|Freshly harvested Sunflower heads ready to be dried for storage.|
When I plan out my garden each season, I plan it according to my family's needs, things I want to experiment with and what my chickens would like. Though I toss them a fresh tomato or strawberries while harvesting for my fridge, I also have to think about what I can preserve for them come the fall and winter months.
While the ideas spin around in my head I have to keep in mind foods that store well with little processing and are safe for the chickens to consume. Though potatoes store well, raw potatoes are not good for chickens. Rice works great, but I'd have to plant a lot to get a little and I'd have to cook it before I fed it them.
My favorite options end up being very simple. Sunflowers are easy to plant and plentiful. I get the added bonus of beautiful flowers in the garden that attract beneficial insects and birds through out the summer. They're easy to harvest because I just cut the head off the stock after they've bent over and started to brown. You can seed the seeds in the head of the sunflower becoming plump as it grows, so you'll know when its ready. You'll need to find a warm place with good ventilation to allow them to dry for a couple weeks before you can put them up. The only real trick is getting the heads before the birds devour all the seeds.
Another good one we like to do is corn. We plant so much that we allow some of the ears to dry right on the stock. We'll then shuck them clean when the kernels are hard and store them in the house until winter. You also have the option that corn on the cob freezes well. Simply shuck and clean the corn and store in the freezer in gallon storage bags. Thaw them completely before giving to your chickens. I don't have the space in my freezer to store extra food for the chickens like that, it's already super stocked for the winter for us.
There are LOTS of great options out there for your chickens to get their portion of your garden all year long. As you see, you can freeze, dry, cure or can almost anything you'd eat for them too. So clear a little plot in your garden for some great produce you can share with your feathered friends.