One of our goals is to give our hens access to wholesome, fresh foods as frequently as possible. We certainly buy commercial chicken feed, but also aim to supplement this feed with excess produce from our garden and scraps from our kitchen. Perhaps our best homegrown chicken fodder involves having multiple paddocks adjacent to their henhouse. We grow a garden in these paddocks, and then release the chickens in to clean up once we’ve had our fill of the harvest.
Another easy chicken fodder is comfrey. We have one of these huge, prolific plants growing outside one of the chickens’ runs. It recycles the bit of nutrient run-off that would otherwise be wasted from their run, and turns it into huge green leaves that come in quite handy for treatment of minor cuts. In addition, we periodically cut the plant back and throw the leaves to the ladies, who love them. I am sure that someone out there is thinking – but comfrey can be poisonous in large doses! Rest assured, our ladies always have access to plenty of commercial feed, and so only eat supplemental food that is to their liking. A couple of leaves of comfrey seem to fit the bill, and I trust their instincts.
This year, when we harvested our sweet potatoes, we sorted them into the following grades: big beauties for baked potatoes, fingerling or pie potatoes, and chicken potatoes. Adding them to our ladies’ diet has been fairly simple. Whenever we have water boiling in the kitchen for a pot of pasta we throw in a sizable helping of chicken grade potatoes and cook them until tender. We then hack at them just enough to expose some tender orange flesh, allow to cool (obviously!), then throw to our ladies. They love them, and definitely lay off the commercial feed whenever there are cooked sweet potatoes around. This is an easy way to turn what could have been wasted produce into top-quality organic chicken food.
Perhaps the best fodder is the kind you don’t have to plant or tend – in winter and early spring we have huge patches of chickweed growing in our lawn. Whenever I’m walking by I grab a handful and throw it to the grateful hens.
Do you grow any chicken fodder?