Raising chickens is a long-standing homesteading tradition that a multitude of preppers have capitalized on to help ensure their survival. Chickens do not take up much space and provide both an excellent source of protein via their meat and eggs.
Backyard chickens are now often kept by folks living in suburban areas thanks to state right-to-farm laws. In addition to being a space-friendly preparedness livestock option, chickens are also far less expensive to raise than larger farm favorites such as goats, cows and hogs.
The phrase “chicken feed” has long had connotations of being cheap. While chicken feed does not come with a huge price tag attached, there is still a cost per bag that must be factored in for homesteading families and preppers.
When attempting to avoid unnatural ingredients by purchasing organic chicken feed for your survival flock, the cost of maintaining the egg-providers does significantly increase. It is possible to avoid both an increase in livestock care costs and to avoid non-organic ingredients without pulling double-duty as a grain farmer.
— Seventh Generation (@SeventhGen) September 29, 2015
Using cover crops in your survival garden will allow you to get rid of ground pests and feed your flock far more cheaply at the same time. By choosing seeds that are chicken friendly, you can skip the after harvest tilling and simply cover the crops to create a poultry buffet.
The omega-3 content of your farm-fresh eggs may increase when your chickens and ducks consume fresh greens. This is because the yolk contains more xanthophylls carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin from the greens, causing the yolk to be a brighter orange. This increase will also likely add more vitamin A, D and E to the eggs.
After you have harvested the crops on your land, the chickens will be more than willing to fertilize the growing land for you and rid the area of unwanted pests as well. If the crop harvest is not completed all at once, simply cover the remaining plants with bird netting to let your flock know they are not welcome in the area.
The chicken manure left in the garden will serve as a fertilizer and help restore nutrients to the survival garden before the next growing season. I also allow our flock of feisty Pekin ducks to stroll the garden both during and after the harvest. Sure, the ducks eat a little bit from our vines and branches, but the benefit of the manure and bug control far outweighs the loss of a few pieces of broccoli.
— Chickens101.com (@RaisingChickens) August 4, 2015
The chickens make their own chicken feed by picking up the leavings of the legumes, grains and greens you have grown — with a side of insects for dessert. Come spring, you just need to spend some time raking the area clean and adding a layer of compost, and you are ready to plant once again.
The compost layer covers up any raw manure and prevents the matter from splashing onto the new spring crops when it rains or the wind blows. The chicken manure left on the ground under the compost will provide needed nutrients for plants. Allowing nature to take its course may help enhance the overall health and productivity of your garden.
There is no need to purchase bags of compost from the local big box store. Create a chicken pasture or a chicken run in order to generate your own nutrient-rich fertilizer. Our chickens and ducks are free-range, but I can still take advantage of the free composting material. The flocks are fed in a pen where I also put them at night to protect them from coyotes. I simply muck out their pens in much the same manner as when I shovel horse stalls.
Cover your chicken pasture with organic material, such as old corn stalks, wood chips or hay. The matter keeps the bare ground covered nicely and adheres to manure so it can be shoveled out without difficulty.
Keep the poultry run surface moist so the organic material breaks down and hangs out the welcome sign for those tasty little bugs that chickens love. The mulch surface of the compost makes walking the pasture far easier for those who are tasked with the chores. It also prevents valuable and nutrient-rich manure from blowing away.
To further enhance the potential chicken run harvest and decrease feed costs, make seeded forage patches within the poultry pasture. If you have the space for more than one run or pasture, allow the seeded forage to grow uninterrupted when the area is vacated and alternate usage when the plants have matured.
Using the seeded forage patches to test out new crops and seed types can also be beneficial for future crop yields. Buying just a single packet of seeds keeps costs in check if the new crops or seed variety does not pan out. Chickens with access to grit, the sand or pebbles needed for grinding feed in their gizzards, should not have any difficulty processing whole kernel corn. However, a word to the wise: Skip the hard stuff when it comes to feeding chicks.
Germinating your own seeds as chicken fodder in a greenhouse will also help reduce the cost of chicken feed year-round. When the seeds reach out five inches in height, carry them outdoors and allow your chickens to peck them to pieces. Sunflowers are also a great space-saving option for folks seeking to grow their own poultry feed. The flowers can be planted virtually anywhere, and can decorate the homestead until they die off and are ready to be served up as a gourmet meal to the chickens.
Hatchling Feeding Tips
Recently hatched chickens and ducks should be fed a diet high in protein until they are approximately 10 weeks old. To achieve optimal nutrition levels, a feed should consist of about 18 to 20 percent protein The protein needs of hatchling meat birds such as pheasant, turkey, and quail increase to about 22 to 24 percent of their daily diet. The increase in protein is believed to spark maximum growth for roosters and broilers but is not necessary for egg layers.
Grow Your Own Chicken Cover Crop and Compost Suggestions
- Daikon radish
- Red clover
- Rye grass
- Swiss chard