I am working my way through a thread on Back Yard Chickens about feeding fodder to chickens. Fodder is sprouting seeds and growing them up to greens a few inches high. The birds love them and it is an inexpensive way to feed them as a 50 pound bag of grain can be turned into a couple hundred pounds of fodder. It is recommended to still keep the chickens on a balanced commercial feed.. but when you are feeding fodder, the chickens do not need as much of the commercial feed. It is also a good way to feed greens to the chickens if you do not free range.. or if you do and live up north where snow covers the ground.. it gives the birds the plant material they do not have access to in an easy to produce way.
I must admit I was a bit amazed at how quickly the birds eliminated all green growing matter in their run. The Bermuda grass went first. All the leaves were picked off and eventually the stems also disappeared. The weeds held out for a bit.. but in time they too lost leaves and succumbed to the scratching and eating chickens do. My bunch does get a ration of grower crumbles that I ferment about half of for a day before feeding. Fermenting also adds nutritional value, aides digestibility of the food, and stretches the commercial food dollar. I do have to spend a few minutes preparing it the day before and taking it out every morning to feed.. but nothing is wasted. I read on the various forums about how wasteful chickens are knocking their feed every where and not eating it. With the moistened crumble and putting out what is consumed in a day, instead putting dry feed in a large feeder that will last for days, I do not have to deal with attracting unwanted critters and all my feed is being used by the chickens. Every day the feed trough is completely cleaned out. Periodical I will increase the amount I put out until I have a little not consumed in the day and I adjust the daily feed back slightly from that. I want to make sure they are getting plenty of feed without giving them the opportunity to be wasteful. Seems to working good so far.
I also sprout some sunflower seeds for the chooks. I soak them over night then they go in a strainer over a bowl. They are rinsed daily and as they start to sprout I feed a large handful of the seeds scattered around the chicken yard. With the amount I sprout, I get to feed the sunflower seed about three days in a row. Each day they are fed they have a little more of the sprout grown out. Since the birds have decimated all green growing things in the run, I was on the thread looking for some inspiration on setting up a system to get some grains sprouted to the green plant stage. The sunflower sprouts are nice but take too long to get to the green stage. I bought some oats but they do not sprout.. they tend to mold. They are not going to waste as I am fermenting them for two days and they also go out and are scattered around the chicken run. Some oats are also put in a pot of dirt and grown as grass for the cats. The preferred grain to sprout is barley, and since I do not have access to barley, I was looking for other things to sprout as well as the best [and cheapest] way I might grow some greens for the.
About a third of the way through the thread someone brought up a discussion of comfrey. It is a good biomass plant and is great in a compost pile, fed to livestock and also consumed as a medicinal by people through many hundreds of years. I was intrigued and the discussion led to a source for the comfrey. Many were looking for seeds, but the recommendation was to get roots or crowns of the plant. It was cautioned that it could be invasive and to plant it where you wanted it for a long time as it send down deep roots.
Someone posted a link to Coe’s Comfrey to get either roots or crowns. I checked out the site and read over the information they had there. The site states you can put leaves in water to create a compost tea or add to a potting mix to increase the yields of what you are growing. The pants are rich in Silicon, Calcium, Potassium, Phosphorus, Iron, Iodine, Trace Minerals and more. Here I was looking for ways to stretch my chicken feed and I was also finding a way to increase my garden production.
The comfrey plant is a great addition to the feed of many animals, chickens being just one of the many that it was recommended for. The protein content of the comfrey is high.. 22% to 33% compared to Alfalfa at 12% to 19%. That alone will make it an excellent food addition for the chickens. The site claims for chickens the comfrey increases egg production and makes yolks a deeper yellow to orange. They recommend feeding chickens 1 to 3 oz. per bird per day.
Coe’s Comfrey’s price of 10 crowns for $22 seems reasonable, and they add extras to cover the cost of shipping, so I ordered some today. I feel the $22 is going to be a good investment. The plant can be dug and divided and it will winter over and come back year after year. I will feed it to the chickens and use it as fertilizer in the garden next year. With its versatility in so many areas of what I do here at the house, I feel it would be crazy not to get some to grow.
My plans for growing the comfrey are to get some large planters or some 55 gallon barrels we will cut in half. I have had such great success with the gutter garden I may make some modified version to grow these plants. I like the idea I can feed the leaves green or dry them and feed them powdered to the chickens as well as add them in many ways to the garden. I expect the roots to ship rather quickly and with the weather still nice here in south Texas we should be able to get them settled in to winter over. I am really excited about this addition to the garden and now am headed back to read the remaining two thirds of the thread. Looking forward to what else I may learn there.