If you are raising poultry to provide meat and eggs for your family and manure for your garden, the next logical step is to grow your own poultry food. Chickens, turkeys, ducks and geese are masterful self-feeders and are well able to scratch up their own healthy meals with just a little help from us.
Pasturing the Flock
Livestock do well inside the safety confines of a pasture, that includes poultry. We seldom consider chickens as animals that need a pasture, but that is where they can self-feed and eradicate the land of unwanted pests like ticks and beetles.
Create a safe pasture area for your poultry by securing the perimeter with chicken wire or other means that will keep out predators and allow your fowls to roam free and eat what they will.
Make the perimeter fencing of the pasture portable so it can be moved every so often so your poultry will always have plenteous supply of fresh insects, bugs, grass and weeds to chow down on. A portable chicken coop will also accomplish the same self-feeding goal, just on a smaller scale that a poultry pasture.
Plant a poultry garden, harvesting and storing some of the vegetables and grains for later use and allowing the poultry to roam free and eat the remaining crops.
Plant a patch of wheat, rye or barley and allow the birds to self-feed when the grains ripen. Garden cover crops, like clover, kale, mustard, turnips and grain grasses, that are planted late in fall are fowl favorites and very nutritious for the birds. Allow the garden cover crops to mature before sending in the poultry to feed.
As added bonuses, the scratching of the poultry as they feed helps to aerate the soil and dig up pests and pest eggs trying to over-winter in the garden, giving the hungry poultry some protein in their diets and downsizing the garden pest population while the poultry droppings fertilize the soil.
Corn and Sunflowers
Plant and grow a small crop of corn just for chicken feed. Let the ears dry on the stalks, then harvest the dry ears and store in a cool, dry place. Pull off the shucks and twist your hands across the dried corn kernels to release them from the cob and feed to your yard birds.
Grow sunflowers for summer beauty and winter poultry food. Let sunflower heads dry on the stalk, harvest and store in a cool dry location, then toss a whole sunflower head into the coop or in the yard as needed for food.
Fruit trees and poultry go together like peanut butter and jelly. Allow poultry to self-feed under fruit trees to clean up dropped, rotting fruit and control pests that threaten the health of fruit trees.