Combining our two layer
flocks meant that I had too many chickens for the pastures to
handle. By the end of the first week, they’d eaten through
all of the available grass and would have started tearing up the
sod, so I let them all out into the woods a little earlier than in
I always like to keep
my eyes open when chickens move to new territory to see what they
eat, and this time was no different. The first thing the
hens did after leaving their pasture was to hop up to pull vines
out of the wingstem patch. A closer inspection showed why
— plump hog-peanut (Amphicarpaea bracteata) pods full of
protein-rich beans were dangling just out of reach.
As the name suggestions,
hog-peanuts are quite edible, especially to livestock, and the
plant produces both underground pods (like peanuts) and
aboveground pods. The beans are currently eaten by people in
the Sierra Norte de Puebla in Mexico, were used medicinally by the
Cherokee and Iroquois, and were grown in Scotland in the
nineteenth century. So, even though they’re mainly
considered a weed today, hog-peanuts definitely have a pretty
strong potential as food.
Hog-peanuts like to
grow up our fences in the more shady pastures (replacing the
unruly Japanese honeysuckle and slightly-more-manageable Virgin’s
bower, which both prefer full sun). I’ve been ripping
hog-peanut vines down, but if they’re a chicken favorite, maybe I
should let them grow, at least until the pods ripen up.
Have you run across
any wild foods lately that your flock particularly enjoys?
flock’s diet with clean water.