Siberian Peashrub: a Non-GMO Livestock Feed Alternative

While researching field peas as a protein source for poultry and hogs, I stumbled across the Siberian Peashrub (caragana aborescens). Further investigation convinced me that this shrub would provide solutions to a couple of problems on our homestead that we’d love to correct.
The first and obvious problem is finding plant-based alternatives to GM soy to provide adequate protein for our animals. Reading the following sentence sold me on the value of this shrub for feeding chickens and ducks. “During World War II, the Siberian peasants reportedly carried their chicken flocks through the winter feeding the seed of one small woody pland, Caragana arborescens.” (Snell, 1983).
Even though we are 150′ from the road, we hear and see a fair amount of traffic. Which brings us to the second problem, privacy. Growing 6-12′ tall with an equal spread, the Siberian Peashrub is large enough to serve as a buffer between us and the road. In fact, one of its uses is as windbreaks for farms and fields.
It is fast growing, cold and drought tolerant, tolerates poor soil and begins bearing in 3-5 years. The shrub has food value for humans, livestock and wildlife. The leaves can be used for dying my wool to a lovely azure color. The shrubs is widely used as windbreaks and screens. It is perennial and fits well into a permaculture or forest garden design. I think I’ve found the perfect plant.
What do you think?


Further Reading
The Small-Scale Poultry Flock: An All-Natural Approach to Raising Chickens and Other Fowl for Home and Market Growers–With information on building … feed, and working with poultry in the garden
Harvey Ussery

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Siberian Peashrub: a Non-GMO Livestock Feed Alternative — 18 Comments

  1. I do not say this to discourage you in any way…after all, I live in a very different climate from yours (Eastern CO), but I have some Siberian Pea Shrub I planted 15 years ago. The ones that didn’t die for one reason or another have barely grown, and don’t produce any forage. I hope you have much better results than we have!

    (And just so you know, many of the other things we planted back then are thriving…we raise most of our fruits, and vegetables, etc.)

    Best wishes!
    -Laura at TenThingsFarm

  2. Very interesting! Have you been able to find any of these peashrubs for sale anywhere around here?

  3. Hi Tammy,
    I can’t remember just where you are located. I found Wedel’s Nursery in Kalamazoo has them. Over this way, Cold Stream Farm in Freesoil has lots of shrubs and trees. They have a website, if you’d like to see what they offer. I saw lots of stuff I’d like to plant.

  4. Hey, I’m ‘farming’ in my 50’s too! (Sorta)
    I appreciate the tip to look into this. Seems to me that anything called Siberian anything would do well wintering over in Michigan. I’m in So.Western Colorado at the foot of the mountains, and this plant grows wild (but sparse growth) in places where there isn’t “apparent” heavy clay soil. I thought it was poison like the loco weed, lol.
    I would encourage you to try it – what the heck! It will go on my list of alternative chicken feed sources – I like the idea of diversity! I like the idea of bordering fencelines with this, and it’s the kind of plant that could be useful inside the chicken yard. The chickens would like scratching around under (sunning themselves in partial shade). Keeping the deer from eating it all would be my problem… even in the chicken yard. Grasshoppers are a huge issue here too, and one of your sources says summer growth is really affected by them.
    In summer I routinely find 30 grasshoppers on each Russian sage plant, daily. I don’t know how they survive it.
    Good luck finding the perfect fit!

  5. I had reached the same conclusion about growing Siberian Pea Shrub for chicken feed. There are quite a few sources for stock if you google it. Some folks looking for soy bean substitutes suggest Austrian Field Peas but they are an annual that needs replanting. Have you thought of Black Soldier Flies as a protein source for your chickens? Google that and check it out. I’m farming in my 50’s also. I started in my 20’s and am still enjoying it. Don’t know if my blog address will automatically post with this comment but you can google it if you want to see….. look for

  6. Ok, I am about 3 hours north of Kalamazoo but that could be worth the trip sometime. I can’t find the protein profile for this pea though on any of these links. Isn’t that what the pea is for? To replace the nasty GMO soy that is used to up the protein in their feed?

    As for the Black Soldier Fly that Kathrin mentioned about, I would love to try those but when I was further investigating them for aquaponic gardening too, it sounded like to me they arent native to our weather zone of 5 (here anyway). I was looking at one of those biopod things to grow chickens and fish some extra protein but don’t think it is very cost effective if I would have to import them in every time I needed a batch. I know you’re farther north than me, have you done anything with the BSF?

  7. Thanks for the tip about the grasshoppers, Illoura. I’ll remember to cover the young plants with netting to keep them safe.
    I haven’t tried BSF, Kathrin. I’ve read a little about them and don’t know if we generate enough manure/compost to support a colony. I’m still working on getting the numbers of my super worms up, so I can begin to feed them to the ducks and chickens.
    Tammy, I read up to 36% protein at this link:
    Gee, Tammy, our minds are in sync:). I’ve been looking into aquaponics to support a fodder system for my animals and greens for us.
    Do tell about the “biopod thing”.

  8. I have these growing in my yard! How do you use the peas? Do you give them the pods or do you have to crush them so the chickens can get to the peas? Mine are very hardy- I am in Wisconsin and have sandy, dry soil. The shrubs grow quickly and spread a little if you don’t mow around them. The wood on them is very soft also- meaning you can’t tie goats to them no matter how large the branch is. 😉

  9. I am really excited about the aquaponics possibilities. I just finished reading “Aquaponic Gardening” from and the lady that wrote the book also started an online store at where she also sells the BioPod that was mentioned in her book as another source of food for the fish (and chickens too of course!). It’s a really neat looking way to grow the larvae. But then the more I read about the BSF, they are not native to our zone, so not sure we could do it here. I am still trying to find some one here that does it. If you haven’t already be sure to check out the aquaponic forums at Tons of info about aquaponics. We are now considering building some kind of sunroom onto our house so we can grow fish and veggies together all year long 🙂

  10. I think I’m glad I kept exploring linked blogs from Homestead Revival! My house is a mere 30′ from the main road thru town, we REALLY need privacy shrubs and if the chickens and ducks will benefit too, all the better! Thanks for sharing your research efforts!

  11. Hey Brooke,
    I’m uncertain how they are fed. My suggestion is to experiment and see what works. If they’ll eat them in the pod, that’s a lot less work than shelling and crushing. Let us know how they like ’em.

  12. Thanks for the then link, Tammy. I’ll be hopping over for a look. The sunroom would be waaay cool and more efficient than my plan of growing stuff in the basement.

  13. I hear ya, Kelly! We aren’t as close to the road, but I’d love an edible privacy belt between us and the road. Maybe some nut/fruit trees with elderberry and siberian peashrubs in front.

  14. We’re going to try a vining bush that some neighbors have. She can’t remember what it’s called, but when they were in Russia it was in bloom and she thought it was pretty, so brought seeds home. Now she can’t kill it off fast enough, so I took a baggie full of seeds and am hoping for success with that too.

  15. Before you plant this you might see this:
    It’s considered “invasive” in some places… and could be quite a pain in the end.
    *(I have planted Russian sage, which have grown and bloomed impressively over the past 5 years but also send out shoots that are ‘invasive’ and messy… good for raising bees so they have something close by to forage, and is deer and drought-resistent, BUT it’s a mess!)
    Best of luck finding alternative feeds!

  16. We live in E. WA state and tried to plant a hedge of Siberian Pea Shrub. We had excellent growing conditions but in the 4 years we were there they either died off or were stunted and didn’t grow. I wasn’t impressed. Although a friend was renting a property that had a hedge that was probably 15ft tall and did great. Have no idea how old it was, but well established for sure.