Appropedia.org*
Permies likes chickens and the farmer likes best perennial chicken feed permies
  Search | Permaculture Wiki | Recent Topics | Flagged Topics | Hot Topics | Zero Replies | World Domination!
Register / Login


permies » forums » critters » chickens
Bookmark "best perennial chicken feed" Watch "best perennial chicken feed" New topic
Author

best perennial chicken feed

paul wheaton
steward

Joined: Apr 01, 2005
Posts: 15227
Location: missoula, montana (zone 4)
    ∞
If I'm about to plant two acres of chicken pasture with perennials, I'm trying to think what might be the biggest feeder. 

Black Locust is one of the premier permaculture plants - but ... can chickens actually eat the seeds?  Aren't they too hard?

Mulberry seems like a good source for sugar - especially the varieties with three months of fruit.  My guess is that mulberry is going to be the winner of this contest.  I doubt any other fruit tree can beat the mulberry for quantity - let alone spreading it out over a long period of time.

Siberian pea shrub - can chickens break the seeds?  Also, it doesn't seem like there is a lot of food for the size of the bush.

Alfalfa?  Good tap root, n-fixing ... but do chickens eat the leaves or what?

seaberry - the fruit is mighty tart - do chickens actually eat it?



sign up for my daily-ish email / rocket mass heater 4-DVD set / permaculture playing cards
Susan Monroe


Joined: Sep 30, 2008
Posts: 1093
Location: Western WA
Beginning with your question on seed size, I think if a chicken is willing and able to swallow it, it should be broken down all right in the crop.  Chickens are said have a more efficient digestive system than your average songbird.  No matter what they seem to eat, it never seems to be passed whole in their poops, as far as I can tell.  I fed them a handful of wild blackberries, and too late I thought "OOPS!  Now I'll have blackberry seedlings all over."  But when I scooped up some poops with a popsicle stick and smeared  them on a flat surface, I couldn't find any individual seeds at all.

But there's another facet to feeding black locust, apparently, as the Govt of Canada says the leaves, bark and seeds are poisonous:

http://www.scib.gc.ca/pls/pp/ppack.info?p_psn=35&p_type=all&p_sci=sci&p_x=px

"Black locust (Robinia pseudoacacia) ... The seeds, bark, and leaves contain toxic proteins that have caused sickness and death in cattle, horses, poultry, sheep, and humans. The plant should be considered toxic to all animals if ingested."

(several other sites also indicate the tree is poisonous.}

However, the Forest Research Institute in Budapest  indicates just the opposite at http://www.fao.org/docrep/n7750e/n7750e04.htm

"In the Republic of Korea black locust leaves are used for forage. Pulverized leaves, at a 30 percent ratio, are mixed into rice bran as forage for pigs. In chicken feed, they can replace alfalfa. For this purpose a tetraploid black locust, the clone Robinia pseudoacacia 'Gigas', is used, having leaves three times bigger and with 1.4 times more protein content than normal diploid black locusts."

Then, if you want to be even more confused, see this info at Plants for a Future: http://www.pfaf.org/database/plants.php?Robinia+pseudoacacia

So......   Is toxicity determined by amount of ingestion?

It's a puzzlement.

Sue
paul wheaton
steward

Joined: Apr 01, 2005
Posts: 15227
Location: missoula, montana (zone 4)
    ∞
Chickens will put rocks in their craw to break up seeds.  I wonder if they would put black locust seeds in their craw to break up the lessor seeds.  In other words - they don't see the black locust seeds as food, but more like rocks. 

I think blackberry seeds would be way easier for any animal to break up and digest than black locust seeds.

As for the toxicity of black locust.  This is an odd space.  If I remember correctly, the primary toxin is tannins.  And a lot of animals can cope pretty good with the tannin level in black locust.  Goats more than most other species.  Apparently goats some sort of tannin negating enzyme or something. 

I think that in another thread in these forums there is a lot more info.

But when it comes to chickens, I suspect that none of it matters until the fall when the locust drops its leaves and pods. 



                              


Joined: Nov 01, 2008
Posts: 12
Paul,
Please join the chicken forage discussion on the critter care discussion!  I agree with you, you have to take some information with grain of salt.  I just ordered three mulberry trees cause I think you are correct!
paul wheaton
steward

Joined: Apr 01, 2005
Posts: 15227
Location: missoula, montana (zone 4)
    ∞
It was reading that that made me think to ask a slightly different question. 

When buying mulberries, it could pay to shop around a bit - it seems that some are bigger producers than others.

Susan Monroe


Joined: Sep 30, 2008
Posts: 1093
Location: Western WA
Burnt Ridge Nursery alone has 15 varieties!  Look at the photo of the last one on his list, 4.5" long fruit!  http://burntridgenursery.com/fruitingPlants/index_product.asp?dept=20&parent=7

You could always get the larger, sweetest ones for yourself, and get the ones with small fruits for the chickies so they don't choke on the big ones. 

Sue
Leah Sattler


Joined: Jun 26, 2008
Posts: 2603
this site has some great ideas.
http://www.greenharvest.com.au/seeds/info_sheet/poultry_forage.html

[img]http://i109.photobucket.com/albums/n52/havlik1/permie%20pics2/permiepotrait3pdd.jpg[/img]

"One cannot help an involuntary process. The point is not to disturb it. - Dr. Michel Odent
Steve Nicolini


Joined: Nov 15, 2008
Posts: 224
I wonder if the chickens will eat anything that is already in the pasture, like the dock or some of the grasses.
Leah Sattler


Joined: Jun 26, 2008
Posts: 2603
sure they will! I observe them picking the seed heads off of whatever happens to be growing in the pasture.
Susan Monroe


Joined: Sep 30, 2008
Posts: 1093
Location: Western WA
For grass seeds, the seedheads tend to be over the chickens' heads, so you either have to mow them or knock them down (the grass heads, not the chickens) so they can get to them.

Sue
paul wheaton
steward

Joined: Apr 01, 2005
Posts: 15227
Location: missoula, montana (zone 4)
    ∞
Hmmmm ....  I wanna think that the chickens should figure out what is at the seed head and somehow knock it over.

Any experience with this?

Susan Monroe


Joined: Sep 30, 2008
Posts: 1093
Location: Western WA
The funny thing with my girls is that they will walk under grass seed heads and ignore them, yet will jump/fly/hop up to grab the fruit off berry bushes (blueberries, raspberries).

Yet, I can pull up errant stalks of wheat and barley and toss them into their pen and they know exactly what they're for.  I would set some aside to toss into their covered pen on rainy days, to entertain them.

Maybe I need to point out the standing stalks to them?  Or, in nature, maybe the standing stalks don't fall over until later in the season when there is the greater need?  Could this be part of Ma Nature's Big Plan?

Sue
Leah Sattler


Joined: Jun 26, 2008
Posts: 2603
those seed heads don't stay up high forever! rotating those chickens through an intensively grazed pasture would allow them to take advantage of the knocked over/trampled grass and scratch throught the manure. just a thought. as for ma nature.

I think it is faulty to believe that it is all designed to work together. some stuff makes it and some stuff doesn't. "ma nature" doesn't give a whip who dies and who lives species wise.  the earth exists and whoever adapts to the conditions wins the ability to reproduce and give another generation a chance to do the same. sorry that is a pet peeve of mine. gardeners who seem to think that there is some external force that wants their squash to grow and if only they can "balance nature" to please it then they those nasty weeds or bugs will leave it alone. As if "nature" cares whether that squash grows and/or we get to eat it.

paul wheaton
steward

Joined: Apr 01, 2005
Posts: 15227
Location: missoula, montana (zone 4)
    ∞
I think it could be worthwhile to teach them about the grain.  I suppose that they, in turn, would teach future chickens.  I suspect that a lot of chickens teaching chicks is lost with the incubator.

Susan Monroe


Joined: Sep 30, 2008
Posts: 1093
Location: Western WA
"I suspect that a lot of chickens teaching chicks is lost with the incubator."

Now, that wouldn't surprise me a bit. 

I saw on a National Geographic special about cats that kittens taken from their mothers before they're 12 wks old tend to be poor hunters.  MomCat makes a point of bringing dead mice to eat, then live mice to play with, then shows them how to kill them, then she takes them out and shows them how it's done, and helps them do it themselves. Pity the poor kit who is given away at 6 wks and the new owner wants a mouser.

Some chicken varieties are better free range birds than other kinds.  I guess the showy type of birds have lost much of their instinct.  But the 'instinct' may just be another way of saying that they never had the chance to learn how to act like a real chicken.

Leah, I don't know that there is really a 'plan', per se, as much as how certain things tend to work out.  The chickens use the insect explosions in summer as a source of protein, augmented by berries, and then the standing grains they ignored or didn't notice are knocked down by wildlife, people or wind in fall, and there is a new source of food to go along with the fall berries and dwindling insects.

Some of the berry seeds are pooped out, moisturized, softened, scarified, and deposited with a small blob of fertilizer, probably close to the right time for germination.  The grains may sprout in fall (like winter wheat), get mowed down by livestock or the same chickens in fall, they stool and come up in spring as multiple stalks.  Some of the other grains probably lie dormant until moisture and warmer weather, then they pop up.

I think it's a matter of synergy in action.  It keeps going because it works.  If it didn't work, it would die out.

Sorry to offend you, but for the last fifteen years, I have been  working with the kind of people for whom I've had to dumb down my language to make myself understood.  'Accoutrements', 'expedient', 'facade', 'permaculture'.... beyond their comprehension.

Sometimes, I don't change mental gears fast enough.

Sue
Leah Sattler


Joined: Jun 26, 2008
Posts: 2603
oh gosh i'm not offended. I jsut go on an automatic (and often people view....condescending) rant where I point out that the whole premise of their proposed idea is based on the idea that some "force" happens to want the same thing they do., is likely faulty and certainly not something to base practices or theories on. I find the proposal to be a very egotistical view that the human species seems to, overall, embrace. 

you don't have to worry about offending me  I do get passionate about my arguments sometimes and am rarely shy about giving my opinion! I am sometimes amused or flabbergasted, frustrated or feel pity at someone (as I'm sure they do me and my quirky thoughts)but never offended. I can't think of one time I have ever been "offended". in fact I think that being offended is rather silly.  I must admit that when I "offend" someone it often makes me giggle. not the reaction they expect. It might be a pathological reaction 
Susan Monroe


Joined: Sep 30, 2008
Posts: 1093
Location: Western WA
Oh, good!

"...am rarely shy about giving my opinion!"

Does that happen to remind you of anyone? 

Sue
Steve Nicolini


Joined: Nov 15, 2008
Posts: 224
It is silly to be offended.  Why take anything personally?  Better to ground the charge.  I'm not sure how giggling grounds it with some folks.  You might just become their charger!  This would be good to put in the intentional community section. 

I wonder if there is such thing as a "best" chicken feed?  There might be a best relative to location and breed, but I don't think it is universal. 

Remember this is coming from a guy who has never raised chickens.
Susan Monroe


Joined: Sep 30, 2008
Posts: 1093
Location: Western WA
I think "best" is certainly relative.

Best can mean closest, best nutrition for what is available nearby, best type of planting seed at the local feed store, best for what kind grows where you are.

Alfalfa, for example, is probably a pretty good perennial chicken feed, but you don't see much of it around western WA, do you?  That's because it grows best in more alkaline soil.  But if you neutralized your soil, it may grow perfectly fine.

Sue
Leah Sattler


Joined: Jun 26, 2008
Posts: 2603
I agree with sue. "Best" is relative to the situation, though some people would prefer it be black and white. Its not best if you can't afford to feed it or it takes all your space to grow it. best for a broiler that will be in the pot in a few months isn't neccessarily best for the layer you want to keep around for years. 
paul wheaton
steward

Joined: Apr 01, 2005
Posts: 15227
Location: missoula, montana (zone 4)
    ∞
I'm thinking that some plants will provide 20 times more per acre than other plants.  Granted, diversity is best.  I'm just thinking that there might be a top 5 that really crank out the chicken feed. 
Susan Monroe


Joined: Sep 30, 2008
Posts: 1093
Location: Western WA
Paul, are you thinking of self-feeding crops or crops that will be harvested by you for winter feeding, or some of both?  Another consideration would be processing. 

Maybe wheat, grain and/or sweet sorghum, barley, millet, alfalfa, clover, buckwheat.  Corn is a really heavy feeder, and needs to be broken for chickens, oats are difficult to thresh and chickens aren't all that fond of them (nor rye).

And you would have to discover which of those would grow best where you are.  Of course, with a mix, if one or two failed, you would have the others to fall back on, and the perennials are always good.

Sue

Leah Sattler


Joined: Jun 26, 2008
Posts: 2603
You could always raise turkeys too. They eat acorns and other nuts which are an excellent fend for yourself feed. I don't think chickens could choke down acorns though.
paul wheaton
steward

Joined: Apr 01, 2005
Posts: 15227
Location: missoula, montana (zone 4)
    ∞
Sue,

Processing?  I'm not sure what you're referring to here.

I am looking for something that the chickens can harvest themselves.  I hope to plant lots and lots of stuff that the chickens will harvest themselves.  In theory, I hope to cut my chicken feed bill by 80% or more.

So far, at the top of my list is mulberry trees.  They are perennial and they are heavy producers of feed all summer.  And, they actually contain protein!  They sound rather dreamy for chicken feed!

Alfalfa is probably out for me because it is so damn picky about pH.  And this might be worth a whole new thread:  maybe there is an alfalfa that has been bred that likes acid soil?

The grains you list are all annuals, aren't they?  So the chickens would have to miss a few if they are gonna reseed?

I guess for annuals I'm kinda leaving them out for now.  I figure if I screw it up, I can always try something else the following year.  It's the perennials that are tricky.  Surely there are some fantastic perennials for chicken feed that are as good as mulberry

I think clover could be a good one.  As would good ole grass.  The whole greens thing.  I suppose a cover blossoms would make some decent food for chickens?

Leah,

Acorns ....  hmmm ...  I wonder if there might be an animal that could come through and pre-process the acorns for the chickens.    Like a cow.


Susan Monroe


Joined: Sep 30, 2008
Posts: 1093
Location: Western WA
OOPS!  I totally overlooked that word 'perennial'.  Sorry!

Is the entire two acres going to be wide open for a large flock of chickens, or are you going to divide it and 'herd' them from one area to another?

They love blueberries, and even the heavier breeds will hop/flutter to pick them.  Shorter varieties would probably be best.

But chickens are basically seed-eaters.  Peters Seed & Research does have perennial wheat, rye, sorghum and triticale. http://www.psrseed.com/permaculture.html

If your pasture isn't heavily stocked with poultry, I would imagine that some annuals would be overlooked by the birds and would reseed.

Tagasaste might be good, too, if you could find seed.

What is the plan for winter? 

Sue
Susan Monroe


Joined: Sep 30, 2008
Posts: 1093
Location: Western WA
p.s.

I looked around for an alfalfa variety that would tolerate lower pH, and couldn't find any.  But plant breeders have been trying, with very limited results:

"Our results indicate that alfalfa cultivars exhibit a narrower range of acid tolerance than is known to exist in several other crop species, but that individual clones differ in their reaction to both low and high soil pH. We concluded that sufficient genetic variation exists to permit selection for tolerance to low pH, but the narrow genetic base might limit progress."
(from The Agronomy Journal, http://agron.scijournals.org/cgi/content/abstract/67/3/331

Sue
Leah Sattler


Joined: Jun 26, 2008
Posts: 2603
I think that all the animals that will eat acorns pretty much eat the whole thing I can't think of critters that could make them available to the chickens. horses would stomp the bejeezers out of them and most don't really like acorns but most of the acorns would probably just be pushed into the ground not broken.  could you plant nut trees along the center of a hard driveway?as you drive in and out you would crush them. your going to be driving in and out some anyway right? that would be an incredible source of protein to the chickens, far surpassing anything else I can think of although they would be quite seasonal. 
                                      


Joined: Nov 10, 2008
Posts: 92
paul wheaton wrote:


So far, at the top of my list is mulberry trees.  They are perennial and they are heavy producers of feed all summer.  And, they actually contain protein!  They sound rather dreamy for chicken feed!

We've got mulberry trees everywhere around here, and they sure do produce.You mentione dblack locust, and they do well fixing nitrogen, just be careful where you plant as they are very fast growers given the right conditions.

Alfalfa is probably out for me because it is so damn picky about pH.  And this might be worth a whole new thread:  maybe there is an alfalfa that has been bred that likes acid soil?

I was going to mention the headaches with alfalfa, but it seems you've got it.

The grains you list are all annuals, aren't they?  So the chickens would have to miss a few if they are gonna reseed?

I guess for annuals I'm kinda leaving them out for now.  I figure if I screw it up, I can always try something else the following year.  It's the perennials that are tricky.  Surely there are some fantastic perennials for chicken feed that are as good as mulberry

I think clover could be a good one.  As would good ole grass.  The whole greens thing.  I suppose a cover blossoms would make some decent food for chickens?

I would think some timothy would fit in well too.


Leah,

Acorns ....  hmmm ...  I wonder if there might be an animal that could come through and pre-process the acorns for the chickens.    Like a cow.

The deer may very well do that for you.





Laughter is the best medicine.
http://www.lawntimes.com
paul wheaton
steward

Joined: Apr 01, 2005
Posts: 15227
Location: missoula, montana (zone 4)
    ∞
Sue,

The acreage will be divided into paddocks and the chickens will be moved around.

Nice link!

Winter will be for fewer chickens, more feed, and still moving through the paddocks.  Supplement with live insects raised separately.

Susan Monroe


Joined: Sep 30, 2008
Posts: 1093
Location: Western WA
It you're going to rotate them through pastures Mollison-style, maybe tossing out seedballs of certain mixes into different pastures would be effective.  Winter wheat can be planted in fall, allowed to grow some, then it will go dormant and pop back up with new growth in spring.  Harvest is in summer.  Just drag a fence post or shortened branch behind a tractor or riding lawnmower (cutting blade turned off) to knock them down for the chickens to harvest themselves.  For them, it's entertainment and food.

Sue
Leah Sattler


Joined: Jun 26, 2008
Posts: 2603
what kind of soil is this? it occured to me that nutsedge is an important wild food (when thinking about turkeys) I dont' see why chickens couldn't scratch up the tubers also. and that stuff is indestructable in the right conditions and edible for us too........
paul wheaton
steward

Joined: Apr 01, 2005
Posts: 15227
Location: missoula, montana (zone 4)
    ∞
Leah Sattler wrote:
what kind of soil is this? it occured to me that nutsedge is an important wild food (when thinking about turkeys) I dont' see why chickens couldn't scratch up the tubers also. and that stuff is indestructable in the right conditions and edible for us too........


Firing up google and wikipedia! 

'It has been called "the world's worst weed"' - good!  That means that it is a vibrant plant!

"it is allelopathic, the roots releasing substances harmful to other plants." - and that makes it not a good guild plant.  Damn.


Leah Sattler


Joined: Jun 26, 2008
Posts: 2603
shucks. it seems to really like wet areas (just my experience I don't know about officially) and is outcompeted in drier conditions by other plants. maybe you could just put it in any soggy areas. if memory serves there is at least one cultivated variety. maybe it would be more controllable.
Susan Monroe


Joined: Sep 30, 2008
Posts: 1093
Location: Western WA
Before you attempt to deliberately sow nutsedge, you may want to read this article at Dave's Garden:  http://davesgarden.com/guides/pf/go/31765/

The little nutty tubers are called 'chufas', but it doesn't say how deep they grow.  Would they be within reach of chickens?

Sue
Leah Sattler


Joined: Jun 26, 2008
Posts: 2603
people plant them as food plots for wild turkeys and the ones I pulled up have tubers very near the surface. I'm sure the chickens could get them but whether or not they would is a different story. if you could get one to figure it out they others prob would. the roosters and the hens with chicks make it a point to call when they find yummys.

paul- have you thought about what breed you will be raising? some are supposedly known better for their foraging abilitys and some are known for being roost potatoes. even though was disapointed in my last chick order I was thinking of trying some anconas next. I'm thinking since they supposedly are good foragers they may fare better with my managment.
Susan Monroe


Joined: Sep 30, 2008
Posts: 1093
Location: Western WA
"... roost potatoes..."

   

Sue
Leah Sattler


Joined: Jun 26, 2008
Posts: 2603
I have noticed once again with my feedstore variety chicks that some breeds have distinctlydifferent characteristics. I have some that still have never left their little pen and seem quite content to scratch and peck in confinement. I have also lost two this week that had been continually flying out and eventually made it to the suicide pit of the backyard to become dogfood. I have had several that were flyers and wanderers though that seem to have pretty good instincts about where to go and not and have been around for years. they are aslo the wildest bunch that won't get near me. the downside of them is that I'm never quite sure where I will find eggs.
Susan Monroe


Joined: Sep 30, 2008
Posts: 1093
Location: Western WA
The only breed I've ever had are Buff Orpingtons.  I asked on the Backyard Chicken forum what would fit my criteria best:
*Large breed (don't fly over fences into killer dog yards)
*Good foragers
*Not fly-in-your-face flighty things
*Brown eggs

Mine range all over my acre, are good-natured for handling, and I trained them from youngsters to come when I called or rattled some scratch in a can.  It's sure easier to lead them than to catch them!

Sue
paul wheaton
steward

Joined: Apr 01, 2005
Posts: 15227
Location: missoula, montana (zone 4)
    ∞
I definitely plan on raising a bunch as meat birds and another bunch as egg birds. 

For meat, nothing comes close to cornish/rock cross.  I just have to find a way to teach them to forage better.

As for egg layers, I plan on getting six different egg laying breeds, having them intermix a lot, and then trying to come up with my own strain that has a good feed-to-egg ratio in a forage situation.

But, both of these topics are best for another thread.

Joel Hollingsworth
volunteer

Joined: Jul 01, 2009
Posts: 2103
Location: Oakland, CA
This won't apply to me personally for a while, but...

Does anyone here know if chickens like to eat alder catkins?

I have also read that they love to eat olives.


"the qualities of these bacteria, like the heat of the sun, electricity, or the qualities of metals, are part of the storehouse of knowledge of all men.  They are manifestations of the laws of nature, free to all men and reserved exclusively to none." SCOTUS, Funk Bros. Seed Co. v. Kale Inoculant Co.
 
 
subject: best perennial chicken feed
 
cast iron skillet 49er

more from paul wheaton's glorious empire of web junk: cast iron skillet diatomaceous earth sepp holzer raised garden beds raising chickens lawn care flea control missoula electric heaters permaculture videos permaculture books