Alfalfa, to Nourish and Entertain your Chickens

Our chickens like to forage into the woods find their greens.  We feed our chickens a lot of seeds and grains, but in hot weather we pull back on the corn because of the sugar content, but there are a still lot of calories in grains, and also grains rank pretty acid on the food pH.charts.
High calorie, acid producing foods like grains meat or dairy tend to "anger the blood" and make it harder to deal with heat in summer, the chickens also tend to get irritable and short tempered when they are eating too much acid producing foods.
Leafy greens tend to be more alkaline in the food pH. charts  (greens are chock full of minerals). The chickens need some leafy greens to balance out their pH. levels while feeding on grains
However with the hotter drier weather they have been going deeper into the forest as things dry out to find their greens.  At the same time the raccoons have been coming closer to the house in search of food, and finding eggs and chickens occasionally. 

Alfalfa is full of dried green leaf, and the chickens will eat it straight off the bail.  By watching the chickens we can see that they like alfalfa more than they like hay. As it turns out, alfalfa has a pH. value of ten meaning that is quite alkaline. We noticed that the chickens all mellowed out today after snacking on alfalfa for awhile.
While the chickens loose interest in the straw and even the hay, the alfalfa bale is like a magnet attracting chickens to it's self, all day long we see a rotation of chickens scratching and pecking the top of the bale. Other chickens walk around the bale browsing around the edges of the bale, and eating the alfalfa flakes that get scratched off onto the ground by the upper chickens. 

Alfalfa is a very nutritious food crop. Alfalfa sends it's roots deep into the soil. One of the reasons that farmers use it in their crop rotation is because the shorter rooted crops can use up the surface nutrients, but alfalfa's long roots will pull nutrients to the surface from the deeper soil. 

Alfalfa Contains:

18% Protein

Vitamin A (beta carotene), Calcium (More than Milk or Eggs by weight)
phosphorus, Vitamin E, Potassium, Chlorine, Vitmain B1, Vitmain B2, Vitmain B6, Vitmain B12, Vitamin K, Niacin, Folic Acid, S-Methylmethionine, Magnesium, Copper, Biotin, Sulfur, Cobalt, Boron, Panthothanic acid, Inocitole, Molybdenum, and trace amounts of: Nickel, Strontium, and Palladium

We used to use alfalfa pellets to supplement the chickens diets, by soaking the pellets overnight and feeding it to the chickens in bowls. They would eat up the soft dark green alfalfa mash all at once during feeding times, but we wanted to provide a source for  them to nibble on throughout the day, so the hens could digest it better along with the other foods they eat. Putting alfalfa bales in the yard allows the chickens to feed themselves.

Here is the same bale after a few days of chicken pecking.

Our next plan is to get a few more bails to put in the coops. We hope that having alfalfa bales within the coops might keep the chickens occupied in the mornings, instead of squawking at us to hurry up, wake up, and let them out.

Chickies like Alfalfa Too!:
chickie casserole
 We are giving our new chickies free choice alfalfa in a baking dish, the alfalfa dish is very popular and the chicks seem to spend more time in it than in their food dish!  Sometimes they even sleep there.

Winter Update:

It is now wet and rainy, so leaving a bale of alfalfa out in the weather is not a great idea,  but the chickens really enjoy eating nice dry alfalfa powder when everything else is wet.
We serve alfalfa to the goats, in a box. but we only give them the chunky leaf and stems, because the powdery alfalfa leaf tickles the goats noses making them sneeze.  We collect the finer alfalfa that is left in the bin after picking out what we feed to the goats, and distribute it to bowls in the yard and in the coops for the chickens to eat.  It works very well for the chickens because the stems are too big for them to swallow and just get in the way of the leafy alfalfa powder, which is what they prefer.

Alfalfa Pendulums

 We wanted to give the chickens some alfalfa in the coops, since it is still raining out, and they are having a lot of indoor time during rain showers.  We decided to hang a block in each coop by wrapping it in a net and hanging it from the ceiling with some old t.v. cable we had laying around.

Hanging the alfalfa up off the ground keeps it dry, and they can clean around under the block.
Eating off a moving pendulum keeps the chickens exercised, and it is entertaining for us to watch.
It feels good to know they can get their greens even when it is nasty out, we will keep these alfalfa pendulums available as a free choice option for the hens, they will use it on nice days too, and in the mornings while they are in the coops, segregated from the raccoons and hawks.
 Summer pool fun, with alfalfa!
The cement pond is a nice way to  contain loose alfalfa in the summer, the alfalfa stays in the bowl and gets scratched finer and finer until it is all eaten. 
Everybody has a nice time 
and then . . .
 Rue Dee and Happee pitch in and help.
 and then rest. 
We always put out plenty of water, because eating all that alfalfa has got to make them really thirsty. 


  1. I will try this out! I think Village feed has alfalfa bales. I usually give our girls a bale of straw, I take the cords off but let them spread it. I never really thought about the nutritive value- I need the straw for litter and I know my hens LOVE to scratch a fresh bale down, but how perfect to give them something that also has a nutritive value.

    You guys were right about Bungie being a boy! I just wrote about it on Stitch and Boots and included your tip about the comb base (plus a link to both your blogs).

    Anyway- do your birds manage to eventually undo the whole bale even though it's corded?

    1. cool going to try it .must keep them girls happy

  2. I feed my chickens alfalfa mini bales 1 bale which is approm 6"by6" by 14" long for fifty chickens

  3. i searched if it's true that alfalfa good for chickens,so i give them some dry and they love it,

  4. Thanks for posting all of this helpful information. I like the alfalfa pendulum idea to keep the chicken entertained.

  5. Very informative, I am going to get alfalfa today to add on my chicken's diet..

    I read a lot of good benefits from alfalfa hay!

    Thank you for posting

  6. My husband and I are planning on starting to keep chickens next spring, so we are reading up on what we need to do to keep them healthy and happy. For some reason, I had never equated chickens with leafy greens (especially alfalfa), so this was extremely enlightening. Especially with all that you explained about their needs for alkaline foods. I'll keep this in mind and make sure that we always have alfalfa on hand for them! Thank you for sharing your knowledge and experiences! http://MIDWAYFORAGE.COM

  7. Yes yes yes for alfalfa bales. I go thru a bale a week with 30 hens. They eat the fines and the stems then become ground cover to keep them out of manure and then raked up. It is a healthy circle and great use of bedding that was a wonderful feed source in addition to the layer. Every flock needs a flake a day !

  8. Loved reading about the alfalfa...what a great idea. I used to have 24 laying hens and 3 pair of Bantams...was so comforting to listen to them mumble while they scratched around the barnyard! Now I'm too old for that, but I miss all those fresh eggs. Good memories.

  9. How do you get your chickens to care so much about alfalfa? I bought mine a bale of it, and only a couple of them would occasionally peck at it. They seem to be more interested in pooping on it.

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  11. Hello Claire,
    Alfalfa is very nutritious, and the chickens will recognize this, but is seems that when chickens use layer pellets or other processed foods, they will ignore, a wide variety of other healthy foods like bugs, worms, flowers, .. It is kinda like people, if our diets are high in Fruitloops we might just pick at our salads.

    We use alfalfa a lot in the mid summer when it is too hot to feed them much wheat or other "cereal".

    We try to avoid processed feeds, sometimes in the dead of winter, and they need some kind of additional supplement, and then we give it to them in measured amounts, no processed foods in free choice feeders, because they get lazy, move in next to the feeder and over to the point were some get constipated, which is dangerous for chicken when it is trying to lay eggs out the same vent, The pressure can build up and stop their hearts.

    When chickens are laying eggs, processed foods will make the yolks taste like lard. Yuck!

    The alfalfa has the protein without the carbs, and a much higher ph level, so the hens aren't panting all day or overheating in their nests.

    If the chickens are eating naturally, and not filling up with empty carbs, they will probably accept alfalfa, they say that a child will usually to try a new food about three times before taking a shine to it, The same probably holds true for chickens.