This morning I set up a dinner table for my chickens next to their coop. The idea came from this article I read over backyard chickens.
Some stuff in that article seem a bit off to me, like worrying about your chickens eating where they shit. Come on! it’s the other way around, they shit everywhere! when one dumps a really good one the others come running over to see if there might be something good in it. In my opinion to many people try to apply human sensibilities to animals and trying to keep your chickens eating in a clean sterile environment is just nuts. But the idea of putting something in my run to get the girls to jump around and put a little effort into getting their food seemed to mesh well with other stuff I had read regarding foraging and paddock systems.
I got lucky in finding a local restaurant that the chef was willing to give me scraps from the kitchen as long as I provided a couple of clean buckets. This morning the girls first take out order came in, I wasn’t sure what to expect but if todays haul is typical we hit pay dirt! The buckets had melon halves that still had plenty of flesh, carrot peelings, bell pepper cores and tops, scallion roots, and all of the seeds out of the melons. As you can see the girls went nuts.
With these great vegetables and the cooked rice I have been getting my feed bill should stay under control. Currently I have been going through about 1/2 a bag of all-purpose pellets a week for my 25 chickens, 5 ducks, and 1 ducken.
The pellets are provided all the time in my treadle feeder which really helps keep down the amount the pigeons eat. When I first got this feeder last year it took my chickens about a week to figure it out but now when they hear the door go CLACK they come a running!
Overall I’m finding that while my situation may not be perfect for a by the book paddock/forage feeding plan as Paul Wheaton out lines in his article, Raising Chickens 2.0, with a little creativity I can create a hybrid system that should make for happier healthier chickens and lower feed bills.
As I was going back through this Blog post it dawned on me that the key to making foraging work for a suburban flock is for the flock tender to do the foraging. Most of us don’t have the resources to produce our flocks entire feed needs. Either we are short on space, the climate is a bit challenging, or any other number of things such as regulations restrict our plans. Instead of throwing in the towel and relying on commercially produced feeds I am discovering that you need to think outside of the box and focus on what you can do instead of what you can’t.