One of the biggest complaints people who raise backyard chickens have is that commercial feed costs are often prohibitively expensive, especially when trying to raise chickens naturally without genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and pesticides. But did you know that many common garden weeds make excellent feed for chickens and that these weeds are probably growing right now for free in your garden or yard?
In a recent article published in Backyard Poultry Magazine entitled “Feeding Chickens for Free: Weeds, Wonderful Weeds!,” poultry farmer Lisa Murano shares tips on how to naturally supplement chicken feed with common garden weeds. Otherwise nuisance plants like dandelion and clover, she explains, are actually a chicken favorite and can go a long way in helping to keep them fed at minimal cost.
As it turns out, those beautiful, thick, orange yolks that every egg connoisseur looks for in quality, pastured chicken eggs is often the result of chickens chowing down on dandelion. According to Murano, chickens love to feast on every part of the dandelion plant, from its roots to its stem and all the way on up to the flower. All that nuisance dandelion, in other words, is free food for your chickens that just so happens to be loaded with beneficial nutrients.
“The chickens think dandelions, pulled up with their long tentacles and all, are the best food on earth,” explains TheCrunchyChicken.com. “Since the chickens love dandelions and turn them into brightly yolked high nutrient eggs… I’m more than happy to let them convert my weeds into even better homegrown eggs for me.”
Another weed favorite for chickens is clover, which, like the dandelion, is notorious for popping up all over the yard. The same goes for bittercress and smartweed, both of which are easy to uproot and grow like weeds (because they are weeds!). Murano also lists fat hen and chickweed as two other common weeds that chickens love to eat, and that can help dramatically reduce feeds costs.
“I have no better motivation for weeding the garden than those cute little fuzzy faces begging for treats,” she writes. “If you’re weeding just to feed the chickens simply pull off the leaves and most grow back shortly for a new treat. That way you’ll have a never ending supply of free treats!”
You can view Murano’s full article, with pictures, here:
Leftover garden veggies another great option for reducing chicken feed costs
In the same vein, taking advantage of leftover garden produce can help substantially trim chicken feed costs as well. Murano recommends salvaging all those extra cucumbers, beans, corn and broccoli that you and your family do not plan to eat and tossing them in your chicken run. Not only will the chickens go crazy for these foods, but they will also get an added nutrition boost at the same time.
“I feed anything we won’t eat straight to the chickens,” explains Murano in a related article. “Apples, cucumbers, tomatoes, beans, peas, corn, zucchini, broccoli and more. They love every bite of it! The only thing I do to doctor it up at all is cut off moldy spots. Otherwise I just chop it up and feed it to them.”
There are only three things Murano does not feed to her chickens: onions, rhubarb and green potato peels. These items are toxic to chickens, she says.
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