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Food Scraps for Chickens: Lazy Sustainability in Backyard Farming

23 Aug, 2023 44
Food Scraps for Chickens: Lazy Sustainability in Backyard Farming - Unimother

Food Scraps for Chickens is Sustainability and Backyard Farming in One

As we stand at the crossroads of climate change and environmental responsibility, one solution emerges from our backyards – raising healthy chickens requires a wide variety of food. By using food scraps as feed we get happy chickens and we get tasteful eggs in return. This seemingly simple act holds profound implications for sustainability and a greener future.

Brief Overview of Raising Chickens as a Sustainable Practice

Chickens are not just a source of fresh eggs; they are also critical players in the circle of sustainability. These birds help in reducing food waste, producing organic fertilizer, and even controlling pests in gardens.

The Concept of 'Lazy Sustainability'

In the book "Lazy Sustainability," the idea is to merge environmental practices into our daily routines effortlessly. It's about making small changes that, collectively, have a substantial positive impact on our planet.

2. Why Feed Chickens Food Scraps?

The simple act of feeding food scraps to chickens becomes an environmental, economic, and health game-changer.

The Environmental Impact of Food Waste

Globally, about a third of the food produced is wasted, which contributes significantly to greenhouse gas emissions. When we feed these scraps to chickens, we not only reduce methane emissions from decomposing waste but also recycle them into valuable resources.

Economic Benefits: Reducing Feed Costs

Buying chicken feed can be expensive. By giving food scraps to your chickens, you can substantially cut down on these costs. It's a win-win – you save money while your chickens enjoy a varied diet.

Health Benefits for Chickens and the Eggs They Produce

A varied diet, including food scraps, can lead to healthier chickens. These chickens, in turn, produce higher quality, nutrient-rich eggs. The old saying holds: you are what you eat.

3. The Lazy Sustainability Approach to Chicken Feed

Emphasizing Ease and Simplicity

Lazy Sustainability is not about being inactive; it's about integrating sustainable practices seamlessly. Instead of laboriously sorting out food scraps, use a simple container in the kitchen to collect them.

Reducing Waste in a Hassle-Free Manner

One person's trash is a chicken's treasure. Food scraps that would otherwise be discarded become valuable chicken feed. This effortless act reduces the strain on landfills and contributes to a circular economy.

The Holistic View: Integrating Sustainability into Daily Routines

By merely incorporating the act of saving food scraps into our daily routines, we contribute to a sustainable future. It's about creating a lifestyle where every action, no matter how small, counts.

4. Safe Food Scraps for Chickens

Knowing what to feed your chickens is crucial. While many food scraps are safe, some can be harmful.

Fruits and Vegetables: What's Best for Your Flock?

Most fruits and vegetables are excellent for chickens. Apples, bananas, carrots, and leafy greens are favorites. However, ensure you remove seeds from fruits like apples, as they can be toxic in large quantities.

Grains, Pasta, and Bread: Moderation is Key

Grains are a great source of energy for chickens. That being said, moderation is essential. Too many carbs can lead to overweight chickens, which can lead to health problems.

Dairy and Protein: Benefits and Limitations

In small amounts, dairy can be beneficial, providing essential calcium. However, chickens are lactose intolerant, so it's crucial to ensure dairy is given sparingly. Protein sources like meat scraps can be beneficial, but ensure they're cooked and free from seasonings.

5. Foods to Avoid: Ensuring Chicken Health

Every pet owner knows there are certain foods that, while harmless to humans, can be dangerous for their animals. Chickens are no different. While they can be impressive garbage disposals, some food scraps can be hazardous to their health.

Toxic Foods: What Not to Give Your Chickens

Many everyday foods can be harmful to chickens. Some of the most common ones include:

  • Avocado pits and skins: Contains persin, which is toxic to chickens.
  • Chocolate: Contains theobromine and caffeine, which are toxic to most pets, chickens included.
  • Onions: Can cause digestive problems and lead to anemia.
  • Raw/ green potatoes and green tomatoes: Contain solanine, which can be toxic in large amounts.
  • Uncooked beans and legumes
  • Garlic
  • Rhubarb leaves
  • Salt and salty foods
  • Dry beans (uncooked)
  • Apple seeds
  • Almonds
  • Caffeine
  • Eggplant
  • Pepper leaves
  • Pits of peach, apricot and cherry

Foods that Interfere with Egg Production

Some foods, while not necessarily toxic, can interfere with egg production:

  • Excessive corn: Can lead to obesity, impacting egg production.
  • Very salty foods: Can lead to salt poisoning if consumed in large amounts.
  • Excessive citrus fruits: Some believe it can lower the egg production rate, though this is debated.
  • Iceberg lettuce: low nutritional value and can lead to diarrhea
  • Candy, sugar, and sugary foods
  • Sodas and carbonated beverages

6. How to Introduce Food Scraps to Chickens

Transitioning chickens to a new food source should be done cautiously. Their digestive systems are sensitive, and sudden changes can cause stress.

Slowly Integrating Scraps into Their Diet

Start by introducing a small amount of food scraps mixed with their regular feed. Over a week or two, gradually increase the proportion of food scraps.

Observing Chicken Behavior and Health

Watch for any signs of distress, such as lethargy, refusal to eat, or changes in droppings. These can be indicators that a particular food scrap isn't agreeing with them.

Adjusting Based on Chicken Preferences

Chickens, like humans, have preferences. Some might love lettuce but turn their beaks up at broccoli. Adjust the scraps you provide based on their likes and dislikes.

7. Storing and Managing Food Scraps

Proper storage is crucial for ensuring the safety and nutritional value of the food scraps you give to your chickens.

The Importance of Freshness

While chickens can handle some foods that might seem a bit past their prime to us, freshness is vital. Decayed or moldy foods can contain toxins. But there are ways to make use of moldy food like black soldier fly larvae, which are healthy protein snacks for chickens.

Using Storage Methods to Prevent Mold and Rot

Consider freezing or refrigerating food scraps, especially during warmer months. This can help prevent mold growth and keep the scraps fresher for longer.

Lazy Tip: Quick Storage Hacks for Busy Households

For those embracing the lazy sustainability approach, use a dedicated bin in your fridge for food scraps. Or, designate a freezer bag where you can toss in scraps until you're ready to feed them to your chickens.

8. Boosting Nutrition: Supplements and Minerals

While food scraps can provide a lot of nutrition, they might not offer everything your chickens need. This is where supplements come in.

Balancing Food Scraps with Essential Nutrients

Food scraps can be variable in their nutritional content. Ensure your chickens are getting a balanced diet by providing them with a high-quality chicken feed alongside the scraps.

Natural Supplements to Consider

Some natural supplements for chickens include:

  • Grit: Essential for helping chickens digest food.
  • Oyster shells: A great source of calcium, which is crucial for eggshell production - black soldier fly larvae also contain a lot of calcium, which helps their feathers and eggs.
  • Garlic and apple cider vinegar: Believed to have health benefits, though they should be used in moderation.
  • Sour fermented foods: like sauerkraut are great for gut health but try to not add the water because of the salt. A great way to make fermented chicken foods is take leftovers of greens and vegetables in an air close bucket. If possible add some sauerkraut juice which acts as a bio starter culture for the microorganisms.

Ensuring a Well-Rounded Diet

Rotate the types of food scraps you're offering to ensure a varied diet. Prefer a  protein and fat balanced with greens or vegetables. Also, ensure they have access to fresh water and sunlight at all times.

9. The Environmental Impact: From Kitchen to Coop

In our modern world, where environmental concerns are increasingly coming to the forefront, it's crucial to understand the role each one of us plays. One seemingly small act, like feeding our chickens food scraps, can have a much more significant impact than we might think.

Reducing Household Waste and Its Environmental Implications

Did you know that, globally, about one-third of all food produced gets wasted? 2023 that was about 2.5 billion tons of food waste. That's nine zeros. This staggering amount of waste not only significantly lose economic value but also has a huge environmental burden. Landfills filled with organic waste release methane, a greenhouse gas far more potent than carbon dioxide. By feeding your chickens food scraps, you're diverting waste from landfills, subsequently reducing methane emissions. Don't forget the transportation, plastic waste and contamination of limited valuable organic material. 

How Feeding Scraps Aids in Sustainable Living

Incorporating food scraps into your chicken feed regimen is a two-fold sustainability win. Firstly, you're reducing the need for commercially produced chicken feed, which often comes with its environmental baggage in terms of production, packaging and transportation. Secondly, the nutrient-rich eggs or meat produced by chickens fed on a diet supplemented with food scraps have a lower carbon footprint than those fed solely on commercial feed.

The Carbon Footprint Reduction of Utilizing Food Scraps

To put it into perspective, using food scraps helps in reducing the carbon footprint in multiple ways - less waste sent to landfills, reduced methane emissions, and decreased reliance on commercial feed.

10. Raising Chickens with Children: An Educational Experience

Our children are the future stewards of our planet. Teaching them about sustainability from a young age can shape a more environmentally-conscious future generation.

Teaching Kids About Sustainability and Responsibility

Raising chickens offers an excellent opportunity to teach children about the life cycle, responsibility, and the importance of sustainability. Children can learn firsthand about where their food comes from and the importance of reducing waste.

The Health Benefits of Organic, Home-Raised Eggs

There's a certain satisfaction in knowing that the eggs on your breakfast plate came from chickens you raised. These eggs are not only fresher but also free from antibiotics and other chemicals often found in commercially produced eggs. This translates to healthier meals for your family, especially your children.

Instilling Values of Environmental Stewardship in the Next Generation

By involving children in the process of feeding chickens with food scraps, they learn the value of repurposing and recycling. This hands-on experience can instill in them a lifelong appreciation for sustainability and environmental stewardship.

11. Black Soldier Fly Larvae

One of the most innovative solutions in sustainable farming is the use of black soldier fly larvae (BSFL). These little creatures are powerhouses when it comes to waste reduction and providing a protein source.

Healthy Protein and Fat

BSFL are rich in protein and fat, making them an excellent food source for chickens. By introducing BSFL into your chickens' diet, you're ensuring they get essential nutrients that contribute to their overall health and the quality of the eggs they produce.

Recycling What's Left After Chickens

Not all food scraps are suitable for chickens, but that doesn't mean they should go to waste. BSFL can consume almost any organic waste, breaking it down efficiently, even what comes out of a chicken. The residue left after the BSFL have done their job can be used as a rich compost for gardens.

12. Conclusion: Embracing Lazy Sustainability

In today's fast-paced world, the term 'lazy' often gets a bad rap. However, when it comes to sustainability, taking the 'lazy' approach can be the most efficient. It's about making small changes in our daily routines that lead to significant impacts.

Reflecting on the Simplicity and Ease of the Practice

Feeding chickens food scraps or introducing them to BSFL doesn't require a drastic shift in our habits. It's a simple, easy practice that yields substantial environmental benefits.

Encouraging Readers to Adopt Sustainable Habits

We often underestimate the power of collective action. If communities globally adopted these practices, the positive impact on our environment would be monumental.

The Broader Impact of Small, Lazy Steps Towards a Greener Future

Every step, no matter how small, counts. Embracing lazy sustainability is not about doing less; it's about doing things more efficiently, with foresight for our planet's future.

Incorporating food scraps into your chickens' diet or introducing them to BSFL might seem like minor steps. Still, when combined with a broader perspective of sustainability, these steps can lead the way to a greener, healthier future for us and the generations to come.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Q1: Are there any restrictions on feeding cooked food scraps to chickens?

A1: While chickens can eat many cooked food scraps, it's essential to avoid giving them anything cooked with too much salt, oil, or seasonings. These can be harmful to chickens in large amounts. Additionally, ensure that no small, indigestible items like bones or fruit pits are present in the scraps.

Q2: How do I start breeding Black Soldier Fly Larvae (BSFL) for my chickens?

A2: Starting a BSFL colony is relatively simple. You'll need a container, some organic waste, and BSFL eggs or larvae to kickstart the process. Once set up, maintaining the colony requires regular addition of organic waste, ensuring proper drainage, and harvesting mature larvae for feeding.

Q3: Can I feed my chickens food scraps during winter?

A3: Yes, chickens can eat food scraps year-round. However, during colder months, ensure they have access to grit for digestion and provide them with a balanced diet to keep them healthy and warm.

Q4: How do I ensure my chickens get a balanced diet with food scraps?

A4: While food scraps can supplement a chicken's diet, they shouldn't be the sole food source. Ensure your chickens also have access to a balanced poultry feed, which provides essential vitamins and minerals.

Q5: Are there any foods that both chickens and BSFL can't consume?

A5: Both chickens and BSFL have robust digestive systems. However, certain items like large bones, synthetic materials, or heavily processed foods are best avoided for both.

Q6: How does 'lazy sustainability' apply to city dwellers without backyard space?

A6: Even if you don't have backyard chickens, you can still practice lazy sustainability. Composting kitchen waste, using biodegradable products, reducing plastic usage, and supporting local sustainable farmers are all ways city dwellers can embrace this concept.

Q7: What's the difference between regular composting and using BSFL?

A7: Traditional composting relies on microbial activity to break down organic waste, which can take months. In contrast, BSFL are voracious eaters and can rapidly consume and reduce organic waste, turning it into high-quality compost in a shorter time frame.

Q8: How can I ensure my children handle chickens safely?

A8: While chickens are generally docile, it's crucial to teach children to approach them gently, avoid sudden movements, and always wash their hands after handling the birds. This ensures safety for both the children and the chickens.