Below are some crops which can be grown for chickens – the plan was written with a larger operation in mind than most of us have, but may still be worth considering even on a smaller scale if you have some space.
A system of crop rotation can be used in the yards for the matured fowls. Plow the yards the previous fall and sow rye (not recommended for growing chickens [such as broilers and pullets] or Turkeys), or plow them very early in the Spring and sow oats first. Allow them to get up about three or four inches high before letting the birds out onto them. A system of alternate yards will greatly add to the efficiency of yarding layers and breeders, as one yard can be growing a green crop while the other yard is being ranged over by the birds. Use oats as a yard green crop until in late May. Then plow the yards and sow soy beans. Soy beans can, and I believe, should be used much more extensively for poultry. They grow quickly, producing a wide-leafed plant that is palatable and very satisfactory to the birds. If allowed to get about five or six inches high before the birds are turned onto it, soy beans will keep ahead of the birds and will soon afford shade as well as a source of green food. In August when the soy beans have been eaten down or have dried, plant the yards in buckwheat. Buckwheat make a good growth and will usually keep so far ahead of the hens that some straw will be furnished for bedding purposes. It might have been said that in the case of soy beans, that usually the birds will not destroy the bean pods, but only the leaves so that a fair crop of beans can be harvested for use in the poultry rations ground up as a part of the dry mash, or for other farm animals. After the buckwheat is harvested, plow once more and sow rye, and another year’s cycle is commenced. — W. C. Thompson
On a related issue I had an email from Denise Keith who said
Hello, Gina. I just got my first chickens this year (they are 9 months old now and laying well). I have 6 Rhode Island Red hens. I try to feed them as much organic foods as I can, and try to resource free as much as possible. My question is this – can chickens eat the berries from pyricantha bushes. I know that wild birds do, so was hoping chickens could also. I have a neighbor who has a large hedge and can get all I want. I get the leaves from the market when they “clean” up their produce as well as bruised fruits and vegetables sometimes. I am on a fixed income so need to look for cheap as much as I can. I enjoy reading your newsletter and have learned so much. Keep up the good work.
My Reply : I have seen pyricantha on a couple of ‘do not feed to your chickens’ kinds of lists but the FDA tested them and concluded they were not harmful http://www.accessdata.fda.gov/scripts/plantox/detail.cfm?id=1349 and on the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds site http://www.rspb.org.uk/birds-and-wildlife/read-and-learn/fun-facts-and-articles/features/berries.aspx they say “pyracantha and berberis are especially good for a wide range of birds” so my own personal conclusion would be that they should be ok.