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Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Growing Animal Feed

Growing some of our animal feed is something we have wanted to do for a long time, but it's a goal that is not easy to meet overnight, in a year, or even over a couple of years. This summer we have been able to make a little head way on this project, and we want to share what we have learned.


In the spring when everything was turning green, I started gathering grasses and weeds to feed the chickens. Our chickens are not out ranging at this time, but they do have a run outside of the chicken house. We need to add a chicken proof barrier along the bottom of a couple of gates to keep them on their side of the yard and out of the garden. So, for now, they get some kind of greens almost everyday along with other garden or kitchen scraps as they come along.




In the early spring, I started to feed them beet greens as soon as the plants were big enough to spare a few leaves.


I also planted some new comfrey roots to expand our ability to provide more animal feed. This patch had really done well. For most of the summer, the chickens received a handful of comfrey leaves almost everyday. This was a great addition to their feed. The goats like them as well, but since they had lots of good things to eat out in the pasture, they were not a crazy about these leaves as the chickens were.

We grew some sunflowers this year to be used as animal feed for both chickens and goats. Our patch was about six feet by thirty feet with four rows of plants. Here is our harvest. All of these plants were grown from seeds we harvested last summer from our very first plants. I think there were about six of them. It's good to know the seeds are easy to save and replant. If we wanted to grow enough to feed a little all winter, we would need many, many more plants than what we grew this year. But it is a start.












 
The corn we grew ended up being dried for the animals instead of canned for humans. Sometimes things just end up that way. It is interesting to see how it has dried, and figure out an easy way to remove it from the cob. Once it is this dry, the kernels separate from the cob fairly easy just by rubbing two cobs together. I will keep the dried shucks to see if the goats will be interested in them this winter. Another thing to learn. This small amount of corn won't go very far as animal feed, either, but it has been a very interesting learning experience.

 
Now that the fall crops are up and growing well, I pick a batch of greens for the chickens every morning. They get a bucket full of turnip greens.

Turnips, Kale & small Swiss Chard


Add a handful of kale.....




 

 And a handful of beet greens.




The fall carrot crop is growing pretty well. It will be interesting to see how the animals take to carrots, turnips and Mangel sugar beets as a source of winter feed. Very interesting. This is something I have wanted to try for a long time.



 Our patch of purple hull peas has been taken over by the grass and weeds. But before that happened, we were able to pick several batches that had dried on the vine and fed them to the chickens and goats. They were all more than happy to eat them, the chickens just the seeds, but the goats, pods, seeds and all. This is a very easy crop to grow that is highly nutritious, for both animal and human.

I still throw in a few comfrey leaves every now and then, but I am letting the comfrey put energy into their roots for winter. The original comfrey plant I added to the herb bed about four years ago stays green until about January when our weather turns cold. I have been surprised every year that it takes that long for it to die back. It starts peaking out new leaves in late March when it starts to warm up, but doesn't produce enough leaves for fresh feed until sometime in April.

The amount of feed we are harvesting each day for our animals really doesn't amount to a whole lot, but it is a start. There are some other things we also want to try. Our friend Grace found a article in Mother Earth News that talked about Austrian Winter Peas that can be used for chickens and deer. Some folks also eat the shoots in salads saying they taste just like peas. It is better known as a cover crop for fixing nitrogen in the soil. After Grace told me about them and I read about them, we ordered some seeds. It will be another thing we can try for animal feed. Thank you, Grace.


If times get hard and we have to provide for ourselves and our animals, this small amount of experience will hopefully help keep us on our feet while we learn even more. Challenges will always come our way, and we have had more than a few this year. Even so, our little animal feed growing project has taught us a lot. And we hope to learn even more through the winter and during the growing season next year.

Until next time - Fern

9 comments:

  1. Fern - i have really enjoyed going through all of yours and Frank's previous posts. it took me a few weeks but the time spent here has been very productive. thank you both very much.

    this post has taught me a lot about keeping and feeding animals, something that we don't do because hinting and fishing is very plentiful here. like very plentiful! we can forage and find geese and duck eggs and if we have to, we will trap some of both to keep for eggs, but for right now, it is not the time for us to keep animals (other than 3 fat, lazy, always starving cats that are eating us out of house and home - bahahahah!) but i love blogs that share what they are doing and how, so that i can learn for the future and i certainly get that here on your blog.

    i love your no-nonsense approach to everything and i love that you think that it is important to share with others. i would like to include you in our blogroll if you are ok with that...check out our blog at framboisemanor.blogspot.com.....,make sure that you are ok with our content...and then maybe we can swap links. let me know.

    your friend,
    kymber

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    1. Hi Kymber. Thank you for your kind words. We are glad you are finding something of use here. You will find Framboise Manor on the blogroll now. Thank you for the offer to add us to your blogroll as well.

      It is interesting to read about your experiences in Canada. It reminds us of our time spent in Alaska. We also like to hear the perspective of a couple that has moved to their bug out location and are learning how to live from the abundance that surrounds them. Thank you for sharing your experiences and perspective, Kymber.

      Fern

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    2. thanks so much Fern! you are now on our blogroll as well. yours is the kind of blog that i like to list in my blogroll but i never put anyone on until i get permission. your blog will be of great interest to our readers and like i say, there is much to be learned from you and Frank. please keep up the good work that you are doing and sharing.

      your friend,
      kymber

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  2. My chickens love Swiss chard. I also would hang up spent broccoli plants and they loved them as well. I have thought about storing barley seed to use for a fodder system if I can't get horse and chicken feed.

    I am going to check out and see if I can grow the Austrian Winter Pea.

    Christi

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    1. I need to replant some more Swiss Chard, Christi, since only a few of them made it. Same goes for spinach and brussel sprouts. Our winter pea seeds should be in today. We are very curious how they will do. I hope they work in your area also. Thank you for sharing.

      Fern

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  3. I don't know if this will help you out or not, but I started feeding my chickens fermented feed awhile back and it cut the amount of feed I was buying in half. Just put the feed in a bucket, pour plenty of water over it, stir, and cover it with a towel to keep bugs out. Wait 2-3 days, stir it daily, (it will be bubbly and smell yeasty/ slightly sour) drain it and feed to the chickens. You wil need multiple buckets going, obviously.
    It is supposed to unlock alot more of the nutrients in the grains that the chickens need. There are all kinds of methods you can look up on the chicken site to help out. Don't know about goats though, maybe ask a vet first.

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    Replies
    1. I have heard of people soaking/fermenting wheat for chickens to increase the nutritional uptake. I'm not sure about goats either. Thank you for sharing this with all of us. The more we know, the better equipped we are.

      Fern

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  4. Here is a link for you for fermented feed. http://www.backyardchickens.com/t/644300/fermenting-feed-for-meat-birds

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you for sharing the link, as well.

      Fern

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