filled with water, obviously).

Whatever you choose should be something you like to look at - they require care and it's a much more pleasant time if you enjoy the animals.

One plus about raising smaller sized chickens or the quail is they don't disturb the soil as much and are less destructive.
dj niels


Joined: Feb 16, 2013
Posts: 171
Location: CO; semi-arid: 10-12"; 6000 ft
    
    7
I also have been sprouting grain for my chickens, a 4 day sprout, 1 day soak with 3 days sprouting in buckets with holes, about 1/2 cup grain per hen. I have tried growing wheat or barley grass, but without an automatic mister it would either dry out or go moldy on me. So now I just do the shorter sprout, supplemented with whatever other stuff we can give them. They get lots of greens in the warmer months, not so much in the winter.

Where does the info come from that milo is toxic when sprouted? I seem to remember reading it is from sorghum, which is used for molasses?
Andrew Parker


Joined: Feb 13, 2012
Posts: 350
Location: Salt Lake Valley, Utah, hardiness zone 6b/7a
    
    4
We bought six Rhode Island Red pullet chicks in March, 2004 from the local feed store for about $2.50 each. They produced eggs for about 5 years then production fell off considerably and finally disappeared a year later. Two years ago, one was killed by a raccoon and three died of illness. We still have two fat and sassy post-menopausal hens. (Oddly, as they approached menopause, one of the hens took on the social role of the rooster and started growing out her spurs. She never crowed, but she would find some high ground and cackle away. She is the one the raccoon killed.)

I bought them to control weeds in our 1/4 acre backyard. By the second year, all the weeds were gone, except for two varieties that they found unpalatable. Pre-chicken, I had burned out two string-trimmers in a vain attempt at keeping things under control without chemicals.

The downsides: They cackle -- loudly; they are prodigious poopers (not always where it is helpful. I sometimes think they misspelled "fowl"); egghunts (no fun finding a clutch of 20 or more rather questionable eggs in the heat of Summer); no eggs during moulting and mid-winter; moulting in late Fall putting them at risk when the temperature drops; supplemental feed costs; flies (though they do like maggots); rodents (though they will eat them if they can catch them); scratching where you don't want them to; eating things that aren't weeds.

Because they are a heavy breed, they never were a "flight" risk. They could not get over our 6 foot wooden fence. The neighbor had some leghorn hybrids that were all over the neighborhood. They also did well in Winter, only suffering rarely from frostbite in their combs. Their shelter is rudimentary. I made a frame from some pvc pipe and furring. I covered it with chicken wire and heavy duty black plastic. It was fashioned after a Mittlieder greenhouse design that I resized for the width of the chicken wire roll.

We made some adjustments over the years to keep the vermin problems down, mainly by putting the feeder away from their coop, and suspended in the air, out of reach of mice, voles and rats, and we empty the water container each night (no dog food out overnight, either). After almost 8 years, I finally bought a cover for the feeder (the feed store didn't stock covers until this year). No more spoiled pellets after a snow or rain storm and it keeps some of the wild birds from raiding the food -- until they figure it out. I also finally bought a heated water bowl. The feed store had only carried very large bowls, but this year they had some small bowls in stock. Perfect for the dog and the hens.

The dog. I did not want a dog. My wife and kids got a dog. It did not do well with the hens, initially. He liked to pull out their feathers. He almost killed one of them, tearing the skin off one shoulder. I did not have the nerve to kill her, so I set her in a box in the garage and nursed her back to health. She looked pretty ugly until the next moult. After that, I could not distinguish her easily from the others. I educated the dog as to how he should treat the hens and that they came before him in the family hierarchy. He has not bothered them (much) since. He is not a bad dog. I am glad he made the adjustment, as it would have been a hard thing to have gotten rid of him. One nice thing about having chickens and a dog is that the hens make his poop disappear. We don't suffer the same overpowering stench of a Winter's worth of dog poop thawing out. Ah, the smell of springtime in the suburbs.

Six hens in a 20' x 35' suburban backyard would have a significant impact on the ecosystem. Unless you have your neighbors on board, you won't get away with a clandestine flock for too long. Even bantams will give you away. Keeping them in an innocuous, uncooplike shed would probably be the way to go.

There are a few DIY hydroponic forage systems on the internet. Abe Connally would be able to give more insight into that. If you can supply your own seed, all the better. My hens like fresh green cheatgrass. No shortage of seed around here, just pick them out of your socks. My oldest boy would thresh and winnow the cheatgrass he pulled from the front yard and feed the cleaned seeds to the hens.

A family friend helped develop a thriving coturnix quail industry in Ecuador. They are a good option for both eggs and meat, and not much noise. Quail eggs are a treat.

Time to start thinking about replacing my flock -- or not. Eggs aren't too expensive, weed killer is cheaper than feed, my kids are all grown now and the neighborhood is changing. Still, it is tempting, very tempting.
Julia Winter
volunteer

Joined: Aug 31, 2012
Posts: 943
Location: Moved from south central WI to Portland, OR
    
  77
I recently heard an interview with a farmer that sells gourmet eggs at the Santa Monica Farmer's Market. He is feeding them greens and black soldier fly larvae: no grain.

Black soldier flies are amazing converters of waste food (and worse!) into useful protein. They won't make it through a Toronto winter without help, but it could be that people have figured out how to get around that. We are likely going to move to Portland, will likely have a tiny yard, and I am totally planning to get a "BioPod" BSF bin.


Ask me about food.
Claire Gardner


Joined: Feb 13, 2011
Posts: 48
Location: Idaho
Here's how I do it:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YlNU7NKiwF0

I also feed a non-GMO chicken mash free choice, but they don't eat much of it in the spring, summer and fall.


LEAD only by example, FOLLOW only when lost, fOR you only "GET OUT OF THE WAY" once per lifetime.
- me
Julia Winter
volunteer

Joined: Aug 31, 2012
Posts: 943
Location: Moved from south central WI to Portland, OR
    
  77
Claire, that's really cool! (The YouTube video shows her twice daily routine for feeding her chickens and calves sprouted grain, grown in trays.) I live near Madison WI and the local food coop has special trash cans out back where they put "compostables." I grab big bags of produce off-cuts for my chickens and pet rabbit. I also grab their wheatgrass flats, which have been harvested (with scissors) for wheatgrass juice. I've found that if I sit them in the sun they will regrow, and then I give them to the bunny and/or hens. I never thought about cutting the turf into chunks--I wonder if that would encourage the bunny to eat the roots? She's given a whole flat at a time, so she mostly nibbles the green tops off.
 
I agree. Here's the link: http://richsoil.com/email
 
subject: Supplementing chicken forage with sprouts in conditions of limited space
 
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