Most people want to save money and these days, let’s be honest, we are pinching our pennies. When it comes to owning your own chickens, many save by free ranging, buying cheaper feed, feeding table scraps, and if you don’t do this last one well, you might want to after this! I always recommend building a garden for your chickens. Let me show you some SUPER SIMPLE ideas that will save you money this year! We will talk about what to plant, how to plant it and what is safe to just grow in the yard where they roam.
It is not as hard as it may sound, you don’t have to go out and buy a bunch of items or plants. Think big but small. Chickens are simple and with our luck they love to eat fruits and vegetables that grow a lot for one plant!
Let’s start with where to put your garden. I know, I know chickens eat everything so many worry about starting plants near the coop. Starting them near the coop though is an amazing idea! If you want to keep things simple and put up a fence just buy some garden t-post and hammer them in. Zip tie some chicken wire to it. Your garden does not have to be big: 6ft x 6ft is what I would consider to be a perfect size for 40+ chickens, but you can be the judge of what you want when we discuss the types of plants. In my opinion, you do not need a fence for this garden. We attempted a pumpkin patch last year with over 50 chickens and 20 ducks and none of them destroyed the plants. They simply ate all the bugs that were merely surviving on them. Which meant, everything blossomed beautifully. To prep the land easily I would:
just find a nice sunny spot near your coop
take some cardboard boxes and open them flat and lay them down to cover the ground you want to grow on
wait about 3 weeks (so many will want to start when the snow melts if you live where you have 4 seasons like me, in Michigan) or start very early spring
once the grass is dead and yellow just throw some mulch and dirt down or nothing. If you really need to save money just dig some holes about 1ft x 1ft and plant your seed according to the description on the seed bag.
if you don’t want to do seed then use your starter plants. I recommend going to your local farmers market for these! They have amazing deals and you will meet some beautiful souls!
Once you have an idea of where to put your little new garden well now it is time to pick the plants!
What Oh What Shall I Plant for Thee?
This, ladies and gentlemen, is where the fun begins! I am so excited to share some of these ideas with you and I know you will be thrilled as well!
Let’s start with my favorite, Sunflowers! Not only will these clean the dirt they are grown in and replenish some of the lost nutrients with rich mineral from its roots, but this plant is so easy to grow and easy to feed to your poultry. Plant as many as you possibly can and each one foot apart. I recommend starting them in solo cups. This works very well and you can just place them outside away from your lovely peckers. Once they are about 3 inches high just plant them in your garden space. This year, I have almost 50 chickens and will be planting about 6 rows 10-12 plants per row. Once they are done flowering the seeds till begin to form on the face of the sunflower. Once the seeds have formed it will not look like the beautiful sunflower at first glance, that is because the beauty is now the whole center/face of the flower. Go ahead and cut those tops off and let them finish drying, Save them in a garbage can for whenever you feel like throwing a few tops into the coop for your flock.
Next are the vines!! My favorites are acorn squash, spaghetti squash, pumpkin and melons. I recommend 2 spaghetti squash and 2 acorn because these you are able to freeze and when they thaw they are ready to serve to your flock. So, why not get more for less of your time. I do recommend making sure you have a floor freezer or extra freezer top on maybe a refrigerator you don’t use as much. Spaghetti squash do grow large, football size, whereas acorn squash is smaller around baseball to softball size. Melons I would feed as they ripen. Pumpkins you would want to plant in early to mid-June for anyone with Michigan seasons. They will be ready in September to cut and feed. Pumpkins can also be frozen and thawed. This plant as well as your other squashes have special seeds rich in several vitamins such as vitamin K and Zinc. Make sure you either same them and dry them or feed them with the plant. If you dry them/freeze them make sure to use them all winter to add nutrients to your flocks diet. They will truly appreciate you for it.
Butternut Squash is my last one and most favorite! I personally eat this on a regular basis! I recommend Peeling, cutting and bagging it in zip-lock freezer bags if you plan to keep some for winter. But if you grow these vines you can solely feed the plants and veggies provided as a sole meal for them. The larger squashes and melons need to be broken for them. It helps them understand the food is on the inside. After a couple of years of doing this you will no longer have to break open the thinner lined melons and squashes.
I can not express enough how important it is to grow your own food for you and your family. We are raising our animals in different and difficult times. So try your hardest to save where you can. Also, save some for your family too! These chickens wont mind sharing with your beautiful self! After all we do have to survive to care for them!
So feel free to do a row of each herb: thyme, basil, parsley, dill and oregano. Once they are full grown and before they seed trim them down and dry them. I like to dry them and then grind them to add to their food in the winter. If you do not have a grinder just dry the plant and cut it up with scissors and when it is dry the leaves will be so easy to crumple in your hands.
All herbs can also be added to the water to steep like a tea in the winter. Herbs have many healing properties. So I cant push enough on how important they are!
I hope this helps a bit on cutting cost and gives you a sense of love for gardening. So please go, grow, and glow! Because honestly, we all know you’re a shining star! YOU RAISE CHICKENS DUH!
Keep me posted on your likes and dislikes as well as what you add to your flock! We all have ideas and need to share them! Let us know and until next time, HUGS!
Published by Amanda B.
Our family homestead began 6 years ago when we decided to buy a home in the country in the beautiful state of Michigan. I was on a mission to have it all but no idea where to begin. So, our dream house found us! I know, I know, that doesn’t sound right, but it did!
An older gentleman that shopped at our local pet food store had approached my family about having a home for sale and once we saw it, we knew there was no way we could get approved for the amount he was asking. BUT this man was an angel disguised as a human here on earth. We called him up and he met our daughter (my mother’s 1st of 3 grandbabies) and when I explained to him the sad news he simply said, “I have known your family for a long time, your mother worked at my kennel and holds a piece of my heart and I do not care how much you get approved for. I want that little girl (pointing to my dear Abby who was 6 months old) to have a forever home. When you get approved by a loan company come find me and buy my home.” With tears of joy and tears of so much weight being lifted off my shoulders I hugged him with the biggest and hardest hug I could gather up and we went through the home buying process. 6 years later, I am here in this very home to share my love for poultry and homesteading. That entire step of homesteading started with chickens!
We have always been in love with animals and nutrition is my number one priority for my animals. My family’s business is Holistic Pet Store, feeding raw, dehydrated raw and the finest foods for pets and holistic and homeopathic supplements for people and pets. We take nutrition to a different level. So, finding a poultry feed that fit in was my task and I was up for the job. I of course brought in organic, soy free, and even things to add such a safflowers and sunflower seeds, but as my family grew, this $48 per bag of feed for 30+ poultry was not in the budget plan. We went from a family of 3 and a couple dogs and chickens to a family of 5, 4 dogs, 7 cats, 3 guinea pigs, 20 rabbits, 4 goats, 2 cows, 30+ chickens, 20+ ducks, 3 turkeys and 1 pig. So, I took my knowledge of feed and started fermenting everything. (I’ll explain this process to you soon in another blog post, it will blow your mind!!!) Every animal’s feed had been fermented and costs were minimized tremendously and it seemed as though nothing could go wrong…but it did.
The Words that Changed Everything
When Evie my 3rd beautiful baby girl came into our world, my job was on hold which meant my money used to pay for the animals’ feed was no longer available. Things became solely on my husband’s shoulders. He was prepared and had budgeted for most of it, but money just seemed to disappear. So, we did what it was time to do. We sent the cows for butcher and rented the goats out for parties and events, and cut costs where we could. Which sadly meant buying the cheapest feed. We did the usual big box store brands. We thought this cannot be too bad and everything will be fine. The first few months everything was okay but we slowly noticed our chickens lost their shiny feathers and softness. They even had weaker immune systems and we had lost chickens more than we ever had the years prior. We had no sign of Avian Influenza, but we had chickens dying at random moments for no reason. I truly felt it couldn’t get worse and then I started cracking eggs and the yolks were gray, the beautiful orange yolks dwindled to flavorless, bland grays and pale yellows. At this time, I felt like the odds were against us and was about to sell everything I owned and when I was able to work, I would start up with a new flock.
The next day we had our wonderful truck driver from our distributor, John A. Van Den Bosch, come in. When I told him the news and was to my wits end, he said the magic words that changed everything, “Have you ever heard of NatureServe?”
At first, I thought to myself maybe, then quickly realized I never had. He told me about the company and how Van Den Bosch carries them and that he truly feels it is the perfect fit for what I am looking for. When I looked them up, by golly-gee he was right!
NatureServe was everything I was looking for, they used fermented probiotics and digestive enzymes and ESSENTIAL OILS. Combined, it was an immune system booster created by man with 100% of natures bounty. I was blown away. HOW DID I MISS THIS! I am sure if you are reading this you may think I am kind of crazy but let me fill you in on a life of one of my chickens.
They receive fresh water every other day with essential oils in it to help prevent respiratory issues, as well as keep the immune system stable. They have free access 24/7 to almost 200 pounds of feed that is mixed with safflower and sunflower seeds. As a treat we chose fermented broccoli sprouts or flaxseed sprouts. They have almost 11 acres of grass and wild herbs and flowers to rummage through and a medium sized pond to find some yummy tadpoles, baby frogs, and crickets to eat. But when winter hit, it was fermented sprouts and feed they relied on the most. To find an affordable but not breaking the bank food that fit my lifestyle and ethics was hard until that magical day I was introduced to NatureServe.
NatureServe is a company based on family and faith. They use the highest quality ingredients while going above and beyond with what they are putting in their feed.
For example, they use:
Fermented pre/probiotics and digestive enzymes to support your flock’s digestive tract
Flaxseed for a safe form of Omega-3 fatty acids and fiber
Alfalfa, THIS ONE I LOVE! Reduces seasonal depression in chickens, helps hens lay all winter or during a usual off season, and is an amazing protein source
Diatomaceous Earth is a natural de-wormer, and with its main ingredient being silica it will help give your poultry a healthy heart
Marigold may be the best ingredient added to this feed! Marigolds help the skin’s ability to heal faster as well as reduces eye infections from even starting. This flower is also a natural anti inflammatory which is wonderful for chickens that free range on several acres all day
Oregano and Thyme to support immune system
The feeds are produced through Belstra Milling in DeMotte, Indiana. With NatureServe’s ingredients being the safest and the healthiest, I know what I am putting into my flock is of the highest quality. After all, don’t we do this so we can feed our families the healthiest meat? As a homesteader we use the whole chicken. The chicken’s meat is for food, the bones and certain organs are used in stocks and broths. Why feed a food that is destroying an animal’s immune system when you can feed a layer that can excel your poultry’s life and not only improve their way of living but your own.
What change came since being on NatureServe
Longer egg laying duration
No issues with blocked eggs or eggs breaking inside the chicken due to optimal nutrition
Golden orange yolks
Healthy chicks, poults, and ducklings
Nutritionally satisfied poultry (no aggression due to lack of nutrition or hunger)
Beyond beautiful feathers and colors
I can’t wait to touch base on more topics with you! Keep your eyes peeled for more fun blogs by yours truly,
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