20 Vegetables That Grow in Shade

20 Vegetables That Grow in Shade

Wondering what vegetables grow in the shade? No matter where you might live, it can be tough to find the optimal conditions for growing vegetables.

 

From shade produced by nearby buildings to hefty tree limbs that block out the afternoon sun, finding a garden plot with the perfect amount of sunlight your plants need can be a challenge. However, you don’t need to move mountains in order to grow a productive garden. 

 

Instead, you just need to consider these vegetables that grow in shade. 

 

What is Considered “Shade”?

There are essentially three different sunlight settings that can describe how much light your plants will get during the growing season. 

 

Full sun refers to areas that receive direct sunlight for a  minimum of six hours each day. Usually, this will be sometime between the hours of 10 am and 6pm. 

 

Partial shade, on the other hand, refers to areas that receive three to six hours of sun each day. This can include areas of filtered or dappled sunlight, even if it’s just during a short window each day. 

 

Full shade areas receive no direct sun or even any reflected light during the day. It can be pretty tricky to grow any kind of vegetable in full shade (after all, every plant needs light to grow)- as a result, most of the plants we will recommend in this article should be considered for partial shade instead. 

 

Top 20 Vegetables That Grow in Shade

When you’re looking for the best vegetables to grow in the shade, you will want to consider plants like leafy greens (which are sensitive to the sun) and root vegetables, that can tolerate some partial shade as well. 

 

Here are some of the top vegetables that grow in shade. 

 

Beans

Beans require very little work to grow, which is probably why they are found in just about every gardener’s plot. In addition, they grow well with moderate amounts of daily shade. With so many different types of beans to choose from, they’re a smart choice for your shade garden for sure. 

 

Arugula

One of the fastest-growing leafy greens, arugula is a great option for your backyard shade garden. Although not everyone will be fond of arugula’s musky, peppery taste, it can’t be argued that it performs exceptionally well when grown in partial shade.

 

Broccoli

Broccoli loves being grown in lots of shade. A member of the cabbage family, it really only requires a few hours of sunlight each day along with plenty of water. In some places, you might be able to sneak in multiple crops throughout the growing season, too – just make sure you trim back the flowers so the plant doesn’t bolt on you.

 

Beets 

Beets are one of the best cold-hardy crops you can grow, but they are also one of the best vegetables that grow in shade for you to consider, too. Although too much shade can cause your beetroots to become a bit tiny, the greens will still produce remarkably well. Plant beets in succession for a continual harvest and make sure you keep them well-watered!

 

Brussels Sprouts

Brussels sprouts – you either love them or you hate them. These plants are fun to watch as they mature and they will do so quite well even in the shade. Brussels sprouts grow well into the cold season and actually prefer being grown in cooler weather. 

 

Spinach

Spinach can be grown with just a few hours of sunlight each day. Because it is a cold-loving plant, it even grows well in the waning daylight hours of fall and spring. NOt only is spinach an excellent salad green, but it can be used in a variety of cooked recipes, too. If you start planting early, you can plant in succession for a crop all season long.

 

Swiss Chard

Swiss Chard is a colorful beauty for you to consider in your backyard shade garden. Preferring partial shade, this plant is biennial – you can overwinter it to grow it a second year. Chard is easy to grow and requires minimal maintenance, making it perfect for the inexperienced gardener. 

 

Kale

Kale is another superb candidate for your shade garden. Closely related to cabbage, this plant can also be grown in a container and likes cool soil temperatures and lots of shade. It can even handle a light frost!

 

Collard Greens

Yet another cabbage relative on this list is collard greens. This plant tastes delicious sauteed as well as in a salad. Collard greens require at least four hour of sun each day, so if you have a shadier garden that receives a bit of dappled sunlight every now and then, you’re in luck. This plant also performs well in cold climates.

 

Cauliflower

A very close relative to broccoli, cauliflower also grows well in the shade. It can tolerate a ton of cold and shade. Delicious cooked and fresh, cauliflower should be blanched if you want it to have a sweeter taste.

 

Cress

Also known as garden cress, cress is a rare vegetable that many gardeners overlook when they are considering the major vegetables that grow in shade. However, this is a great option for you to consider if you want another leafy green to dd to the dinner table. Not only does it mature with lightning speeds, but it can also be grown in moist soil and is known for its peppery flavor. 

 

Mustard Greens

Move over, spinach and kale. Here’s a new leafy green to consider growing in the shade. Mustard greens can be grown either in full sun or in partial shade, but since they prefer cooler temperatures, you might want to grow them in the shade. 

 

Peas

Peas do quite well in a partially shady location, primarily because they like being cool. However your timing will be important – you need to make sure you sow your seeds and can get a harvest before it gets too hot. 

 

Endive

Endives perform remarkably well with only a few hours of sunlight each day. This is specifically true if you are growing the plant during the hottest days of the summer – offering shade will prevent the plant from bolting too soon. It can also be grown in a pot!

 

Lettuce

Lettuce is truly a gardener’s staple and is a cool-season green that grows well in partial shade. You can grow it in almost complete shade, too – some gardeners even use shade cloth to prevent it from becoming signed in the summer sun. 

 

Radishes

The humble radish is one of the best vegetables to grow in the shade. Not only does it take up very little space, but it doesn’t like a lot of sun or heat – in fact, it will taste woody if you give it too much sun. 

 

Not only do radishes taste great on their own (and there are so many varieties!) the tops can be eaten, too. Radishes can be grown in the fall and the spring and there are plenty of possibilities and varieties for you to grow. 

 

Bok Choy

Also known as Chinese cabbage, bok choy is perfect in soups and salads. It can be grown easily in dappled sunlight or even more serious shade. It requires just two hours of sunlight each day to maintain its deep green leaves. 

 

Green Onions

You might also hear green onions referred to as scallions. These plants grow quickly and are hardy to most conditions. They can be sprouted by soaking the roots in a container of water before transplanting them to partial shade. Delicious in a salad or cooked dish, green onions can sometimes be grown as perennial shade crops, too.

 

Carrots 

Another root vegetable that grows well in the shade is the mighty carrot. Carrots can handle partial shade with grace – if you can provide your carrots with six or more hours of sunlight, they will grow more rapidly, but you can also grow them in the shade. You just might have to wait a bit longer! 

 

Potatoes

Potatoes need at least five hours of sunlight if you want large tubers. However, if you have a shadier spot, feel free to give them a try – you might end up with great boiling potato at the very least! They don’t, however, n eed super hot weather to grow – potatoes prefer soil temperatures in the 40s and 50s. 

 

Tips for Growing Vegetables in the Shade

Invest in Your Soil

The key to growing healthy vegetables, but particularly vegetables that grow in shade, is making sure you have good soil that can actually support plant life. If you are already going to be challenging your crop to grow with minimal sun, it’s super important that your plants have fertile soil that is well-draining and not compacted. Add some compost to help improve your structure and soil fertility.

 

Moderate Moisture

Don’t water your shade garden like you would water a garden in full sun! Moisture won’t evaporate as quickly, so you won’t need to water your garden quite as frequently. If it’s near trees, however, you will need to water a bit more since your vegetables will be competing with the trees for water. 

 

Keep an Eye Out For Pests 

Certain pests are opportunistic little buggers and will seize any opportunity they can get to attack your plants. Shady areas also tend to be a bit cooler and isolated, making them the perfect habitat for shade-loving (but crop-destroying) creatures like snails and slugs. 

 

Prevent Diseases

Just as you will need to monitor the moisture levels in your vegetable garden in the shade, you will also need to be mindful of moisture. You are more likely to suffer from various fungal diseases like powdery mildew, when you are gardening in the shade because your plants won’t have as much opportunity to rid themselves of excess moisture. 

 

Think About Maturation Times 

There are plenty of vegetables that grow in the shade, but it’s important to remember that they won’t grow exactly like their sun-loving counterparts. You may find that your plants take a bit longer to mature than what you see noted on the seed packet.

 

Start Your Seedlings Indoors

Starting seeds ahead of time indoors is a great way to give them a jump start before they need to be in the shade. You can start your own transplants and plant them whenever the ground has warmed.

 

Plant in Succession 

Not sure how well your shade garden is going to perform, or concerned that your plants will take longer to mature? Don’t worry. All you need to do is plant succession. This will allow you to reap multiple harvests of the same crop despite the delays related to the shade. 

 

Grow the Right Plants 

Don’t try to grow plants that are adapted to full sun conditions when you only have partial sun available where you’re trying to garden. Crops that demand lots of light, such as blossoming plants like tomatoes and peppers, will not do well in a shady environment no matter how much you build up your soil ahead of time. 

 

Modify Your Environment 

Consider pruning low tree branches or thinning out tall limbs to let more sunlight pour into your garden. You can also paint nearby surfaces white to reflect more light back onto your garden. You can also use a reflective mulch to serve this purpose. 

 

Grow in Containers 

Growing in containers is a great way to accommodate for an overly shady garden. Not only will you be able to move your plants as the seasons change, but you can bring them inside once the weather cools, too.

 

Why You Should Consider These Vegetables That Grow in Shade

If you have a shady garden and think you can’t successfully grow vegetables, think again. A partially shaded garden not only allows for a longer growing season for cool-season crops (like broccoli) but the shade can also protect your plants from the hot rays of the summer sun. 

 

Shade-grown vegetables also taste better. They tend to be more succulent and less bitter, since they haven’t had to spend all of their energy staying cool. 

 

Consider these tips and order your seeds . There are plenty of vegetables that grow in the shade – and now that you’re no longer in the dark, you should start planting as soon as possible.

Alternative Feed For Chickens: Best Ideas!

Alternative Feed For Chickens: Best Ideas!

If you’re looking for an alternative feed for chickens that won’t break the bank and will help support your healthy flock, then you’re in luck – there’s an abundance of surprising alternatives!

 

While your hens should always have a high-quality layer feed, you might find yourself without a bag one day (and the feed store might be closed) OR you might have table scraps you don’t want to toss.

 

You also might want to make your own chicken feed.

 

Nutritious feed doesn’t need to come with a golden price tag, but it does need to satisfy the hunger cravings of your beloved flock and provide much-needed nutrients and vitamins.

 

Whether you want to craft your own chicken feed or just want to give your flock some treats, it’s always good to know what chickens eat!

 

In this article, we’ll discuss the possible alternatives to your usual feed – and you might be surprised at our list of ingredients!

 

What Is The Best Food For Chickens?

The best chicken feed for laying hens is a high-quality 16% protein layer feed with a calcium supplement. For chicks (under 16 weeks), a high-quality 18% chick starter is best. The feed should have the required nutrition and vitamins for them to stay healthy and become consistent egg layers. Most commercial feeds make it easy. If you want to make your own layer feed, you can use my organic homemade chicken feed recipe here.

 

How To Feed Chickens Without Buying Feed

While I never really recommend this, there’s plenty you can feed chickens without actually having to buy feed. You can feed them table scraps (there’s a table below of what human food they can eat), grow food for them (we have a leafy green garden for our flock), or raise mealworms or black soldier fly larvae.

 

You can learn how to raise mealworms here and why black soldier fly larvae are healthy for chickens here.

 

 

If you have a “corn hookup” you can feed them dry corn as well. One of our neighbors is a farmer. One year, his crew spilled a LOT of corn on the ground. He didn’t want to clean it up, so he asked if we wanted it, LOL!

 

It’s best to feed a 16% protein layer feed however – you want your chickens to be healthy and lay eggs consistently. Nine times out of ten, when a reader emails me because her hens have stopped laying, diet is the reason why.

 

What Can Chickens Eat?

Chickens can eat so many things – it’s probably easier to talk about what they CAN’T eat! Chickens especially seem to love protein – insects (alive or dead) are HUGE with backyard chickens. They also love seeds such as sunflower, wheat, or hemp seeds. Of course, fruits and vegetables are popular, too (especially corn)! As for leafy greens, it’s best to stick with lettuce, kale, and spinach.

 

Here’s a brief table of suggested treats for your chickens (not comprehensive):

 

Fruit Legumes Vegetables Seeds Proteins Dairy Grains
Berries Peanuts Spinach Sunflower Mealworms Milk Wheat
Cantaloupe Alfalfa Hay Tomatoes Flax Black Soldier Fly Larvae Greek Yogurt

(Plain)

Oats
Watermelon Peas Squash & Pumpkin Pumpkin Dried River Shrimp Cheese Rye
Bananas Clover Kale Hemp Eggs Whey Millet

 

What Can You Feed Chickens If You Run Out Of Feed?

Alternative feed for chickens if you’re out of feed are whole grains like wheat, corn, flax, cooked rice (NOT UNCOOKED!), and raw or cooked oatmeal. Protein-rich foods like cheese, plain greek yogurt, and sunflower seeds are also good choices. Most table scraps you have on hand will also be suitable as an alternative. Bugs like black soldier fly larvae (which are remarkably easy to cultivate), worms, and crickets are options as well. Just be sure to steer clear of beans!

 

What Do Chickens Eat Naturally?

What chickens eat naturally (and that will cost you next to nothing) is food you can produce in your backyard, such as green plants, vegetables, fruits, and seeds. Chickens will also naturally hunt for insects such as earthworms, slugs, grubs, black soldier fly larvae, and other creepy crawlies. This alternative feed for chickens is cost-effective, full of protein, and can be found in their natural habitat.

 

However, before attempting to use any of the above as dinner for your flock, you should be aware of what food can harm to your flock if you’re considering an alternative feed for chickens. Bad food such as salt, sugar, coffee, or liquor and any uncooked raw or dried beans, raw green potato skins (which can contain a poison called solanine). Onions also are a poor food to give to chickens.

 

What Scraps Not To Feed Chickens?

What foods are toxic to chickens? Well, plenty. For starters, chickens should never consume anything moldy or rotten because it can make them sick. The chart below lists various foods and scraps that chickens shouldn’t eat:

 

Vegetables Fruit Legumes Grains Other
Potato skins Avocado skins & pits Dried beans Dry rice Salt
Onions Apple seeds Uncooked beans Chocolate
Chards Peach pits Lots of sugar
Rhubarb leaves Coffee

 

What Is The Cheapest Way To Feed Chickens?

The cheapest alternative feed for chickens would be using table scraps that don’t include anything moldy or rotten. Other free chicken feed ideas are insects such as grubs, mealworms, or black soldier fly larvae (or crawfish, if they’re in your region). Mixing your own non-gmo organic chicken feed is another option, especially if you can bulk buy ingredients at a lower cost. We have an article about making your own homemade chicken feed here.

 

Do Chickens Need Food And Water At Night?

Chickens typically only eat food and drink water when they are awake during the day. At night, chickens prefer to roost and get some sleep. However, there’s nothing wrong with leaving food and water in the coop overnight (especially water) if you don’t have a rodent problem. You should always make sure the feed won’t attract predators. A chicken feeder that automatically closes at night is always a good option.

 

What Vitamins Are Good For Chickens?

Like people, chickens need all the vitamins they can get. Vitamin and mineral deficiencies can produce numerous health problems for chickens (including poor egg production), so it’s important to feed them a balanced poultry diet enriched with vitamins A, D, E, K, B12, Biotin, Thiamine (B1), Riboflavin (B2), Niacin, Choline, Folic Acid, and Pantothenic Acid. Also, minerals such as calcium, iron, magnesium, copper, iodine, zinc, cobalt, phosphorus, and, manganese are important. Most commercial chicken feeds have all the vitamins and minerals your hens need. To ensure your flock has enough calcium to produce good eggshells, you can offer an additional supplement like oyster shells.

 

What Can I Grow For Chicken Feed?

You can grow garden cover crops such as alfalfa, clover, buckwheat, and annual rye. In your garden, you can grow tomatoes, leafy greens like kale or spinach, wheat (can be sprouted into fodder), bell peppers, sunchokes (boil and mash to feed), corn, and herbs. Just remember that you will need to feed your chickens year round, so if you want to grow feed for your chickens, have a plan to preserve some. Other chicken feed ingredients you can grow are wheat and millet.

 

If you’re wondering what to feed chickens to lay eggs, it’s important to give your flock plenty of protein. So, if you really want to grow your own chicken feed, it’s a good idea to also raise mealworms or other insects so your hens have plenty of protein.

 

How Much Should I Feed My Chickens?

Ideally, you should feed your chickens about 1/4 pound of feed per chicken per day, or, 1.5 pounds of feed per chicken per week. Environmental conditions, such as whether it’s very hot or very cold, can also effect how much you should feed your flock. In the winter, you’ll likely want to increase their rations so they can produce enough body heat. If your flock isn’t laying eggs consistently, you’ll want to increase their diet, as well. Typically, chicken feed 50-pound bags are sold at stores to make it easier.

 

Are Oats Good For Chickens?

Yes! You’ll read varying opinions about this, but oats are perfectly fine to feed your flock. You can feed them dry or made into a mash. Quick oats and instant oats are fine as well – just make sure they’re plain, and without any extra preservatives or ingredients. During very cold nights, many owners make their chickens oatmeal to give them extra energy at night. In the summer, you can mix oatmeal into frozen suet cakes.

 

Will Chickens Eat Roaches?

A great alternative feed for chickens are bugs – chickens love them! While there are many critters hens love to eat, cockroaches are one of them! If you raise cockroaches, then you’re in for a treat. Chickens love chasing them, and they’re full of protein.

 

Is Peanut Butter Good For Chickens?

While peanut butter (natural, no salt, no added ingredients) is okay for chickens to eat, it’s not the best for them. A high-quality layer feed is better. However, there’s nothing in peanut butter that will hurt them, as long as it’s 100% natural with no salt or added ingredients. Honey is also healthy for chickens, so you can mix it with honey if you want!

 

Summary

There’s a lot of alternative feed options for backyard chickens. However, it’s important to make sure your flock has the right amount of protein, vitamins, and minerals in their diet. Otherwise, you might not get as many eggs!

 

What’s your favorite alternative feed for chickens? Leave a comment below!

It’s June…Here’s 17 Vegetables You Can Still Plant For a Full Fall Harvest!

It’s June…Here’s 17 Vegetables You Can Still Plant For a Full Fall Harvest!

It maybe June (can you believe we’re halfway through the year?), but there’s still plenty you can plant for a late summer/fall harvest!

 

(This is an excerpt from my #1 Amazon Bestselling book Organic By Choice: The (Secret) Rebel’s Guide To Backyard Gardening. If you want a great resource to help you grow everything listed below, grab it on Amazon right here!)

 

Believe me when I say that there’s veggies on this list I’ll be planting myself – I just cleaned out the greenhouses, spread rabbit manure to add nutrients to the soil, and I’ll be planting some beans, beets, and greens I hope to overwinter!

 

Even if you haven’t started your garden, don’t despair – there’s still plenty of time!

 

Here’s 17 plants you can still start this month!

 

Beans

Lots of varieties love the warmer weather! You can harvest some varieties in as little as 45 days. In hotter areas, stick with bush varieties to conserve water. Direct sow every two weeks for a continued harvest well into fall. Plant 10-15 plants per person in your family.

 

Beets

You can grow beets for either the roots or the greens. Direct sow in the soil now, and they’ll be ready to harvest in 45-60 days. Pickle them to preserve them!

 

Bok Choy

I love bok choy because it’s mild (aka not bitter), you can harvest it when it’s still young for a super nutritious addition to any sandwich or salad.

 

Broccoli

While you might not connect broccoli with something you should grow in June, especially in climates with a shorter growing season, you can start it now so it’s ready to harvest when the nights start to dip below 50 degrees.

 

Cabbage

If you plant cabbage now, you can harvest well into cooler weather (cabbage loves lower temperatures!) It takes a bit of time to grow big enough for harvest, so make sure it has a dedicated space you won’t need for anything else.

 

Calendula (C. officinalis)

This medicinal herb/flower can be used for so many purposes, from giving chickens golden egg yolks to creating healing salves for your family. Direct sow, and seeds will germinate in about 2 weeks.

 

Carrots

If you start your carrots now, you can still get an early fall crop – and they can hang out in the garden well into late fall.

 

Corn

Corn grows fairly quickly, but it needs full sun and lots of water. You can harvest it in as little as 70 days if you choose a fast-maturing variety. If you want to harvest enough for your whole family, plan on 12 – 15 ears per person.

 

Cucumbers

Consider bush cucumbers to save space and water. You can harvest them when they’re small for sweet pickles.

 

Eggplant

Eggplant loves heat, and you can see purple eggplants starting to form in as little as 60 days. Choose a fast-growing variety. If your family loves eggplant, you should plan on 3 plants per person.

 

Herbs

There’s plenty of herbs you can start right now, including:

 

  • Basil (grow several plants for a winter full of pesto)
  • Oregano (Greek oregano has great, large leaves)
  • Thyme
  • Sage (grow 7-10 plants for smudge sticks)
  • Dill (grow 3-4 plants for leaves, 10 or more for dill seed for pickling)
  • Parsley
  • Cilantro
  • Lavender

 

You can plant herbs outside or in pots so you can bring them in at the end of season. Remember you will need time to dry them – so don’t plant too many and get overwhelmed.

 

Melons

Now is a great time to start watermelons and cantaloupe! Plan on 3 – 4 plants per person in your family.

 

Peas

Count on 20 plants per person.

 

Squash

Squash loves heat, and will grow quickly in the higher temperatures. Yellow summer squash is a great variety, as are gourd varieties.

 

Sunflowers

You can let them go to seed for a healthy snack or harvest them for cut flowers.

 

Swiss Chard

Perfect if you have a shady spot in your garden, which will help the leaves from bolting and becoming bitter.

 

Turnips

Plant for greens and/or the roots. You will be able to harvest them long into the fall.

 

I’d like to hear from you!

What are you planting right now? Leave a comment below!

What Do Chickens Eat?

What Do Chickens Eat?

A frequent question I get is what do chickens eat, and the answer is pretty much anything (my Araucana chicken will eat me out of house and home if she could!)

 

But, there’s definitely things you should feed them and things you SHOULDN’T feed them. So today let’s talk all about what your chickens should and shouldn’t be eating.

 

We’ll also debunk some myths about what chickens eat. So let’s get started!

 

 

It’s incredibly important to give your hens a high-quality, varied diet.

And in order to be able to do that you need to know what chickens eat. Plus providing your chickens with a high-quality, nutritious diet means that you will have great tasting eggs!

 

So, what do chickens eat?

My chickens aren’t super picky. Honestly they’ll eat ANYTHING. But I like to ensure that my chickens are getting the nutrients that they need, so here are some of the things that I think are the best things to feed your chickens.

 

Layer feed

Layer feed is the cornerstone to any good diet plan for your hens. It contains all the nutrients they need to be healthy – laying eggs is taxing on a hen’s body, and the protein and nutrients it requires must be replenished.

 

Once they start laying eggs, you should feed them a high quality feed with at least 16% protein daily. You can make your own feed using my recipe here or opt for a commercial feed.

 

You might find that your hens will gobble a pelleted layer feed and refuse to eat a mash (or vice versa) – that’s okay. My Araucana chicken LOVES her mash – chickens are funny creatures and have their preferences just like we do.

 

Herbs

Herbs are really important for chickens because:

1. Chickens love them

2. They provide important nutrients

3. They can also provide some environmental activities for your chickens in their run.

 

I just made a DIY Herb Pot for my chickens and they absolutely love it!  

 

what do chickens eat araucana chicken

 

Some of my favorite herbs that I use for my chickens are peppermint, oregano, and sage. Oregano has antibacterial properties, so it promotes cleanliness in your coop. Studies have also shown that oregano helped chickens to be healthier and lay more!

 

Garlic is great to add to feed – in studies, it’s been shown to boost immune systems in humans and animals alike.

 

I also love using peppermint because it smells SO GOOD! And it also can help keep insects away from your chickens, and possibly help maintain a healthy respiratory system.

 

Sage is one of my go to herbs for healthy digestive systems. It smells great like peppermint and my chickens love to peck at it. In studies, it also reduced internal parasites (wormwood and chili are also great options.)

 

Fruit

Fruit can be great for your chickens because there’s lots of vitamins and minerals. Grapes, apple flesh (see below for more about apples), pears, raspberries, strawberries, etc are all great for chickens.

 

Just keep in mind that some chickens won’t want fruit – mine don’t seem to be too partial to fruit (Hawk, my Araucana hen, really loves her black soldier fly larvae).

 

Like anything else, fruit should be fed in moderation since too much of anything can be harmful for your chickens. I normally make sure that when I’m feeding my chickens “table scraps” (i.e. leftover fruits and veggies) it doesn’t exceed more than 10% of their diet.

 

Leafy greens & vegetables

Chicken do like leafy greens – some go-to leafy greens are lettuce, kale, spinach, arugula, etc. Every year we grow our hens their own special greens garden by broadcasting seeds into a raised bed and then harvesting as needed.

 

I don’t suggest letting the hens have access to the garden 24 hours a day – they’ll shred it to bits in no time flat.

 

You can also grow greens and herbs in their coop, but give them limited access with a DIY grazing box, which is VERY easy to put together and durable – ours has lasted us several seasons.

 

There are some leafy greens you should avoid feeding backyard cchickens, but we’ll talk about those later!

 

By and large, your chickens can eat any vegetables you do – keep in mind that cooked, soft vegetables might go over better than raw. However, cooked veggies typically don’t have the same amount of nutrients as raw, so one option is to ferment your vegetables for 3-7 days so they get soft without losing nutrients.

 

Fermented vegetables are also super healthy for hens because they have beneficial bacteria such as lactobacillus which can help balance their digestive system and possibly lower their pathogen load. In studies, hens fed fermented foods had lower incidences of salmonella in their systems.

 

Sprouts & Fodder

My chickens LOVE to eat sprouts. And sprouts are so easy! Sunflower sprouts are simple, although you can sprout wheat, oats, beans, etc.

 

Chickens love them because they’re fresh greens plus seeds, and they love picking at both. They’re also extremely nutritious for chickens since a seed is full of all the vitamins and minerals required for the seed to generate new life.

 

To learn how to sprout seeds, here’s a tutorial for sunflower seeds.

 

Fodder is also something chickens eat – it’s basically sprouting seeds, but allowing them to grow into a grass or actual plant. Learn about growing fodder for chickens here.

 

Eggs

There are many myths about feeding your chickens egg shells, but egg shells are a great source of calcium and protein for your chickens and they are totally fine to eat them.

 

Cooked eggs are best – as you know, raw eggs carry a chance of pathogens, and you don’t want your hens transmitting bacteria to each other accidentally or reinfecting themselves.

 

You can scramble the eggs – just make sure they’re cool before giving them to your chickens.

 

Eggshells are also great for chickens & an easy source of calcium. Again, dried, toasted eggshells are better than raw.

 

Insects (live & dried)

One incredibly important aspect of your chickens diet is ensuring that they get enough protein. Chickens require a lot of protein to lay eggs and have healthy feathers, among other things.

 

And one thing chickens LOVE to eat are dried insects such as Black Soldier Fly Larvae and mealworms.

 

You can either mix in mealworms and black soldier fly larvae into your chickens feed to help them get the protein that they need or feed them separately – just be prepared to be jumped on when your hens see the bags!

 

I have an entire article here about how you can raise your own Black Soldier Fly Larvae or Mealworms for your chickens. I mix in mealworms and black soldier fly larvae into my chickens feed to help them get the protein that they need.

Meat

Yep, when asking yourself “what do chickens eat?” you might not think of meat. Remember, chicken are omnivores, so they will eat other animals given the need and opportunity.

 

In fact, my Araucana hen will attack baby mice or frogs as sport. You might find that if your hens are protein deprived, they’ll start going after other animals to rebalance their nutrient deficiency.

 

You can also feed meat as a treat. Our hens go bonkers over local crawfish:

 

What do chickens eat araucana chicken crawfish

What to avoid feeding chickens:

Feeding chickens isn’t too complicated, but there are some things that you should avoid feed them. I have a full article about what not to feed chickens right here, but here’s a brief list (not comprehensive):

 

  • Dried or undercooked beans
  • Moldy food
  • Apple seeds
  • Pits from stone fruit such as peaches, avocado, nectarines, cherries
  • Dry rice
  • Undercooked/raw potatoes
  • Potato skins (cooked and raw)
  • Rhubarb
  • Excessive amounts of beet leaves, swiss chard, spinach (contain oxalic acid which can be poisonous in large amounts).

 

So now let’s talk about some of the feeding myths that I hear ALL the time.

 

Feeding myth #1: It’s okay to let chickens forage 100% of the time.

Sure, if you want scrawny birds that don’t enjoy human interaction. Chickens can survive foraging on their own, but letting them forage can be detrimental to their egg production and temperament.

 

I’ve let my chickens forage for 100% of their food in the past, but I noticed that my hens weren’t as healthy and they didn’t lay nearly as many eggs. You can let your chickens forage, but I recommend that you still supplement their diet with layer feed, so that your chickens stay healthy.

You also run the risk of losing birds to predators when you let them forage 100% of the time, so I just don’t risk it anymore.

 

Feeding myth #2: Citrus is poisonous to chickens

It’s not, it’s actually healthy for them. See this article here to learn more about why citrus is actually good for your chickens.

 

My chickens won’t even touch it when I give it to them, but it’s not poisonous and it has health benefits for your chickens. If you want your chickens to have the health benefits of citrus, you can always add a little to their water.

 

Feeding myth #3: Letting chickens eat eggs is cannibalism or will turn them into cannibals.

This one is just not true. I don’t know who started this vicious rumor but it’s BS. Allowing your chickens to eat eggs is actually good for them and I do it all of the time.

 

Just be sure to cook the eggs since pathogens such as campylobacter and salmonella have a chance of passing into the egg and you don’t want your chickens to reinfect themselves.

 

Still wondering “What do chickens eat?” What are your chickens’ favorite things to eat? I’d love to hear about it in the comments below!

Save Seeds From Tomatoes, Beans, & Peas For A Self-Sufficient Garden!

Save Seeds From Tomatoes, Beans, & Peas For A Self-Sufficient Garden!

If you’re a new gardener, chances are you’re wondering how to save seeds.

 

Maybe you want a self-sufficient backyard farm, or loved the taste of this year’s tomatoes and want to try to grow them again next year.

 

On our farm, we try to save seeds so we can have a consistent harvest year to year – I like predictable plants, and over time, we’ve been able to develop varieties that are well-suited to our particular micro environment.

 

In this article, I’m going to show you how to save seeds so you can have the same!

 

What Seeds Should You Save?

Although you can save seeds from any vegetable you want, you’ll have a more consistent crop if you save seeds from self-pollinating vegetables. If vegetables have cross pollinated (so the seeds would be hybrids), they might not carry the same genetic traits as their parents.

 

Self-pollinating vegetables include:

 

  • Tomatoes
  • Peppers
  • Beans
  • Peas

 

However, if you do end up saving seeds that are potential hybrids, all isn’t lost – you might enjoy the next year’s vegetables even more.

 

Only save seeds from fully ripe vegetables. Choose the best, healthiest vegetables to harvest from.

Beans, Peas, & Greens (Lettuce, Mustard, etc)

You have a couple choices. You can harvest the pods when they’re mature and slightly dry, and allow to fully dry indoors for 4 or so weeks.

 

A second option I’ve seen farmers use successfully is to allow the pods to completely dry on plant.

 

The downside to this is there’s a chance of mold if it gets rainy or animals can scavenge them before you can harvest them. They could also pop open, spilling seeds on the ground or allowing them to mold.

 

Whichever method you use, be sure to choose healthy, unbroken pods to harvest.

 

Once completely dry, gently rub pods between your hands to reveal the dry beans or peas. Separate the seeds from the chaff and allow to continue to fry for another 2 weeks.

 

Store in an airtight, rodent-safe container.

 

Peppers

Cut open a fully-ripe pepper (if it changes color, wait until after the it’s finished) and remove the seeds.

 

Place on a paper towel and allow to dry for 2 weeks. Store in an airtight container in a cool area, out of direct light.

.

Tomatoes

Tomato seeds need to be treated differently than the other seeds in this article (this process can also be used for cucumber, squash, and melon seeds).

 

They’re covered with a natural germination inhibitor (the “gel” around a tomato seed) and need to go through a fermenting process to remove it once you harvest the fruit.

 

In nature, the fruit rots and falls to the ground, and the rotting process removes the gel surrounding the seed.

 

Since none of us want rotting fruit hanging around in our house attracting fruit flies, we need to ferment the seeds in a shorter timespan, about 5 – 7 days.

 

After choosing the tomato you want to save seeds from, slice it open and scoop the seeds and pulp into a mason jar. Fill with water and let sit for about a week.

 

It will probably smell, and might give an off-smell. That’s ok (you can loosely cover the jar to keep pests away). As you’re waiting for the fermenting process to complete, check to see if any of the seeds have started to float.

 

If so, remove them and toss. They won’t produce strong seedlings, if they sprout at all.

 

Once fermented, strain out the viable seeds and clean them thoroughly with fresh water. Lay them on a paper towel to dry for a few days. Store in an airtight container in a cool area out of the sun.