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Trash as chicken feed

Vermont compost company raises chickens on food scraps

The most intriguing chicken-raising operation I've ever read about entails running chickens free range through a compost facility.  Vermont Compost Company raises 1,200 laying hens, feeding them no feed other than the food scraps and the insects that naturally grow in their mounds of compost.  The roving poultry spend their days turning the compost and laying eggs --- isn't that the perfect chicken life?

Although we probably don't want to move to an industrial-scale compost facility, many urban chicken-keepers use this idea on a much smaller scale to supplement their chicken feed.  Some restaurants or grocery stores are willing to keep a bin of discarded food as long as you promise to pick it up every day or two, and the scraps are often enough to provide all the feed your chickens need.  We live too far from anywhere to put this idea into practice, but I'd love to hear from anyone who has turned trash into chicken feed.

This post is the last in our current series on homemade chicken feed.  I hope that you've enjoyed seeing the cornucopia of options, and I'll be sure to keep you updated as our experiments progress over the year.  Meanwhile, check out our homemade chicken waterer, great for use in any chicken coop or tractor.

This post is part of our Homemade Chicken Feed series.  Read all of the entries:

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We have to keep our chickens penned much of the time due to predators and unfenced vegetable gardens. We let them out when we're in the garden, but not when we're at work during the week.

We've essentially turned their run (a generous 50 m2 for 7 chickens and 2 ducks) into our own little composting facility. Grass clippings, kitchen scraps, weeds, garden waste, raked leaves, etc are all dumped in there in a big pile. The chickens sort through it and eat stuff, and I occasionally turn it over with a fork to mix and aerate it.

It works great - gives the chickens something to do, supplements their feed, incorporates their manure into the compost, and provides me with large quantities of lovely black compost for the garden for relatively little effort. It also stops their pen from turning into the smelly lunar landscape that so many backyard chickens live on.

It's not exactly on the scale you're talking about, but it's a lovely symbiotic arrangement.

Comment by Darren (Green Change) Thursday evening, March 4th, 2010
That's actually exactly what I thought about when I read about the composting place with chickens. We just don't seem to have enough waste to do that (or maybe we have too many chickens for the two of us?) How many chickens do you have and how many people are in your household? What percent of their food do you think they get from the composting operation?
Comment by anna Thursday evening, March 4th, 2010

So if I feed no actual chicken food but all the veggies and bred they want, my hens will get enough of every thing to keep laying to their best? I am able to get all the veggies and bred I want for free. Please let me know., Thanks

Comment by Lena Green Sunday night, March 25th, 2012
Lena --- Veggies and bread sounds like it would be too low in protein to keep your flock entirely healthy. That said, if you use some of the free food to grow worms and black soldier fly larvae, you'd have very happy chickens! I suspect that a lot of what the chickens are eating in the compost facility here are the insects attracted to the composting food scraps, not necessarily the food scraps themselves.
Comment by anna late Monday evening, March 26th, 2012

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