As I mentioned in my post about the economics of getting started with chickens, we’re hoping to feed the chickens a combination of bought-in food (nutritionally balanced layers pellets) and “free” food – scraps, foraged stuff and things we’ve grown especially for them in the garden — and it’s the latter I want to think about now.
Before they moved in, I had started growing some stuff for them (specifically radishes because they’re such a quick crop) and I’d left some lettuces in the ground for longer than I would have done normally, because I thought they’d like them as a snack. They didn’t. The radishes were slightly more successful but only for the green tops, not the red roots – which would be great if we liked radishes because we could easily share but since we don’t, it seems inefficient to grow them.
So anyway, I’m trying to find crops that I can grow for them to supplement their pellets. They’re currently snacking on borage (which they’re eating in the somewhat blurry pics here) and bolting spinach. I’ve got some perpetual spinach & chard growing too – we’ll use some of it, but it’ll be mostly for them. I should be able to start picking those in a few weeks. Around the same time, we’ll be harvesting carrots so they’ll be able to have the tops from those. For late winter/next spring, I’ve sown kale & spring cabbages, and there should also be lots of brassica leaves/surplus — but there is a bit of a gap in the middle between the autumn and late winter/spring harvests.
Next year, I’ll be more on the ball and have early winter cabbages ready to feed them then but now I’m trying to plug the gap with quick-grow stuff. Any suggestions? I’m too late for planting comfrey for them but there still maybe a little time for clover?
I am going to keep foraging for them too, with the rule that unless I can identify something so definitely that I’d be confident to eat it myself, I won’t feed it to them. It’s a cautious route to take – probably missing out on a lot of good stuff for them – but I’d rather be cautious than have a poisoned chicken. They very much like nettles which is a good thing given how many we have around here! I’ve been wilting them to lessen the sting but I’m tempted to dry a lot now to have for over the winter.