These are wonderful for your chickens, especially in the winter when they have little access to grass and bugs. The sprouts are grown in a tray system until they’re about four inches in length. These can then be fed directly to your chickens. Some great grains to try are wheat, barley, oat, sunflower and beans. Just keep them fresh and free of mold. Even the little sprouts themselves, harvested on the third or fourth day, are packed with nutrients and good for digestion.
3. Use the manure
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This means rich compost! Every coop should have the bedding and manure stripped out periodically. If you are using the deep litter method, you can add new bedding on top of the old, as needed, to reduce any odors. The chickens will scratch around and keep it mixed. Whether you choose to use sawdust or straw on the floor of your coop, it all can go into the compost pile. After a little decomposing action, this nitrogen-rich mix will be ready for your gardens. This is another reason why feeding your chickens well ultimately feeds your soil well (as well as your body!).
4. Don’t forget deep litter for heat
Depending on where you live, winters can be tough for chickens. Ideally, with a self-sustainable farm you want to have as many natural sources of heat as possible. As long as the chickens’ combs and wattles are not getting frost bitten or frozen, and they can come into the coop to stay dry, then they should be able to handle the weather.
A concern, however, is keeping their water from freezing. Some coops utilize a small heater for the watering container, while some people will simply change out the water periodically. Another option is deep litter, which is a method whereby you allow the sawdust or straw to build up in the floor of the coop. The decomposition of the material and the chicken manure give off a little bit of heat that can be helpful in the harsh winter months. To do this, just leave everything in the base of your coop, periodically adding a bit of new sawdust or straw on top to freshen it. The deeper it gets, the more it insulates the coop and generates a little natural heat through decomposition.
5. Enjoy the food!
Of course, one of the most obvious benefits of having chickens on your farm is the fact that they’re a tremendous source of protein. Even if you are not yet at the point where you slaughter your own meat, consider chickens for their eggs. A typical egg can have between 6-8 grams of protein, which is a great source for your family when times get hard. Most healthy hens lay up to one egg per day. So, if you have 12 healthy hens, you can expect to harvest up to a dozen eggs per day. The amount of eggs produced can drop during the winter when daylight hours are shorter, but can be helped by adding extra light to the coop. As long as you keep the chickens fed, they will help keep your family fed.
The more you use what you have, the closer you’ll be to having a healthy, self-sufficient farm.
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