Rainy season research

This time of year it is dark long before we get home from work on the weekdays, so outdoor chores are limited to the bare necessities. The cold wet weather means lots of mud and decreased egg production for the flock. Plenty of inspiration to research improvements to try when the season turns.

This summer the Sustainable Poultry Network posted a list of 10 recommended old-timey publications from the beginning of the last century, and we’ve been reading through them ever since. One feeding method mentioned in most texts is chopped greens, usually kale. After reading this, we trialled Beedy’s Camden kale from Fedco Seeds, hoping to add some nutrient-packed supplement to the flock’s winter diet. It grows well here and should stand up to all but a hard freeze. Beedys Camden

The chickens seem to like it, and it’s easy to pull off a handful of leaves when we pass through the garden. We have a few plants started for winter too.

Some of the poultry books recommend a variety called thousand-headed kale (for dairy cows too!) but modern flocksters aren’t quite sure if this heirloom kale is still available. Apparently the ‘thousand heads’ refers to the ability to continue growing new leaves, while having leaves continually harvested. Kale

While surfing Ebay recently for some farmstead-related art, we noticed that Victorian-era paintings also show the practice of green feed for poultry. Feathered Friends by Edgar Hunt

We’ve found that our flock does best with winter supplements to their usual layer rations – cooked beans for protein, corn and wheat (thrown into their bedding so they can enjoy scratching around for it) for cold-weather carbohydrates, and fresh greens for vitamins and minerals.

Now that we’re breeding for better conformation, as well as plentiful, colorful eggs, knowing how to choose the best roosters and hens is crucial. Those top 10 poultry publications are a gold mine of information for that aspect of flock keeping too. Hen DiagramWe ended up with only 2 out of 11 eggs hatched from the Black Copper Marans we had sent from a breeder in Georgia. Shipped eggs are hard to get good results from, but being able to add good breeding stock to our flock is worth the hassle. 2 peepsHere is a sample of our new egg colors so far. We’ll be hatching some of these as soon as the new and improved cabinet incubator is ready. eggs


3 thoughts on “Rainy season research”

  1. Forgot to say, since we ran out of collards and other greenery to feed our girls we have been feeding them our sweet meat squash. They love it cooked or raw. We have also been feeding them our meat scraps and hunks of fat. They really love the fat. They act like it is candy. Fun to watch them take a piece and run around like they have the prize. Chickens are very entertaining.

    I started feeding them fat when I had some tallow left from some frying we were doing. I figured if they sell hunks of suet in the store for wild birds, our girls might like it too.

    1. It’s funny how many of those old-timey books talk about feeding meat scraps and fresh bone to hens. They sure love snacking on mice when they get a chance too.

      Sometimes you can get baby chicks to play chicken football with a dandelion, but they figure the trick out pretty soon.

      If you ever end up with a cuckoo roo, let me know! I really want to add some barring to the flock someday. We can swap for a nice Oliver hen 🙂


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