Archive for Feeding Chickens

New Ideas for Backyard Chickens

Have you ever considered the true cost of chicken feed? First a farmer grows the grain. Actually, it’s more likely that several farmers each grow just one type of grain. Very likely using massive tractors and harvesters. Then each farmer’s crop is transported to the mill in giant diesel sucking trucks. Then the mill grinds the grain and mixes it. Why do they grind it? Anyone? Anyone? Then you get in your vehicle and drive to pick it up and drive it back home and have a lovely poly blend or paper bag that you can’t reuse. (Or do you? I’d love to hear ideas on recycling the mountain of bags I have accumulating!) So what if we planted a tiny feed plot of our own? What if we planted barley and red clover and oats and sunflower seeds and comfrey in a corner of our yard? Would you cut your spring/summer/fall ration down to next to nothing? Has anyone ever done this? I bet my chickens could survive the winter on a tiny bit of grain if I supplemented them with extra milk every morning. Thoughts? Ideas?

My handsome blue Copper Marans rooster, Cogburn

My handsome Blue Copper Marans rooster, Cogburn

Chicken Feed and Winter Treats

Pocketful of eggs

Pocketful of eggs

How do you feed your chickens?  A set amount, once a day?  Self feeder always kept full?  Organic?  Conventional?  Soy Free?  Special blend?  What treats do you give your laying hens during these cold winter days?

Deep orange yolks in the dead of winter

When it looks like old man winter has us in his icy grip, and you want your chickens to give you eggs with yolks the color of pumpkins, it’s a good time to feed your chickens barley sprouts.  Specifically, 7 day old, organic barley sprouts.

pumpkin orange egg yolk

That is canned pumpkin in the upper left corner, an orange in the lower right corner a brown Marans chicken egg and my dark orange egg yolk in the lower left corner.

Step 1) Call your local feed mill and ask them to order you a 50# bag of organic, whole, barley seed.  Make sure they know you are going to sprout it, so you don’t accidently get barley that has been cut, smushed or somehow rendered unsproutable.  You should expect to pay around $25 for a 50lb bag.

Step 2) Locate some sprouting containers.   The size depends on A) how many chickens you are feeding B) how much of their diet you want to replace C)How much window space you have.  I use some plastic trays I picked up at a resale shop for .50 apiece.  I’ve also seen the lids of 5 gallon pails used.  You could probably also use paint trays.  Basically, anything with a lip on it that will hold the seeds in place will work.

5 days worth of sprouts

Step 3)Soak your seeds in a container overnight.  They will absorb a ton of water, so just to be safe, I put a pint of grain into a half gallon jar and fill it half way with luke warm water.

24-48 hours  Just a dot of growth on top of each grain

Step 4)The next day, drain the water off and spread them in your plastic container.  Spritz them with water until they are thoroughly wet, but not sitting in water.  If your house is especially dry, you might need to spray them a couple times a day.  By the end of 48 hours, you should see a tiny dot of white at the tip of the seed.  The next day, your sprouts might not look much different, but you will have roots!


Step 5) Repeat for 7 days.  By day 4 you will have a pretty solid mat of roots and by day 7 it will be a carpet of barley grass that your chickens will go crazy over.


5 day old sprouts


What do you feed your chickens in the dark, cold days of winter?