ordering season is upon us, so I figure it’s time to put some thought
into planning out our chicken pasture plantings as well. I summed
up the conclusions
from my experiments with growing grains last year on my homesteading blog —
clearly, the easiest grain for us to grow is amaranth, and I’d like to
also try out field corn and pearl millet in the summer and rye next
winter. But I want to put most of my energy into trying out higher
protein seeds since
the best laying pellets are at least 16% protein. Here are some
of the experimental crops I plan to grow in the high protein category:
- Sunflower seeds aren’t really
experimental since we had great luck with them last year in the
garden. At about 26% protein, the seeds are very good for our
flock (although I have to be aware that they are also high in phytic
acid), and I learned this year that our chickens love them.
- Cowpeas (Vigna savi) caught my eye since
they are one of the legumes with the lowest concentration of problematic
phytic acid. Cowpeas also go by the name of black-eyed peas
when being fed to people rather than livestock. Unfortunately,
they’re pretty low on protein for a legume, being only about 13%
protein by dry weight.
- Field peas (Vigna sativum) are 21% protein by
dry weight, but are high in phytic acid. Since field peas can be
planted in spring long before the frost-free date, they’ll allow us to
get more out of the pasture paddocks by planting an extra crop per year.
I plan for 2011 to be a
test year, working the kinks out of our chicken feed growing system and
helping me figure out which crops are best to grow. By 2012, I’m
hopeful that homegrown feed will be a higher percentage of our
waterer is a great
complement to a healthy diet — clean water to go with good food.