by Texas Homesteader ~
I found I really enjoy our chickens. We don’t like to over-winter them because like my dad says of predator pressures, “You can’t blame them. Heck, everyone loves a chicken dinner!”. LOL So we buy a couple of pullets in the spring and keep them through fall, when we sell them as young layers. We repeat the process again in the spring & this has worked really well for us.
We enjoy those fresh eggs most of the year, I will Freeze Fresh Eggs when they’re coming in faster than we can eat them. We’ll have plenty to use during the winter months and we start the process fresh-laying process over in the spring.
When we bought our first chickens I was amazed at how expensive it was to keep them fed. Heck when you factor in the feed cost, these are the most expensive eggs I’ve ever eaten! But over the years I’ve learned a thing or two about feeding our hens…
Man, chickens can be wasteful, can’t they?? They’re fond of raking their food from the feeder and onto the ground where it’s trampled and wasted. A LOT! “C’mon girls, there are hens starving in other countries – eat your food!”
So RancherMan made this cheap PVC Chicken Feeder for me and we’ve reduced our purchased layer-feed waste to ZERO! That’s a huge savings, y’all. But I’ve also learned how to make them work for their food & I found easy ways to get much of that food for FREE!
1. Free Ranging: Good For The Chickens And Good For US!
About mid-day I go to the coop to collect eggs and close the feeder so they’ll work up an appetite. Then I let them out to free-range about two o’clock in the afternoon. By letting them out mid afternoon there’s a shorter time for them to be away from the safety of their coop. And since they’re not out several hours longer they range closer to the house too.
Although a predator will certainly come closer to the house if hungry enough, it’s typically more more of a problem in the winter months when a predator’s food source is more scarce. (and again, we don’t overwinter our hens for that reason!)
While the hens are out free ranging they’re enjoying a fresh sampling of grass, weed seeds, grasshoppers & other bugs. Fresh protein for them, reduced bug pressure for our yard and garden. Now THAT’S what I call a win/win!
2. Melon Cleanup – Aisle TWO!
Recently RancherMan & I got a seedless watermelon. We wanted to cube it and toss the watermelon cubes into the freezer. Then after a hot sticky day working in the pastures we could enjoy a delicious and refreshing frozen Watermelon Daiquiri on the back porch. But the chickens were all too happy to scarf up the scraps remaining on the rind. I simply tossed the pecked-clean rind into my *tumbling composter when they were done!
3. Spoils From The Garden Need Not Be Wasted
And of course now that the coop is adjacent to the garden, I’m close enough to toss over any garden spoilage. I was disappointed that a garden cantaloupe suffered a soggy demise after a particularly rainy period. But the chickens didn’t mind at all!
I have a wide-base metal bowl in their coop and I often place things from the garden into that bowl for them. Whether a blossom-end rot on a tomato or overgrown squash, they scarf it all down. Any remnants they leave are tossed into the composter.
4. Garden Peels & Seeds
And it’s not just garden spoilage they love. Recently I pulled some purposely overgrown summer squash from the garden to make RancherMan’s favorite garden snack Cherry-Flavored Gummy Chews (Yep, you read that right – a chewy, sweet, cherry-flavored snack from SQUASH!)
The chickens thoroughly enjoyed the peels & seeds. When they’d had their fill I simply tossed the rest of it into my *tumbling composter.
5. Chickens Like Yogurt Too
As I was digging through the fridge I was dismayed to see a jar of my homemade yogurt had been pushed to the back for way too long. Hummm… I wonder if the chickens like yogurt? Why yes, yes they do! (although I’m reading to only feed this to them in moderation…) This was a nice high-protein snack for them and it kept the yogurt from being wasted. They face-planted right into it!
Hey girl, you need a napkin? You’ve got a little somethin’ on your face. 🙂
6. Bring The Grass To THEM!
And finally, I’ve asked RancherMan to bag the clippings when he mows the grass. Since we don’t use poisons on our lawn it’s an awesome way to get free organic mulch for our veggie garden. Not only does it keep the soil cooler & increase the earthworm presence, but it also preserves the moisture in the soil around our veggie garden plants during those hot Texas summers. And it adds nutrients to boot.
But I’ve also asked him to toss a bag of those fresh grass clippings into the chicken pen for their munching enjoyment. They love it and it’s fun for them to scratch through as well. No more chickens whining “I’m BOOOOORED…” (snicker)
I know just like any other critter there are certain things you should and shouldn’t feed them. But these offerings keep our hen’s diet variable and healthy. And a healthier diet for them means healthier eggs offered to RancherMan & me. What are your favorite ways to feed your hens for FREE?
- How To Teach Free-Range Chickens To Come HOME
- Breaking The Broody Hen
- What Color Eggs Will My Chickens Lay?
- MYO Low-Waste Chicken Feeder
- Keeping Wild Birds Away From Your Chicken Feeder
- Nutritional Difference Of Free-Range Eggs
- How To Protect Seedlings From Free-Range Hens
- Keeping Our Chickens Mite Free
- How To Get Free Chicken Food
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