Cold-Season Snacks for the Coop

Aug 30, 2023

As fall arrives next month, the temperatures will begin to dip and many gardening activities will start to slow. However, cooler seasons can be quite delightful for many greens, cruciferous vegetables, squashes, and fall-ripening fruits.
Fresh produce is especially important for your coop during the colder months as insects shelter from the weather and plants go dormant. Cold season produce can be not only a healthy option for humans, but also a tasty treat for chickens to supplement their feed. Therefore, maximize your gardening effort by planting a few extra crops this season!
Here are a few of our favorite cold-season crops that will benefit your coop:
Leafy greens
Leafy greens such as lettuce, spinach, and kale are great sources of vitamins A, C, and K, as well as numerous other minerals. Even if you don’t have a garden staked out, leafy greens can be grown in containers, making them easy vegetables to get started with. Loose-leaf varieties of lettuce are the most popular and easy to grow in cold seasons, and their leaves are tender and mild-flavored. Sow seeds about three months from the average date of the first fall frost. Spinach and kale are also healthy options for both humans and chickens, and both should be planted six to eight weeks before the first frost. As you thin the seedlings from each of these plants, toss the trimmings to your chickens for a healthy treat.
Cruciferous vegetables
         Cruciferous vegetables include broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, brussels sprouts, turnips, radishes, and mustard greens. These vegetables are low in calories, high in fiber, and packed with minerals and vitamins that are essential for egg production and chicken growth. Tender shoots are generally best for chickens; however, mature vegetables can still be fed, especially in the winter when your chickens are struggling with boredom. Many cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli and cauliflower can be hung in the coop for chickens to peck at and keep themselves entertained.
Although winter squash varieties such as acorn, buttercup, and pumpkins are planted in the spring, they are typically harvested in September or October. Whether you eat them or use them as autumn decorations, the leftovers are a flock favorite, so don’t throw them away. Chickens can eat squash raw, but you’ll need to slice them into halves or quarters to allow your chickens to access the tender flesh inside. If you notice your chickens struggling with the hard outer rind, try roasting, boiling, or mashing the squash. Make sure to wash the squash first to get rid of chemicals such as pesticides.
Fall-ripening fruits such as apples, pears, and cranberries are common flavors of fall desserts, but can also be used as chicken treats. Apples can be given to your chickens with the peel on as it contains the highest levels of antioxidants in the fruit. Other fruits and berries can be chopped up and mixed into the chicken’s normal feed. As with all other treats, fruits should be fed in moderation because they contain high levels of natural sugars.
As you begin to prepare your cold-season garden, visit your local Co-op for supplies and expert advice. We also carry a large selection of poultry items to keep your flock healthy and productive throughout the next season. Find the nearest location here.
For more content like this, check out the latest issue of The Cooperator.

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