Thursday, May 5, 2011

Mangels to the Rescue

No, I didn't mean to write "mongrels" or "mangoes" or "mangers".  I meant mangels.  Do you know about them?  Well, recently their weird little seeds became the newest addition to our back garden.  We had never heard of them until last month when Jamey came across them in a seed catalog.

Then, while we were in Florida, he came across them again in an old homesteading book that my sister-in-law rescued from the Salvation Army where she works (they were going to pitch it).  Jamey had already ordered a bunch of mangel seeds, so the book confirmed his hunch that they are a desirable crop.

Stick with me, okay?

Chickens are wonderful to have.  They're fun to look at and listen to.  Their eggs are delicious and healthier for us if the chickens are allowed to free range, which ours are.  But, even if they free range, you still have to purchase chicken feed for them, especially in the winter.

Back to the mangels.  Are you simply dying of suspense?? Mangels (also called Mangelwurzel) are large beets that were developed as a fodder crop for livestock.  When the beets are young, they're even tasty for people to eat.  Think about beets...they store, mangels are a great source of food for chickens in the winter as at supplement to their feed.

So, that's the plan.  We're going to grow mangels, store them in the fall and feed them to our chickens during the winter.  We'll see how it goes.  Here's another look at the seeds.  It's hard to imagine one of these little seeds has the potential to grow into a 20 pound mangel.  Yes, you heard me. 20 pounds.

Do you know anyone that has grown mangels?  Do you offer anything else to your chickens during the winter (other than traditional chicken feed)?  My inquiring mind want to know. Pin It


  1. I'm eager to hear how the mangels work out. How much sq. feet will you be planting?

  2. Hi, I have grown Mangels but I have never used them for chicken feed, I would love a little more info on how your book says to feed them to the birds, whole? cut up? is cooked better?

    I grow mine for my sheep, and it was my Uncle from Scotland that told me first about Mangels as a child and I got back to him about when I got my own sheep as it was grown and used as their sheep, so it should work for my own.

    Then within the last two years, there was a big article about Mangels being grown and used for cattle.

    For the sheep, its a way to keep the feed costs down, the mangels are ready for the fall, when the pasture starts to get lean, and it allows you a very healthy natural way to flush the ewes to help with a great spring lamb out.

    My little milk cow to be Girl was to young for Mangels last fall as she was just on milk at that time but she will be intoduced to them this year, she is already learning to like and eat dandilion, including the roots and we will also grow her extra beets.

    My main extra growing crop of the chickens has been potato's and then in the really hard cold part of winter, I cook big pots of spuds, which I sprinkle with dried stringing nettle an the chickens love it, I also will hang whole cabbages at their head height for them to pick at, its healthy, easy to grow and gives them something to do.

  3. This is truly innovative! I really look forward to hearing how it works and if the chickens will eat it. Any clue as to the nutritional value of mangels? I have meal worms coming tomorrow which I will be raising for extra protein for my layers. I REALLY don't like meal worms, but I'm going to give it a try.

  4. I was thinking, "I planted those seeds!" But I pulled out my garden list (thinking I hadn't planted beets yet, which was correct) and found that the chard seeds look remarkably similar!

  5. Those are awesome!!! I so wish we could have chickens. Someday!

    Have you tried growing corn to dry and save for winter??? Seems that would work... but I don't know!

  6. The girls get all peelings and kitchen scraps...minus potato, onion and citrus. They also get some oatmeal on well as spent lettuce, expired yogurts and cottage cheese. I've been known to buy bags of greens for of the discount grocers has had them 4/$1...a price I can afford to give the girls a treat now and then!

  7. I do give my chickens stale bread ends, or stale bread not edible. I also give my hens some oyster shells mixed in their feed, I feed mine laying mesh and scratch, they love the scratch, and eat the mesh, when I let them out to feed free in the yard, they eat what ever they find, worms, grubs, seed, just what ever.

  8. I have a cattle farm and cows will eat them too. But I asked my dad about them and he said, and I quote, "They really take your land down." Which I took to mean that they drew out a lot of nutrients. But I think it is a great idea! I hate buying chicken feed. Our chickens are free range too, but we feed then year round. But maybe I'll think about stopping that.

  9. We give our chickens all the compost---including things you're not supposed to give them. (Shh.)

    I'm eager to see how those m-things turn out.

  10. We sometimes supplement our hens with flax seed in the winter, in addition to their normal diet. I figure this is a good source of Omega 3 since they're not getting much in the way of greens and seeds outdoors by then. And if it is really cold for here (ice storms, for example), I will make them hot oatmeal or other hot cereal as a treat.

  11. Wow you all have some great ideas and suggestions! When we had chickens we still gave them feed because our winter was 8 months long but we supplemented with split heads of cabbage and all the greens which had gone to seed at the end of the season. Due to our extreme cold temperatures I was able to have lots of frozen greens to include chickweed which we gave to the ladies.

  12. Sorry for the delay. Here are some answers to your questions...

    ~We planted between 200 and 250 square feet of mangels.
    ~The mangels will need to be cut open for the chickens for them to peck at- no cooking required.
    ~They have a similar nutritional value to maize silage (if that helps- it's been hard to find specifics on nutritional value, although in general what I've found is positive).
    ~We haven't grown corn for our chickens. While buying corn feed for them can be reasonable, it's missing some things they need, like protein.

    Here's an interesting little article about gardening for your livestock. Scroll down to "Alternative Crops" to read more about mangels.

  13. Thanks for the info. I've heard of this-mangrels-as well as growing squash for chickens. A local farmer does that here that raises all his feed for his chickens and jersey minis. I may have to give it a try if I can clear an area. Sounds like it would help a great deal on cost!

  14. I'm fascinated! My cousin and his family got rid of their chickens and I asked him WHY when you've got the land would you not have your eggs right there in the back yard? And he said it cost more to feed chickens than the eggs produced.
    So, next time I see him, I'm going to impress him with my weirdness yet again and tell him about mangels.

    (and what does Jennifer Jo mean? What shouldn't you feed the chickens?? Inquiring minds want to knoooooooow)

  15. Mangels are great. Did you ever see the BBC series "Victorian Farm?" Great series that's now available on YouTube. They threw mangels for the farm animals and seemed to work well. Those things are huge!

  16. What a good idea!! I have some extra room in my garden this year. This would be an excellent use of it. Last year I planted a row of turnips to feed our layers, and they loved them.

  17. now I remember you talked about those before-duh--my mind is going FAST


Just a friendly reminder, if you know me personally please try to refrain from using my name. There are those who may try to locate me, break into my pantry and steal my pickled beets. Thanks:-).

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