Permaculture Egg Production

B100
By B100 on Mon, Jan 28, 2013 - 7:02pm

Permaculture Egg Production is of interest. Eggs are high quality protein in a small package! The goal is to design a system where  the hens thrive on what is produced locally on the land, without external inputs. I am not there yet, but keep getting closer. Our hens have access to green grass, other vegetation, bugs and worms, kitchen scraps and of course their feed. In exchange I get eggs, entertainment, bug control and serious fertilizer. I am working to minimize the amount of feed I provide. So the essential question is: how much land is required to keep a hen alive and what should you do with that land?

16 Comments

rheba's picture
rheba
Status: Bronze Member (Offline)
Joined: Apr 22 2009
Posts: 28
Permaculture Egg Production

Hi there. I would like to point out, for anyone working on the mechanics of this site, that it is still very hard to participate in discussions. I got an email about recent activity, went to the site, then had to log in, then had to find where the discussion was and then I don't really see that it is threaded. Unless I am really really interested I am not going to take the time to do this. Could the webmaster please make this simpler?

On to chickens: the price of organic broiler/layer grain has increased faster than anything but the national debt! I have been trying to figure out a way around this for ten years but this year I really need to get serious. Years ago I knew a woman who had grown up on a farm in Ireland. She was horrified that our chickens were getting bags of processed feed. I told her that I was supplementing with table scraps and potatoe peelings and she was still not happy. I asked her what the chickens on her farm ate and she said "They ate what we ate."

If you think about it, that is probably what their dogs and cats ate too. Of course, vets will tell you that our animals today live longer and healthier than they did years ago. I don't have any idea whether that is true and I won't argue with anyone about it. But I do know that here in the Northeast our soils are seriously depleted and that our chickens, eating organic grain from the farmer's coop and greens/bugs from our yards are probably getting diets that are better balanced than those of the average human. If you give up the balanced commercial rations you may be getting yourself into trouble.

So the first thing you must do if you want to feed your chickens from your land is to get serious about soils science. I recommend Steve Solomon's new book "The Intelligent Gardener." Then you need to figure out what the nutritional needs of chickens are and see how you can meet those needs year round by what you can produce locally. If you are practicing permaculture or sustainable integrated farming you should be able to use a combination of worms, roots, insects and veggies to sustain your chickens. For example, our chickens love raw goat's milk, whey from cheese making, squash that are going soft in the basement (it's that time of year) and left over cooked potatoes. They still expect their grain though and I am not going to be able to grow what they can in the midwest.

I am going to be working towards feeding goats and chickens from my very small farm this year. Since I can't legally sell my delicious raw goat's milk I am working on how to make it into a substance that I can feed to dogs and chickens. I know that I can feed eggs (and raw chicken) to the dogs.

This entails really studying the nutritional qualities of these foods. I am looking at growing a lot more forage for the goats and chickens in the form of mangels and beets. I don't envision giving up the use of kelp and comfort myself that it can be sourced from Maine - not too far away - but I worry about the pollution in the Gulf of Maine.

If anyone wants to do a serious discussion of this I would be happy to join in. There is probably a Yahoo User Group on this subject. (I get a lot out of Yahoo User Groups and they are easy to use. Steve Solomon's Soil and Health User group is so helpful and he is right there. He is a true hero but he is older and he has made his fortune.) This discussion format needs to get easier - maybe we could reply via email instead of going through this lengthy sign in process?

robie robinson's picture
robie robinson
Status: Platinum Member (Offline)
Joined: Aug 25 2009
Posts: 612
rheba

Its comforting to see you "getting" it. we don't supplement our birds other than excess garden seed table scraps and excess raw milk. our egg production follows a vernal cycle and o/w they don't lay. they're now quite feral and whip most predaters esp. the avarian type. the girls also hatch out sufficient numbers to keep us in broilers/fryers/large crockpotters and their own replacements. they truly are a sustainable commodity on this farm. 

robie

rheba's picture
rheba
Status: Bronze Member (Offline)
Joined: Apr 22 2009
Posts: 28
More on chickens

There is a really good thread over on the blog about growing fodder for goats and chickens. I am going to read it. It suggests that you can at least increase the impact of every pound of grain that you do buy.

rheba's picture
rheba
Status: Bronze Member (Offline)
Joined: Apr 22 2009
Posts: 28
I do put an LED light in the

I do put an LED light in the coop so we get eggs over the winter. Also built a hoop house using cattle panels so they have a snow-free play yard. We put in a bit of straw and manure and they get at least some worms all winter long. We haven't had much luck with hatching baby chicks though. I have mostly light brahmas now because they have pea combs that don't freeze and they are supposed to go broody.

B100's picture
B100
Status: Member (Offline)
Joined: Sep 23 2011
Posts: 6
Greens / lowering costs

I live in the Pacific NW and most of our wet winter is snow free. Therefore I try to "rotate" the hens through various patches of green grass or whatever year-round. Our dog patrols the property to ward off raccoons and coyotes so the fencing can be minimal, and mobile, simply containing the hens. Last year I managed to test grow a small patch of mixed grains. It was un-irrigated, and unattended and when the harvest was ready I just let 'em go to it. (It is quite comical to see the birds jumping and flapping to reach the ears). It seemed more productive than grass, but I am only guessing. This autumn I gathered leaves to mulch out patches of grass etc. and hopefully generate more worms. Over the whole calendar year the out of pocket cost was  ~$0.23 each (just for feed). THIS IS HIGH because three of the hens were older and less productive and we added 5 new chicks. This year I expect it to be ~half that amount: the old hens are culled and the youngsters are cranking up. We have a gang of 8 currently.

jasonw's picture
jasonw
Status: Platinum Member (Offline)
Joined: Sep 17 2011
Posts: 763
worms, grubs, flies

I'm not sure if it is considered part of the permaculture philosophy but we will soon be undertaking the raising of mealworms and black soldier flies (once it gets warmer for the BSF) to supplement our chicken feed with the high protein food source.  So between fodder, mealworms, BSF larvae, and free ranging in the garden and pasture, we should only have to purchase barley for the fodder system.  We are also looking into sourcing that in bulk from a local grower to keep him in business and reduce our supply chain.

The fodder has definitely changed the color of our hens yolks (bright orange) and they are just fabulous eggs. 

With the MW and BSF systems in place, we hope to be able to provide enough protein for all our hens/ meat birds and also have enough to sell/trade with neighbors and friends.  Healthy birds are better birds. 

featherjack's picture
featherjack
Status: Bronze Member (Offline)
Joined: Dec 7 2010
Posts: 51
Your @ss-kicking chickens

Robie,

Please tell us what breed of chicken you started out with and what part of the world you live in. Thank you!

a1911guy's picture
a1911guy
Status: Member (Offline)
Joined: Jul 24 2009
Posts: 7
Group and site navigation issues

Thank you for bringing this up.  I am a programmer for an airline and am very comfortable with the web and computers, but I find PeakProsperity and the Group discussion areas a nightmare to navigate.  My assumption is that the programming staff is overworked, underskilled, or is failing to have non-staff members test the pages.  Please, Chris and Adam, get this fixed!

a1911guy's picture
a1911guy
Status: Member (Offline)
Joined: Jul 24 2009
Posts: 7
Grains for my 23 hens & turkeys

My wife and I moved out of town -- arid central Colorado -- to 40 acres.  In town and out, we have had chickens, and I am now trying to raise all of our needed feed so that I don't have to drive to Nebraska for organic grains.

Since we eat millet and amaranth I want to try to raise both, some for people and some for hens.  Does anyone have experience with millet?  What type?  How do you hull it?

Thanks.

Wendy S. Delmater's picture
Wendy S. Delmater
Status: Diamond Member (Online)
Joined: Dec 13 2009
Posts: 1469
a note to rheba

rheba, I alerted the site management about your ease-of-use issues in your earliest post on this thread - that's all "flagged for review" meant in this case. Good comments, and I am sure they will apprecate the feedback. I've enjoyed all your posts so far. Welcome.

JRB's picture
JRB
Status: Silver Member (Offline)
Joined: May 17 2009
Posts: 149
Navigation

a1911guy

Interesting you should have that perspective.  I also do a lot of programming and use the web extensively.  My reaction to the new site was very much like yours.  I found the old site much easier to efficiently navigate.

I have one suggestion that you might find helpful.  If you join a group, then you can find recent action in those groups you have joined at http://www.peakprosperity.com/groups/myunread

The downside of joining groups is that you get email notifications unless you opt out, which is a PITA.  I avoid joining groups unless I am really interested.

I have bookmarked myunread on my browser so that I can quickly check them out.  This is my best hint for efficiently navigating the site.

- Jim

B100's picture
B100
Status: Member (Offline)
Joined: Sep 23 2011
Posts: 6
Feeding the hens for free 1

Just put the 8 hens on 1500 sq ft of grass and  old beds to forage. I am dedicating some 300 sq ft areas for grain production. The hens will also have certain foraging rites when it is opportune .

rheba's picture
rheba
Status: Bronze Member (Offline)
Joined: Apr 22 2009
Posts: 28
Feeding Chickens

At a recent NOFA presentation I learned that some people had problems raising turkeys without soy in their feed. Apparently the turkeys actually died. I had never thought about soy and what it contributes to feed. In fact, so long as my bags of grain are labeled organic I have not worried about which grains they contained. I'll bet that some of the specially bred meat birds do require these industrially produced feeds in order to fatten quickly and be commercially viable.

I note that there are plenty of wild turkey wandering around here getting fat without soy so it occurs to me that we should be talking about breeding birds that will do OK on whatever food we can produce locally. This should be a no-brainer but it has just entered my brain.

I raise light brahma chickens and throw in a few other heritage breeds such as rhode island red and barred rock. I imagine that heritage breeds do not require soy. But I wonder whether the vitamin/mineral balances that are stated on the sides of the feed bags are universal for all kinds of chickens.

Can anyone point me to a reliable discussion of the nutritional requirements of chickens?

robie robinson's picture
robie robinson
Status: Platinum Member (Offline)
Joined: Aug 25 2009
Posts: 612
Rheba

i'm a farmer with 50 odd years experience. soy is approx10%,often more,the protien component in the feed sack of every chicken,pig,beef,CAFO product going. the practice of puchasing feed for your turkeys or chickens is unsustainable in a long emergency. our birds are free range cooped at night and fed little more than a handful of wheat or corn for 100+ birds. they forage for their diet,grow quite slow and lay seasonally ie. they are laying 6-10 eggs/day(that we find) this time of year in zone 7a. they pick thru pig,cow,sheep,goat poop and visit every piece of upturned wood for insects(most nutritious according to mother nature)turned land you can imagine. weaning my herd,flock,critters off purchased inputs has been trying but we started 20yrs ago and now our genetics are in demand locally.

here are some of my daughters pics  http://bluestemfarms.blogspot.com/

robie husband,father,farmer,optometrist

robie robinson's picture
robie robinson
Status: Platinum Member (Offline)
Joined: Aug 25 2009
Posts: 612
I apologize

for not reporting on our flocks genetic heritage. they were,15yrs ago, rhode islands and astralorps. the death of an elderly neighbor and the gift of her flock by her children(they lived intown ans the flock was feral"fightin' chickens") led to 6 hens of hers being trapped and acclimated to our "free run" farm. they inmingled and hatched their own and other eggs (turkey,duck,emu) i believe one has for years been trying to hatch a golf ball. we use no lights and supplement little to nothing live in zone 7a (mid-atlantic)

robie

B100's picture
B100
Status: Member (Offline)
Joined: Sep 23 2011
Posts: 6
11 cents per egg and getting better

To follow up on my post of a year ago: I got the cost down to 11 cents per egg in 2013! This discounts the time and equipment (like fences, feeders, coop repairs, etc.), but includes operational costs. The 300 sq.ft. chick-food-grain-bed is cranking wheat and some beans.  For 2014 I have a much larger foraging area with better managed "rotation" including access to old mulch in garden beds, and fresh grass. We are off to a slow start with two of our four layers each caring for a tiny brood but they are growing up fast! I don't know if I'll cut the egg cost in half again, but .... maybe.

Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.
Login or Register to post comments