At one point and time there was a common idiom, “will work for chicken feed,” which basically means a person would work for little to no compensation. Anyone who owns chickens knows that the idiom doesn’t really apply to raising a flock. Sure, they do a lot of work, such as lay eggs and turn our compost, but they still need to be fed and chicken food ain’t cheap! That’s where DIY chicken feed comes in. Yes, you can grow your own chicken feed. Keep reading to find out how to grow your own natural, homegrown chicken feed.
Why Grow Natural Chicken Feed?
Many people who raise chickens allow the chickens to roam free range. That’s great if you have sufficient land, but even so, during the winter months the chickens still need to be fed. This can get pricey, especially if using organic food.
Then there are the burgeoning legions of city folks who are trying their hand at raising their own poultry. These folks can let their chickens run amok, but most people don’t. Why? Well, because even though the free-range poultry can keep the weeds and pests down, they will also eat everything out of the veggie garden and pretty much destroy turf. Bye-bye nice yard.
So while allowing the chickens free range to munch at will is ideal, it isn’t always practical. That’s why you need to grow your own natural, homegrown chicken feed.
How to Grow Chicken Feed Yourself
If you do have a veggie garden, grow a little extra for the flock. They love leafy greens like:
While you’re growing extra greens for the flock, grow some pumpkins or winter squash for them as well. These will provide nourishment through the winter months when other natural food is scarce.
Also, grow amaranth, sunflowers, orach, and corn for your feathered friends. Once the seedheads are dry, you will have nutritious seeds from these crops that can easily be threshed by hand and stored in airtight containers for the winter.
Once the garden is ready to put to bed, it’s time to plant a cover crop such as rye grass, alfalfa, or mustard. This will become a double benefit. It will improve the garden soil for next year but with no extra work from you! Allow the chickens to process the cover crop for you. They will get unending delicacies as they work the ground, all while they till the soil, add manure, and eat up pests and weed seeds. When planting time comes, just rake the area smooth, add a layer of compost, and you’re ready to plant.
Lastly, during winter months, or anytime really, you can start batches of sprouts for your flock. They will love the fresh greens. Sprouting unlocks the protein and nutrients in dry grains and seeds and makes them more digestible for chickens. Plus, it’s pretty cheap. One tablespoon of some crops makes a quart or more of sprouts.
Some sprouted foods to try are:
Just soak the seed in a bowl and then spread it out onto a tray or a container with drainage holes. Rinse them daily until the sprout are 4 inches (10 cm.) tall, then feed them to the chickens. Alfalfa, red clover, and mung beans can also be used as sprouts but these should be sprouted in a quart jar with a sprouting lid.