Feeding Your Chickens on the Cheep! (Episode 1)

Raising free range chickens is always an adventure. Especially when your birds are as spoiled as mine! My rooster seems to instinctively know when I want to sleep in and crows so early and loud that I am fairly sure he would wake the family on the farm next door if their rooster wasn’t having a crowing contest with him. Once Beakey the rooster starts his hollering, my fine feathered ladies are quick to get moving, which means they want me to spring them from the coop, like now! Whether I am ready for it or not, my day on the homestead has begun. So I throw on my housecoat and step into my mud boots so I can trudge out to the barn to liberate my chickens. Luckily they always cackle a quiet thank you as they shuffle past me on their way to find breakfast. All except for Beaky. He has to stop and give me the stink eye for a second or two (I tell him every day that I came as fast as I could, but I don’t think he believes me) before he lurches off after the ladies in his distinctive jerky gallop.

Beaky the Funky Chicken
Beaky the Funky Chicken

This ritual is only part of what I love about allowing my chickens  free reign of the place. It all works together in the perma-culture symphony we are creating on the homestead. And it makes for super healthy chickens that are so inexpensive to feed that it is almost ridiculous!

With a little extra planning in the garden, you can provide nearly all of the nutrients your feathered friends need to be healthy and happy. It is important for chickens to have a diet consisting of a variety of different foods to ensure proper nutrition. Your birds need about 1 part protein for every 4 parts of carbohydrates to ensure proper egg production. Keep in mind that calcium is also a very necessary component in their diet. They need at least 3% of their total intake to be calcium.


BUGS – Chickens love bugs like a rabbit loves carrots! Your chickens will constantly be on the lookout for a nice juicy bug or two or ten, which gives them the majority of the protein they need. And that my friends, makes it a snap to control insects in your garden. They can clean out a pack of potato bugs in no time flat! It is rare to see a chicken choose to eat your prized tomato when there is a bug to be chased down and eliminated.



COVER CROPS – Yup! I’m talking about weeds. Really more like plants that we see as weeds and chickens see as a smorgasbord of yummy greens and flowers. If you strategically plant things like Comfrey, Clover, Nettle and of course Chickweed around your garden, your chickens will gravitate to those plants instead of wiping out your strawberry patch. The best thing about these plants is that they provide the exact nutrients your chickens crave and need.

Comfrey - Chicken Feed ala Free!
Comfrey – Chicken Feed ala Free!

GARDEN VEGGIES – It is a simple concept. But it is dang hard to let happen. A free range chicken IS going to partake of all the yummy vegetables growing in your garden. After all, a chicken has to do what a chicken has to do! But there are a few things you can do to mitigate the damage they inflict on your main food crops. One of the biggest things you can do is to plant extra. If you have planted a perimeter of cover crops around the garden (especially on the end of the garden that the little cluckers will hit first) then this little bit extra ‘for the chickens’ should be enough to keep them satisfied. Not to mention that one of the cutest things I have ever seen is watching my chickens jump up to reach the beans I planted especially for them!

Chicken Feed

CALCIUM – This is a BIG deal! It takes a lot of calcium for a hen to crank out nice, strong shelled eggs. She simply must have the extra calcium left over to keep her own structure strong. Luckily, it relatively easy to supply all she needs naturally. Those weeds we were talking about earlier? They have tons of calcium. No oyster shells needed, especially in the summer months.

Eggcellent Eggs!
Eggcellent Eggs!

I could go on forever about my feathered flock. Certainly they are not just food. They are an integral part of this homestead and it’s constant evolution toward a self-sustaining eco culture. They are a true pleasure to care for in a natural way. And it is wonderful to only have to run to the chicken palace instead of driving all the way to town when I run out of eggs! Please comment or leave questions below. I always love hearing your best chicken stories as well. Also stay tuned…next time I will show  you how to feed your chickens on the cheap in the wintertime!


Don’t Forget to Look Up!

With Storm Season upon us again I thought I would share some of my favorite Photo’s! This was taken a few years ago when we had a multi-vortex system come right over the house. Don’t worry, we were standing right outside the storm cellar! But Rena had to point out the reason we should have already been in the cellar by this point!





The lightning decided to take a walk!

weather nature 094


This was a little tornado that fortunately did not do much damage, but had us calling my brother in law to make sure they were aware it was heading their way right down the road.


What an amazing formation!











rosemary2As for Rosmarine, I lett it runne all over my garden walls, not onlie because my bees love it, but because it is the herb sacred to remembrance, and, therefore, to friendship; whence a sprig of it hath a dumb language that maketh it the chosen emblem of our funeral wakes and in our burial grounds.” — Sir Thomas More (1478-1535)
Rosemary is one of my favorite herbs. I use it in my cooking multiple times weekly when in season, which around here is March through November. I plant it in several places around my garden as a pest confuser. the strong scent keeps them away from my valuable vegetables. It takes its name from the Latin ros maris, which means “dew of the sea.” It is also associated with enhancing memory and recall. Shakespeare’s Ophelia petitions Hamlet with, “There’s rosemary, that’s for remembrance, pray you love, remember.” Scholars of ancient Greece wore wreaths of rosemary about the brow to help improve recall while taking exams. This reputation has earned the herb a place among traditional wedding herbs used to grace the bride’s bouquet, headpiece, and dress. Wedding guests are also given sprigs of rosemary to wear to help them remember the occasion. It was also once common to add rosemary to the couple’s wine to help them remember their sacred vows to each other. At one time, it was customary for the bride and groom to plant rosemary near the marital threshold on their day of matrimony. However, the old saying “where rosemary flourished, the woman ruled,” prompted some husbands to pluck the plant from the ground lest anyone should think he wasn’t fit to rule the roost. Perhaps this is why the practice fell out of favor by the late 15th century.



Medicinally, rosemary has a wealth of uses, both old and new. In one of the earliest herbals known to be printed in England, Rycharde Banckes recommended that one gather leaves of rosemary and “…boyle them in fayre water and drinke that water for it is much worthe against all manner of evils in the body.” Indeed, rosemary was once thought to be a cure for poor digestion, migraine, joint disorders, and muscle aches. In fact, Queen Elizabeth of Hungary was reputedly cured of semi-paralysis when she sipped a concoction of rosemary to ease her painful joints. Hence, this formula came to be known as the infamous Hungary Water.

Today, rosemary is recognized as possessing several medicinal properties.  The plant contains salicylic acid, among others, the forerunner of aspirin. This may explain why massaging the oil of rosemary into joints effectively eases arthritic or rheumatic pain. It also contains antibacterial and antimicrobial agents, and is used by modern herbalists to treat a variety of skin disorders, including dandruff. Rosemary is also being studied for its potential anti-cancer effects since initial studies indicate that its compounds inhibit carcinogenic chemicals from binding to cellular DNA. Rosemary may also become useful in preventing and treating Alzheimer’s disease in the near future. Researchers have discovered that certain phytochemicals in the herb prevent the degradation of acetylcholine, an important brain chemical needed for normal neurotransmission. A deficiency of this chemical is commonly seen in Alzheimer’s patients.

Take the time to do your research on Rosemary, you will be glad you did! And more importantly, chop a sprig of it up on your next salad!