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Meat poultry forage

 
gardener
Posts: 410
Location: Monticello Florida zone 8a
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Hey permies, I have 75 meat chicks coming soon and I'm trying to raise them as much as possible forage. What plants/techniques have worked well? Thanks, Huxley.
 
pollinator
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Location: Kitsap Penninsula, WA
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Hi there!
We have raised meat birds in tractors in our pasture and have used a variety of forage. Our pasture is pretty diverse - lot's of oat grass, dandelion, chickweed, shot weed, all the grasses (except bermuda [knock wood]), and stands of herbs such as borage, chamomile, comfrey, etc. I only do meat birds after May because then I have so many weeds, bugs and worms to supplement their diet from the worm bins and annual veggie garden. We do a run in May and again in August and harvest at 8 weeks. Cornish Cross. Although this year we aren't doing meat birds as we focus on installing our last food forest area and growing our latest batch of layer hens that we hatched out in March.
So one of the things that I have done is sow red russian kale just about everywhere and let it go to seed. Stands of it have taken over in most of our corners of the property and I have beds of kale that reseed every year. I have found that the meat birds will tear through the kale in all of it's forms. Although I protect certain stands of it (such as the ones that ring our orchard) others' I will just let the meats run right over, knowing that nothing really kills Kale. I'm either selectively harvesting and dumping in their tractor or dragging the tractor right over the kale beds. Another trick I learned to cut our feed bill was to leave fallow a section of our property that has really sandy soil and has spawned quite a crazy metropolis of ants. I drag the tractor over there as they get bigger and let the meats dig up all the ants they can handle. I still have to supplement with feed but the amount goes ways down, so that is good.
If we had a stationary system in place, I would do more of what this dude does
with the whole chicken composting system. But that's a project for another month. Or year. Or whatever....
The next thing I want to try is a stand of Moringa (I think it would grow as an annual here, but in your neck of the woods it would make a good perennial? I think?) And see if they like the high nutrient density of Moringa. I have much to learn about that stuff, so I've been putting off trying it until the other projects are done.
Good Luck! Have Fun!
 
Huxley Harter
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Thanks Lindsey Jane, I forget about reseeding species. Will definitely try that.
 
pollinator
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Location: Northern Puget Sound, Zone 8A
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I haven't done it yet (only on second year of meat chickens) but I want to experiment with planting a portion of the property with a seed mix like this one.  However, to do that, I really need to get the portion of the property where I'd like to have a more or less dedicated meat chicken area cleared of brush and put in a permanent fence with movable interior partitions for pasture rotations.  
 
Huxley Harter
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Andrew Mayflower wrote:I haven't done it yet (only on second year of meat chickens) but I want to experiment with planting a portion of the property with a seed mix like this one.  However, to do that, I really need to get the portion of the property where I'd like to have a more or less dedicated meat chicken area cleared of brush and put in a permanent fence with movable interior partitions for pasture rotations.  

I found that one and was really interested but shipping was crazy and the website kept malfunctioning so I couldn't order even if I wanted to 😞. It looks like a great mix, though.
 
Andrew Mayflower
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Huxley Harter wrote:

Andrew Mayflower wrote:I haven't done it yet (only on second year of meat chickens) but I want to experiment with planting a portion of the property with a seed mix like this one.  However, to do that, I really need to get the portion of the property where I'd like to have a more or less dedicated meat chicken area cleared of brush and put in a permanent fence with movable interior partitions for pasture rotations.  

I found that one and was really interested but shipping was crazy and the website kept malfunctioning so I couldn't order even if I wanted to 😞. It looks like a great mix, though.



Shipping is not cheap on that website!  I think for 25lbs (enough for a 1/2 acre) the total came to something like $83.  And a lot of it are annuals, though I'd assume that if, when the chickens were done, you let it grow out and go to seed it would probably re-seed itself.  Though your mix of forages would eventually converge on the 2 most prolific varieties with everything else crowded out.  You'd likely wind up with just two grasses and lose the pea, turnip and rapeseed.

I might try to replicate that blend with locally sourced seeds, if I can do so more cost effectively.  The challenge there will be getting each component without having to buy absurd (for my needs) quantities of each.
 
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