In this post I am going to share with you some of the easy and cheap ways that I supplement my hens especially during the winter when bugs are in low supply!
1- Grow Chard. My hens love to eat the chard leaves and it is very easy to grow in your garden, plus if you get the rainbow chard, it is very pretty too! We pick the bad looking leaves to give the chickens when we are picking for ourselves or to sell. The chickens are our garbage disposal!
2- Grow earthworms. Well, you don't actually "grow" them but keeping an earthworm bin for all the extra scraps that the chickens don't eat is a huge bonus in more ways than one! You can use the earthworm casting for your garden and of course the chickens love the worms if you can bear to spare some.
3- Sprouts. When we don't have anything green to feed them or we want to give them a boost we make a batch of sprouts and throw them out for the hens. They love them and it seems to really help their egg production as well, especially in the winter. If you don't know how to make sprouts either look it up or ask the advice of someone who knows. I will try to post an article here about sprouts in the near future.
4 - Keep rabbits. My hens are happy to scratch under the rabbit hutches and they end up cleaning up the spilled rabbit pellets as well as keeping the fly population low by eating up the little fly maggots. They keep the smell from the rabbits down by airing out the manure piles and they benefit from what the rabbit drops too.
Chickens truley are the garbage disposals in our household. If we can't eat it or the dog won't eat it then the chickens surely will! And if they don't then it goes on the compost!
Hopefully this will give you a few helpful ideas in supplementing your chickens' diets and improve the taste of your eggs even more!
Just a note, in my experiencee, the chickens can free range for a lot of their diet but they always need at least a little bit of grain or chicken food, especially if you have your heart set on lots of eggs. The hens that are popular as backyard laying hens were bred to lay plenty of eggs and though they love to scratch around for their food, they do need to be fed also. And of course, don't forget to make sure they don't run out of water, That will for sure make them quit laying if they are thirsty!
Happy Hen keeping to you!!