Avian Aqua Miser: Automatic, poop-free chicken waterers

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Unusual chicken feeds

Rainy chicken tractor

One of these days, we'll get our act together and really grow the majority of our chickens' feed.  At the moment, we put most of that kind of energy into keeping our pastures green, figuring that the health benefits of an endless salad bar are more important than changing the bulk of our chickens' diet over from store-bought corn and soybeans to homegrown grains.  However, we're also always experimenting with things we can do on a small scale to make homegrown foods a larger percentage of our flock's diet.

One common supplement to the backyard hen's diet is kitchen scraps, which we've been feeding for years.  We did make a major change to our food-scraps campaign this year, though --- rather than tossing the tomato tops and eggshells into the coop for the majority of our layers to consume, I've been giving all of our scraps to our four tractored birds instead.  The reason is predators --- the scent of food scraps (especially cobs leftover from cutting sweet corn into soup) attracts raccoons like nobody's business.  By keeping the highly-scented feeds very close to our trailer, we've cut down predator pressure in the coop significantly.

Cutting up over-mature squash

Another feed we've been giving for a while, but are using slightly differently this year, is over-mature summer squash and cucumbers.  In the past, I've just stepped on these mammoths in hopes of getting a few seeds to squirt out and tempt the chickens to peck, but cutting up the over-large cucurbits has been much more effective.  Chickens will nibble at the flesh of these monstrosities, but the seeds have most of the nutrition and they know it, so anything you can do to make the seeds more accessible is worth the effort.

Black soldier fly bin

On a more experimental front, we're trying out sending some of our food scraps into a black-soldier-fly bin this year rather than giving them all straight to the chickens.  Whether we'll get more bang for our buck this way is still up for debate, but since our bin can take bits of onions, cabbages, and other foods that our chickens mostly turn up their noses at, it might be a win-win.  (If you drink coffee, the grounds are also an excellent bin addition that wouldn't be good for chickens in their original form.)  Stay tuned for further updates.


Sorghum and sunflowersFinally, I've been planting more sunflowers as cover crops, hoping that we might end up with some seeds to give our chickens in the winter.  Similarly, my mom gave me a packet of sorghum seeds which I opted to plant with the chickens (rather than molasses) in mind.  We didn't devote much space and energy to either planting, but if they're particularly successful, we can always expand for next year.

If you're interested in other alternative chicken feed options, you can browse through several years of experiments here.  And I'd love it if you comment with your own accounts of trial and error!

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I'm trying to grow most of my ducks and chickens food... a crop I've had great success with is greens... I can grow mass amounts of them , they are so easy,they are cool weather crops, so they are perfect when there's not much grass. I grow them covered and uncovered. The poultry love them! When I feed a bucket of greens they barely touch their regular food.

Comment by angie late Sunday afternoon, February 8th, 2015
For any chicken raiser, one thing I'd highly recommend as a food crop for chickens is the tomato. Although they are low in calorie and provide little bulk as a staple, they are incredibly nutritious. Tomatoes contain good amounts of potassium but also many other vitamins and minerals. The high vitamin C content helps build bird's immune systems, The carotene promotes healthy respiratory system and eye function and Believe it or not, these super fruits are scientifically and medically proven to discourage the development of cirtan ovarian cancers/infections and diseases (which cirtan chicken breeds are more susceptible to). On top of all these qualities, tomatoes are easy to grow and can produce hundreds of tomatoes a year. . . per plant. . . Chickens also love them like crazy. So, if anyone wants to add some extra health supplements to their flock, I highly recommend tomato plants. = )
Comment by ChickenGirl Tuesday evening, June 21st, 2016

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