I was going through some content from earlier this year and came across a jewel from one of the Ask Me Anything! podcasts I did with Marjory. We were talking about chickens and tossed some good ideas around on novel ways to feed them. You might find the conversation useful—and we hope to have you attend future Ask Me Anything! podcasts!
From the transcript:
David the Good: What I kind of found was taking all of the kitchen scraps and that kind of thing, and putting it, composting in the chicken run itself, so you’re actually getting bugs to show up there. If you make a big compost pile in one spot, and if you make it a little hard for the chickens to access, like they can jump up top, and they can kick around in it, but they can’t throw it all over the place.
We’ve found kind of on accident that they would climb up inside of the bin that we made, which had some hardware cloth around it. They would jump up on top, and they would just wolf it down, whatever was in the compost pile, and turn it. They would dig down, and they would pull the worms out, the mealworms and the maggots, or whatever was in there. No, not mealworms, black soldier flies. The stuff that was in there, they would come, and they would take it, but they couldn’t kick the compost all over.
There was enough cover in that compost bin that the bugs could keep breeding in it, and the chickens could come and help themselves every day without taking out the entire bug population. Plus, we got compost at the end of it, and we had some free labor going on from the chickens.
That’s my 2 cents.
If you had a compost pile where they can actually hop into the top of it, but they can’t throw the compost all over—because, you know, if you throw kitchen scraps in the chicken run, they’re going to be spread 20 feet all over the place over the next few days, and the bugs are gone, because the birds will kill every single one.
Marjory: You know, another technique is that you get a pan full of water, and you put a light bulb above it at night. If you put the light bulb like a foot or two above the water, the insects are attracted to that light, and then they’ll fly and accidentally hit the water, and then, they get stuck there, right?
David the Good: Oh, I love it. I love it. Great idea.
Marjory: Yeah. That does work, and I’ve seen it work better than others. It seems to work better in some situations than in other situations, like right outside my daughter’s window seemed to be ideal, interestingly enough. That was another one that I use. Yeah. You get a lot of the nighttime insects. Then, we had free-range chickens, so they would just come by in the morning and eat it out of the water pan, so it wasn’t like I even had to feed it to them.
David the Good: Yeah. Anywhere where you have lots of leaf cover, if you have woods near the edge of where you put your chickens—and provided it’s woods where they’re not going to get eaten by raccoons, because that’s always a problem when you have woods—but they’ll dig through all the leaf litter, and they’ll find tons of protein. We had some jungle fowl that we had here for a period of time, and I mean, they just ate bugs all day. They would disappear into the jungle, eat bugs all day, and then come back at night. (Most of the time, they’d come back!)
Marjory: I bet those egg yolks were pretty orange, too. They would probably be gorgeous eggs, will all the omega-3.
David the Good: Oh, they were awesome. Yes.
Marjory: Yeah. Yeah, they really are naturally jungle fowl, so they’re meant to eat insects. That’s their natural food. I’m trying to think, I know one idea that I’ve had is, for the past I don’t know how many years, I’ve been trying to grow green beans here in Texas. Usually, just by the time they’re really getting up to be good vines is when we’re switching from spring to summer.
The plants are healthy, and I’ve got them irrigated, and they’re doing fine, but the main problem is everything else turns brown, and all of a sudden, my garden is a haven for grasshoppers. They love green beans. The grasshoppers just eat it up. I was thinking, “Well, someday, I should just grow a bunch of green beans to attract grasshoppers, for my chickens to eat the grasshoppers,” right?
David the Good: Yeah, why not? You could always just get dry beans from the grocery store, throw them over a tilled area, let it grow up, and then when the grasshoppers come, release the chickens. Then, you have almost no input into it, at all.
David The Good is a Grow Network Change Maker, a gardening expert, and the author of five books you can find on Amazon: Compost Everything: The Good Guide to Extreme Composting, Grow or Die: The Good Guide to Survival Gardening, Totally Crazy Easy Florida Gardening, Create Your Own Florida Food Forest, and Push the Zone: The Good Guide to Growing Tropical Plants Beyond the Tropics. Find fresh gardening inspiration at his website TheSurvivalGardener.com and be sure to follow his popular YouTube channel.