Along with black
soldier fly larvae
our own grains,
duckweed is at the top of our list for this year's chicken feed
experiments. This little plant was a ubiquitous part of my
childhood since it grew wild in the ponds I played in. I
transplanted some into my own backyard water garden by the simple
method of scooping a few leaves up into a quart jar and emptying them
into their new home. Given full sunlight and still water,
duckweed will grow like crazy until it coats the surface of a pond and
has to be scooped out to make room for other plants. Suffice it
to say that duckweed is easy to grow and doesn't need much
infrastructure after the original pond-building.
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What I wasn't aware of
at the time is that duckweed is extraordinarily high in protein.
You'll remember from my
chart of protein content in chicken feed ingredients that corn is 9% protein and
dry-roasted soybeans are 37% protein. Well, depending on who you
talk to (and presumably depending on the species of duckweed, since
there are several), duckweed is 30 to 50% protein. Wow!
I've read that duckweed can make up to 40% of a chicken's diet, with
25% being more optimal --- that means we'll be paying 25 to 40% less
for chicken feed once we get our duckweed operation up and running.
One study suggests
that duckweed may be best fed dried and I can envision drying
stations where I just scoop duckweed out of the pond and toss it on a
table in our hot summer sun.
Duckweed likes high
fertility water, but that's pretty easy to achieve. Some folks
take the graywater coming out of their kitchen sinks and channel it
into duckweed gardens --- the duckweed cleans the water while producing
free chicken feed. In my backyard water garden, I just threw
several goldfish in the pond and the fish poop was sufficient to keep
the duckweed growing like crazy. If you are able to get your fish
to reproduce (which mine did after a year or two), then you could even
give your chickens a fish now and then as an even higher boost of
Speaking of water and
chickens, don't forget that your hens need clean water. Our automatic chicken waterers are full of clean water to
keep your chickens healthy.