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In today’s economic times everyone is looking for ways to save a little money. Older adages like “Use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without!” are making a rapid comeback. We don’t live on a lot of land, only 3/4 of an acre. The longer we’re here the more we’re learning how to maximize every inch of land and our resources. We’ve had “backyard chickens” for four years.
Over the years we’ve learned a few things that help to stretch their feed. Let me share four of them with you today!
1. Weeds, unwanted plants, and/or grass clippings
This is the EASIEST way to stretch your chicken’s feed. It requires the least amount of thought and depending on where you live it may even save you more money. Does your city charge a separate fee for yard waste removal? Chickens are foragers and will eat through weeds and grass clippings. They’ll scratch through them and find all sorts of things to munch on. If you’re weeding your garden throw the weeds in a bucket and when it’s full dump the bucket for the chickens. You can even throw them unwanted plants or collect grass clippings and toss them to your birds (ours LOVE these). At the end of the season when you clean out your garden beds, throw all the dead plants to the chickens!
If you plant your garden in the ground consider fencing off sections of it with some chicken wire and letting your birds loose at the end of the season or just before you plant. They’ll clean up the garden and till it under for next year. It’s worth noting chickens can be very destructive and will tear up the ground. This is NOT recommended for raised beds or if you have several perennial plants that you want to see again.
2. Let them Free Range
Do you have a fenced-in yard? Is there a way that you can section off parts of your yard with chicken wire and release the birds in a new section of the yard every day or so? Chickens will eat all sorts of bugs so if you let your birds range they’ll eat mosquitos, ticks, and other nasty bugs.
3. Fruits and Veggies
This is something that we’ve started doing in the last year or two. If we have some fruit or vegetable scraps such as lettuce, strawberry tops, apple cores or pieces, or leftover bagged salad. Instead of tossing it into the compost bin, we’ll give it to the chickens. They seem to like it and will frequently get into little fights over who gets the apple core.
4. Scrambled Eggs with the Shell
This was something our neighbor suggested years ago. If an egg comes in cracked we set it aside until we get a few and then we’ll scramble them up with the shell and throw them out to the birds. Ya’ll as weird and gross as it may sound they LOVE THESE! They’ll devour the eggs in minutes! Adding the shell provides some extra calcium that helps when you get eggs with soft shells. In addition, the added protein of the eggs is also good to give in the Winter when it’s really cold out and they’re eating more to stay warm.
Bonus Tip for these hot Summer Days
Something that we’ve been doing with it getting into the 90s has been making a gruel. We’ll soak some of their food in cold water, let it soak, and then we’ll add a spring or two of peppermint for it’s natural cooling properties to help keep them cool.
Until next time,