Avian Aqua Miser: Automatic, poop-free chicken waterers

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Sunflowers for chickens

Ripening sunflowerWe're growing a little patch of sunflowers this year so that we can experiment with pressing our own oil, and one of our readers mentioned that she likes to tie the sunflower heads in the coop for winter entertainment:

In the fall, we cut them and hang them to dry, and then, through the winter, when the chickens don't have much else to do, and they might be prone to start pecking each other from boredom, I hang them just up above head height, so they have to stretch to peck them, and they swing a bit. The seeds fall out and they all run them down, and then start again with another peck. Gives them something to do.

After reading Bethany's comment, I looked up the protein content of sunflower seeds --- 26.3%!  That's three times as much protein by weight as you'd find in corn and more than two thirds as much as you get from soybeans.  Clearly I've been thinking too much inside the box when it comes to growing our own chicken feed.  Perhaps sunflowers are the way to go?  They are certainly easy to raise, and our honeybees love them.

Our homemade chicken waterer never spills or fills with poop.

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Can you press the oil out and then use the 'waste' as chicken feed? I wonder if you could dry it and crumble it up, so it can be stored?
Comment by Darren (Green Change) early Sunday morning, August 1st, 2010

You can definitely feed the pulp left behind after pressing sunflowers to chickens --- I think that's actually an accepted agricultural tradition. But I don't think you can store it. I'm also not quite sure what the nutritional value of the final pulp is --- if it's just the full seed value minus the oil, that could be even better than feeding the chickens pure seeds!

If we can figure out how to press the seeds, we'll definitely keep you posted. We saw a little hand-cranked oil press this weekend, but I wasn't impressed --- it seemed like it might take me two weeks to press our sunflowers. :-)

Comment by anna Monday afternoon, August 2nd, 2010
I used to have my feed custom mixed for my flock of 100 layers. They were free ranging in an eggmobile. I wanted desperately to avoid using GMO soy (that was the only soy available), so I got my local mill to mix in a lot of sunflower seeds for protein, along with alfalfa meal and fish meal. First time around, I had sunflower seeds as 20% of the ration (the folks at the mill thought I was crazy, of course) and the the birds left tons of uncracked seeds behind in their feeders. Way too much. From my experience, I now believe that somewhere in the neighborhood of 10-12% is the sweet spot for BOSS in a chicken ration. Hope this is useful.
Comment by Kevin Thompson late Thursday night, May 3rd, 2013
Kevin --- That's extremely useful! Thanks for reporting in with your feed experiment results. I wonder what mixture you eventually settled on for your non-soy feed?
Comment by anna at lunch time on Monday, May 6th, 2013

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