Grow Free Food For Rabbits & Chickens! Here’s How We Did it!

Grow Free Food For Rabbits & Chickens! Here’s How We Did it!

Buying grain for your livestock can add up – ask me how I know.

 

This year, we decided to do something different – we planted a garden to grow greens for our rabbits and chickens.

 

It’s been a success and now we have enough free food for everyone to have an extra bite every day – and it’s lowered our overall feed bill.

 

(Want some help with growing a garden? Grab my #1 Amazon best-selling book about organic gardening, Organic By Choice: The (Secret) Rebel’s Guide To Backyard Gardening – now available in paperback!)

 

 

We even have one rabbit who is picky about his feed – if it’s not exactly the right brand, he won’t eat it.

 

With the help of all the greens he’s been getting, his weight has picked up – and even on his snootiest “it’s not perfect so I won’t eat it” day, he’ll still chow down on fresh greens.

 

We’ve been using 5-foot by 10-foot raised beds similar to this one, which allows for 50 square feet of space devoted to growing. You can easily replicate this amount of space in your own backyard.

 

What should I grow for free food?

Glad you asked! We’ve had the best luck growing greens – they don’t take that long to mature (30-60 days, depending on variety), and you can grow a lot in a small space.

 

This year, we’ve been growing:

 

 

Some other options include arugula, carrots, and chard. Since rabbits can’t digest cabbage that well, avoid feeding it to them – use it for sauerkraut instead.

 

Bear in mind that you can’t necessarily replace ALL of your rabbits’ or chickens’ diet with greens, unless you can grow a large quantity. You will still likely need to supplement their diet with pellets and hay.

 

For your chickens, you can just bunch the leaves together and allow your hens to peck at the treat as a form of entertainment.

 

For ducks, your best bet is to tear the leaves up and toss them into a clean pool water for your flock to dig out – they’ll love it! Ours look forward to their “treat” every day (shhh….don’t tell them it’s good for them!)

How much space do I need?

 

In a 1-foot by 5-foot area, we’ve grown enough turnip greens to feed our 30 rabbits a healthy supplemental meal every day.

 

The amount of space you will need depends on what species of animal you’re feeding as well as how many – it’s best to start small and build up from there. You can experiment, weigh your harvests, see how your animals do with it, and scale up from there.

 

This fall, we will be devoting about 200 square feet to growing and overwintering greens for our rabbits.

 

Even if you have just a small space, for example, a table like this, you can still grow something – and anything is better than nothing! It adds up after a while.

 

Trust me when I say that getting their greens is the highlight of our rabbits’ day – they look forward to it, and it provides some excitement during an otherwise dull afternoon.

 

I’d like to hear from you!

Do you grow greens to feed your rabbits and chickens? What are your best tips? Leave a comment below!

 

 

Growing Fodder For Chickens Means Healthier Hens

Growing Fodder For Chickens Means Healthier Hens

Once I learned about growing fodder for chickens, I was hooked.

 

Fodder is one tool that should always be in your homesteading toolbox since growing fodder for chickens is so easy to do, and incredibly nutritious for your animals.

 

It can be grown regardless of season in a small space, and fights winter boredom for both the homesteader and our livestock. It’s revolutionized my feed program for every critter on the farm.

 

Once you start making it, you’ll wonder why you didn’t start sooner. Best part? Your critters will love it.

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My fodder system: stacked food-grade plastic bins.

What is fodder?

 

Sprouted grain. Really, growing fodder for chickens is as simple as that.

 

We use wheat, some people use barley.

 

We use wheat right now because barley is hard to find, but we will start growing barley in our fields if we can get a hold of some locally.

 

You can also use oats and millet. I’ve found oats don’t do quite as well as wheat and barley, and with oats, you run into problems with mold since it takes so long to sprout.

 

Amaranth is another option for growing fodder for chickens, although I’ve never used it.

 

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Wheat seeds that have just started to sprout.

How to grow fodder?

Growing fodder for chickens is super simple, and there are a couple options. I grow mine into grass about 4-6″ high because I’ve found it’s at its best protein-wise.

 

Other people just sprout the grain then feed it. I used to mist it 2-3 times a day, which is a great option, but now I use stacked food storage bins.

 

I prefer stacking them (that’s another idea that revolutionized my feed program) because I can water them less and grow more in a smaller space.

 

Before stacking them, I struggled keeping the grain moist enough and growing enough in a small space. I’m growing inside right now, but if you grow outside, the tops will protect your grain from critters.

 

Wheat can sprout in colder temperatures (I’ve had it sprout outside when the temps were in the low 40s), but it grows better when it’s 50 – 70 degrees.

 

Feed the fodder whenever you want, as long as it’s not moldy. Just pull the entire mat out of the plastic container (I use food-grade plastic) and feed it as is, or cut or tear it up in to smaller pieces.

 

My chickens go nuts for it. You can also feed it to rabbits, horses, etc.

 

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Wheat seeds that have rooted, but not grown into grass yet.

Why is it so nutritious?

 

Everything the plant embryo needs to sprout is locked inside that seed; in other words, a ton of nutrients necessary for production and growth already exist, ready to help the seed grow into a plant, and ultimately to propagate the species.

 

When the seed sprouts, all that nutritional goodness becomes bioavailable to your livestock in the form of a plant.

 

It’s easier for your animals to digest, which means they absorb more nutrients.

 

In addition, when the seed becomes a plant, the amount of feed increases up to 600%, which means less grain is needed to provide nutrition for the animal.

 

Pretty cool, huh?

 

Where to buy grains

 

I buy my wheat grain locally from a grain mill that sells feed wheat. You don’t want to buy grain that’s used to grow wheat for flour.

 

It’s usually treated, and not something you want your critters eating. Organic grains are the best, and there are lots of resources online. If you’re sprouting oats, you can use oats from the feed store.

 

I don’t recommend sprouting oats unless you grow them in the ground because when I tested them, they didn’t sprout as reliably as wheat and barley, but oats are non-GMO, so if you’re certain you want your livestock GMO-free, and if you’re having a hard time finding wheat or barley, oats are a good option and available everywhere.

 

I hope this guide about growing fodder for chickens has been helpful!

 

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Fodder that’s grown to the grass stage.

 

I’d like to hear from you!

Do you think you’ll try growing fodder for chickens? Leave a comment below!