Fall Foraging On & Off the Farm

by: A.C. Jacobs - Published Exclusively on 10/13/2019

As a chicken-keeper, Fall is my favorite time of year. The cooler temperatures and reduced egg production are both a welcome respite for humans and chickens alike. Fall is the first signal that the cold is coming and it is time to start thinking about winter preparations.

But first, we eat.

A hens natural egg cycle is winding down, she is molting, drinking less, and eating more to help regrow feathers and replenish nutrition lost while producing eggs all year. Fall provides a bounty of chicken-friendly food items that arrive just in time to help your hens recondition before the snow flies. Squash, pumpkins, deer apples, oh my!

If you are like me and do not have enough space to garden, or if you were not so lucky gardening this year, here are a few of my favorite ways to acquire seasonal produce for your chickens that are economical and guaranteed to bring them joy:

1. Farmer’s Market: Every farmer’s market has scratch and dent produce. Sometimes everything is not in one location, so ask a human. Pumpkins that accidentally froze or are starting to rot a little, bruised apples, overripe stone fruit, etc. The day after Halloween is the best time to get pumpkins, and they will usually last a long time and keep your birds busy when the temperature starts to drop.

2. The Grocery Store: Some national chain stores will not give you veggie scraps, but the smaller ones frequently will. Discarded produce is difficult to get rid of and attracts insects and vermin, so most stores are thrilled to give you a box of scratch and dent goodies if you ask nicely and explain that it is for livestock feed.

3. The Feed Store: Some feed stores sell deer apples and other goodies designed to be animal forage already. Check your local favorites to see what they offer.

4. Your Yard (or your nice neighbor’s): This is also predator season, so if you can’t or won’t free-range, adding extra forage to your flock’s diet can be as simple as taking a walk with a pair of shears. Chickens love herbaceous weeds and grasses. Although, lawn clippings are not good for anyone, so avoid feeding mowed grass and areas that might have been sprayed, such as roadsides and ditches. Wild apple trees are everywhere in NY state. If you see one with an overabundance on the side of the road, stop and ask permission to gather some.

My favorite part of chicken-keeping is no matter how successful or unsuccessful you are at Fall foraging, your chickens will still look at you like the deity you are in their eyes; the bearer of all things delicious.


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