View Full Version : Feeding Acorns & Other Free Nuts to Chickens

10-15-2012, 01:07 PM
I just bought land in TN that we're moving to in a couple years. At this point I'll finally have enough land to do more homesteading type stuff. I will have enough for a massive garden, and I will have enough for chickens (and maybe goats or sheep or something too, but one step at a time). And I know you don't need much land for chickens, but my little yard is really cramped already, I'd have to encroach on the kids play area to do anything else with it.

So, anyways, my land is awesome, the top of a mountain, but not too sloped, absolutely covered with old oak and hickory trees, but curiously no squirrels or other rodents. I don't know why. I'm told they're a declining population, I'm told maybe it is predators. Where I live in town we have squirrels and other rodents all over the place. But I grew up in the woods, a place where the deer would come by every night, but we had very few squirrels. I always attributed it to the prevalence of oak and other street trees planted here in the city where I live, whereas we didn't have any nut/hardwoods in our forest where I grew up. But maybe I'm wrong, and it could be a true forest has more predators.

I also kinda think maybe, considering my TN land is a mountain top, and its limestone, that maybe there is just no water supply for mammals. There is no place for rain water to collect, there is supposedly a spring on the property but it doesn't seem very strong. Just a thought.

But anyways... so not very many critters eating the acorns and hickory nuts and they just litter the forest floor up there, you can't walk without stepping on one.

I know the economics of egg production often depend on feed costs, and I think to myself, look at all that free food. Sure, I might not eat all those acorns, but chickens might.

Anyone ever done that?

10-15-2012, 07:51 PM
I'm betting the squirrels are in town at the bird feeders. Also, if you just sit for an hour on your mountain top and don't fall asleep, the squirrels will show up.

10-16-2012, 05:13 AM
I think you had better do some serious research on this subject.

It is my understanding that acorns should be leached, just as for you and I, before feeding to domestic poultry. Cattle, horses, goats, sheep, etc will founder on them. They can take a few, and only will, if provided plenty of other forage.

Free ranging chickens in the "woods" of TN will be tough on inventory.

10-16-2012, 07:10 AM
If you go the leaching route - a painless way is to put the acorns in a mesh bag and put them into the tank (not bowl) of the toilet. Water changes every time you flush.

10-16-2012, 08:40 AM
What CD said. You can also submerge that bag in a stream if you have one available to you. Though if you are going to go through all that effort post SHTF you may be tempted to eat those acorns yourself. They are darn tasty leached.

Interesting that domestic livestock can't eat them as is. I hadn't heard that. I know the grouse, turkeys and deer eat em right up.

10-16-2012, 09:27 AM
.........Interesting that domestic livestock can't eat them as is...........

Maybe I best site some sources.

In poultry, small quantities of tannins in the diet cause adverse effects

levels from 0.5 to 2.0% can cause depression in growth and egg production,
levels from 3 to 7% can cause death.

LINKY (http://www.ansci.cornell.edu/plants/toxicagents/tannin.html)

That same article touches on cattle etc. It's not that they can't eat them, how much is the question. They can kill ruminant and poultry.

10-16-2012, 11:08 AM
Great link. Lots of good info in there. Thanks for sharing that!

10-16-2012, 11:08 AM
I know they raise pigs in spain on mostly acorns.

Good to know about the leeching though.

10-16-2012, 11:23 AM
I would suspect that those are White Oak acorns, and only fed as a supplement. White Oaks, or cousins, typically have less tannin.

10-16-2012, 11:59 AM
Good to know as well, my property is all white oaks.

10-16-2012, 01:04 PM
I found this blog where she apparently doesn't leech:


10-16-2012, 01:28 PM
Most acorns, even without leaching, can be fed up to 20 percent of the ration of chickens (Weingarten, 1958; Boza et al., 1966; Varela et al., 1965; Medina Blanco and Aparico Macarro, 1965)

I'll meet you 20% of the way? Lol

Again, I'm suggesting you do some research. Yes, they can take some. How much, and to what effect, are the questions.

10-16-2012, 09:53 PM
Never "fed" my chickens acorns,but they were free range with PLANTY of Oak trees all around,I'm sure they got a few bites from the acorns here and there,but they don't mess with something they have to fight with to eat,too many bugs and grubs and worms and grass around for them to have to fight for their food. But I did feed them to hogs plenty enough,since a feral hog grows from what he forages,it made sense to me that acorns were a big part of that diet,plus the hogs were picking up and eating the acorn that were falling in their pen on their own and it never hurt them.

On feeding them to chickens,whatever you feed them can change the taste of their eggs, I can definately tell when my chickens were fed grain,and when they were running free (better taste there),have you ever bitten into an acorn?? nasty as heck,and I would think that that taste would at least mildly make it into the egg.

10-16-2012, 10:11 PM
A hog (pig), is more like us. It is not a ruminant or poultry. We, can take up to roughly 50% if the conditions are right.

The taste in that egg reflects a diet, for better or worse. The productivity of that egg reflects a diet, for better or worse.

10-16-2012, 10:29 PM
I've been buying flax fed chicken eggs for the last year or so and think they taste better. Supposedly healthier for me.

11-01-2012, 07:47 AM
My chickens have to have theirs crushed up. They will not eat a whole acorn. I just crush them up using a cinder block and they eat it up. Beleve it or not, I think it makes the eggs taste better without the leaching.

11-16-2012, 12:22 PM
If the nuts sit on the ground long enough, they harbor lots of bugs. The chickens will definitely eat the bugs.