how to make corn meal : LUSENET : Countryside : One Thread

I'm thinking of raising chickens and raising the corn meal to feed them over the winter. What variety of corn should I grow? How do I make it into meal?

-- Paul Wheaton (, December 27, 2000


Hi Paul, you would use what we call field corn, not sweet corn. If there are any corn growers in your area, you might ask if you can go through them after the combine and pick up what is left. We did that this fall and got about 70 five gallon bucketfuls. Haven't weighed it yet. I also just talked to a local feed store and they said they would grind it into cracked corn for 75 cents per 100 lbs. Then I'll buy some wheat to mix with it and make my own scratch feed for almost for almost nothing. Hope this helps

-- Darren in Idaho (, December 27, 2000.

What part of Idaho are you in?

Okay, so I need to get field corn seed. Anybody know where I can get the seed (other than finding a farmer with it)? :)

Is there a way to grind it myself?

Also, I'm guessing that I need to let the corn dry a bit before grinding it, right?

-- Paul Wheaton (, December 27, 2000.

I'm about 50 miles northwest of Boise.

Most any goodsized seed company wood have it in 50# bags. Also, some garden stores carry bulk seeds. You can buy it by the pound there.

Any grain mill will grind it. The courser you grind it, the faster it will do it. Mills with steel burrs will plug up less than stone if whatever you're grinding is oily. Don't know if it would make any difference on corn. I wouldn't advise feeding straight corn to laying hens as I've heard they will get fat and quit laying. (Somebody correct me if I'm wrong please.)

It needs to be pretty dry to store, 15% moisture or lower. Otherwise it will mold. That is plenty dry enough to grind.Might be a little gummy if you try to grind it real fine though. (like for cornmeal) Just have to try it and see. It would dry pretty fast sitting by a wood stove if too moist.

-- Darren in Idaho (, December 27, 2000.

I'm from LaGrande, Oregon. Just across the state line.

Do you let the corn dry on the stalk? Or do you pick a full ear, shuck it and then dry it? Do you dry it while it is still on the cob?

-- Paul Wheaton (, December 27, 2000.

Paul, if you plan to go to all this effort to grow your own corn, do consider open pollinated field corn. The yield might be a little decreased but the nutritional value will be much greater. I read an interesting book from Acres, U. S. A a few years ago that just blew me away as to how much we are giving up nutritionally using hybrids that fill bins and bellies but don't nourish the body, whether it's human or critter. If I can find the name of the book, I'll post it.

Seeds Blum in Idaho and Shumway both carry OP field corns and I'm sure there are others that I just can't think of at the moment. I salute your initiative. I had super soil and plenty of water and grew nearly a bushel of ear corn, planted on 8" centers on about 15 sq. ft. of ground years ago. Sounds wild but I'm not exaggerating.

-- marilyn (, December 27, 2000.

Open pollenated sounds great to me. I'm guessing that I can just keep a small bag of corn kernals for the next year?

Can you recommend a particularly tasty variety? (I want to use some for human consumption corn meal too!)

I'm curious about the drying it part and the removing the kernals part (remember, I've never done this before). Do you let it dry on the stalk? Do you just store the cobs and rub the kernals off later?

Rather than grinding it, it would seem that just smashing it would be fine for chickens. After all, I just need to get is smaller than a kernal. Not to a fine powder.

-- Paul Wheaton (, December 27, 2000.

You just leave it on the stock to dry. Normally late fall before it is dry enough. It can be stored on the cob or off. It just needs to stay dry.

-- Darren in Idaho (, December 27, 2000.

We plant one of Shumway's open pollinated seeds and save seed. We plant by hand as early as we can get in and pick when it is good and dry on the stock. We pick by hand and have a sheller (one of the old hand crank kinds) We clean some real good for the house use. It has to dry in the house near the stove for a while before it will work in the grain mill.

-- diane (, December 27, 2000.

Please tell me more about the sheller. How does it work? Where could I get one? How fast is it? Do the kernels come off pretty easily?

How do you go about drying it all by the fire? Rows and rows of cobs? A big sack?

What sort of container do you store it in?

-- Paul Wheaton (, December 27, 2000.

We also have hand crank corn sheller and I used to have a corn cracker that was on the same principle but it went up in smoke.We shelled,then cracked the corn, for the chickens,when I was growing up.Good upper body excersize.

I find them at rural auctions.

Corn was shocked when harvested first,by hand, by us and my 80+ grandfather. You know,those corn teepees. Then it was husked and put in the corn crib,and shelled and cracked as needed.

I am on an open pollinated,organic,seed exchange,and will ask them opinions on varieties for your area, and suppliers. Probably blue flint,I'm just guessing?

-- sharon wt (, December 27, 2000.

Lehmans has shellers. Maybe other places do too. I just ordered a couple of the cheaper ones. I'll try to remember to post how they work.

-- Darren in Idaho (, December 28, 2000.

I've run across corn shellers at antique malls fairly cheaply, they are common enough not to demand a premium. What you basically want to do is to raise field corn and let it dry on the stalk till the stalk is fairly brown/brittle. Then you can store it several ways. Some people braid together the shucks so that it is kind of like braided onions. Some leave it in shocks in the field. You can also shuck the corn and put it in a corn crib. The important thing is to make sure it is good and dry and that moisture and rodents can't get to it. The way I do it is to shell it off the ear once it is dry enough and store it in vermin proof containers. Right now this means metal trash cans but I plan to build a small grain silo soon. I got a large grain grinder with a big hopper on it that is hooked up to an electric motor by a belt that I do all my grinding in. You can adjust for fineness of grind. For animal feed you would just want it cracked so it should go pretty quick. This mill is capable of making flour and cornmeal for people too even though it doesn't get my flour quite as fine as I'd like it. I picked this up at a swap meet and have seen others of similar design at other flea market/swap meet type sales.

-- Amanda in Mo (, December 28, 2000.

What I was talking about when I said "drying by the fire" was a bucket of the shelled corn that I stirred every day or so. My grain mill really clogs up if the corn is not VERY dry. You would not need it that dry to just "crack and serve" to your chickens, just if you wanted to make corn meal. Sorry I was unclear. One year we set our grain mill as loose as we could and cracked for the chickens-it worked well.

-- diane (, December 28, 2000.

If you do not want to buy new seed every year, you will have to find an open polinated variety. Go to All of their seed is open polinated. They could probably recommend the best thing to do for your needs. These days farmers only grow hybrids and they do not produce good seed. Or you can buy new seed every year from the grain elevator closest to you. Good luck. Oh, we, too, have gleaned the fields in years past. The children loved it. We would put our harvest in cloth bags and hang near the woodstove to dry thoroughly and then grind it in our grain mill for corn meal (for us, not the chickens.)

-- Yolanda Breidenbaugh (, December 28, 2000.

Wow, look at all the generous responses!

So there are shocks, shucks and shells. I'm guessing that a shock is a bunch of corn stalks cut and tied together sitting out in the field with their ears still on. Is that correct?

Shucks must be the leaves over the kernals - hence "shucking corn". Same as "husking corn"? Am I on the right track?

Shelling must be when you seperate the kernals from the cobs, is that right?

What is a corn crib?

I take it that a grinder is the best way to crack the corn?

Sharon, I just bought some property North of Spokane, Washington. zone 5. I once lived in one 4 which had a 90 day growing season. So I'm guessing that zone 5 might have a 110 day growing season. Since my place is pretty high up, my micro climate might throw me back to a zone 4. As I learned before, having 90 frost free days does not mean I'll be able to grow corn that is supposed to be ready in 80 days. The corn rated "80 days" means that it needs 80 days where the temperature is above 50 for at least six hours each day.

Amanda, how big of a grinder do you have? Are there pictures of it, or something like it, on the net? Is it something that can be purchased directly?

Yolanda, I went to and they don't seem to have corn seed. Did I get lost? I went to in Montana and hit some paydirt. Two varieties. Both are more than 80 days, but both also claim to be somewhat frost resistant! Any opinions on these varieties?

While we're talking about grinders... Is it a grinder you use to make stuff like oatmeal?

-- Paul Wheaton (, December 28, 2000.

Yep,you got the terms right.

Corn crib in long building with slatted sides to allow air circulation.Every farm had one or two. I thought they looked like a short,skinny covered bridges with the sides slatted.Lady that grows gourds commercially built some, for drying her gourds.

Well, you DO have difficult conditions for corn.We'll see what the gardeners come up with, for you. I'll be trialing Black Aztec,which can be eaten in all stages,but I don't know about the time frame for getting it dry.My mini blue popcorn was listed at 100 days.Hopi blue dent is listed 110 days.Bloody Butcher grown here,but it is 110 days

Go to archives,under the garden, and search for corn,someone grew Black Aztec and could tell you more.

Maybe NATIVE/seed search would have something traditionally grown in your area. I have a seed saver buddy in COLO. who's pretty knowledgeable on Traditional seeds.Let me email her and get back to you. It's great fun tracking down old varieties.A mystery to be solved.

-- sharon wt (, December 28, 2000.

Corn crib: Any pictures on the web? Wouldn't such a building be vulnerable to rats and the like?

Garden City Seeds had two varieties of field corn that were rated around 80 days. Unless something else comes up, I think I'll probably go with one of those.

-- Paul Wheaton (, December 28, 2000.

Oatmeal is different than ground grains. It is steamed until soft,then ran though rollers.(rolled oats)

-- Darren in Idaho (, December 28, 2000.

Paul, I suggest you buy a wonderful book by readers digest called 'Back to Basics'. This has good descriptions of corn cribs, growing harvesting and storing different grains, plus lots and lots more. The grinder I have might be called a grist mill. It is just a really big cast iron grinder. I don't know where you could go to look at one. When you are looking at mills to buy just keep in mind that it should be big and rugged looking to handle heavy work. You might be able to see one at Lehmans web site. I would suggest buying one used though since it is sooo much cheaper.

-- Amanda in Mo (, December 28, 2000.

Where might one find a roller for rolling oats?

"Back to Basics": Okay. Got it. Found the crib. Birds don't have a heyday with that?

-- Paul Wheaton (, December 28, 2000.

Paul, I don't know about birds, but rodents were kept out of cribs by placing metal baffles around the legs of the crib. This is rather like the squirel baffles on bird feeders. annette

-- annette (, December 28, 2000.

I agree, Back to Basics is an excellent book and would answer most of your homesteading questions. Carla Emery's book is pretty good too. I have both and like Back to Basics better. (It has more pictures)

The problem with oats is most have hulls on them.I guess there are some hulless varieties.I don't know if they would be worth the trouble.

-- Darren in Idaho (, December 28, 2000.

Can anyone tell me if those "ornamental" Indian corns are useable as food, either dry (meal, fodder, etc) or green (sweet). Some say purely ornamental or just ornamental, but look like corn to me.

-- Soni (, December 28, 2000.

I grew hulless oats.I did not have luck with it,but will try again.We had a very wet growing season.

Indian corn is edible.If I remember correctly,it is a flint corn,and is suitable for grinding.

There are all sorts of Traditional corns! Hopi blue dent seems to be favored alot.

I'll be trying the Black Mexican or Aztec again.I planted it this year,but unfortunately, away from the garden to keep it from crossing with my other corn,but the deer got to it.

You could use hardware cloth in the corn crib to keep out rodents.We always just planned for some loss,but that was from maybe 20 acres of corn.So,for smaller quantity you'd be able to be more fussy.You could also shell it all, once dry, and store in garbage cans.

-- sharon wt (, December 29, 2000.

Paul, consider growing some wheat, too. It's productive, easy to grow, one of the best grains for chickens. You don't need to thresh it. Just cut it, store it dry like hay, and let the chickens pick the grains out when you feed it. I'm too far away to comment on varieties, but unlike corn, wheats are not hybrid - you can grow & save seed with whatever is adapted to your area. Here we grow winter wheat, planted in Sept. & harvested the following July. I've grown a little spring wheat (plant in early spring & harvest midsummer), but it's less productive.

-- Sam in W.Va. (, December 29, 2000.

Sharon, I grew Black Mexican (sweet corn) the last two years. I like it. I also grow Stowell's Evergreen which is late enough to not cross with the Black. I plant the early variety first and the late a couple of weeks later to make sure.

-- Sam in W.Va. (, December 29, 2000.

Paul-wholehearted support for Painted Mountain came back.Fella grew it out over 6 generations,He said it did everything the description said. Sounds like a winner

I also forgot to mention a method we use to get sweet corn reliably early,by June 15th. It's pretty intensive,but you might want to do a small patch this way to insure getting seed for the next season.

Start corn in deep peat pots inside,at least 40 plants.Only takes a few days to germinate,then a few more inside under lights,then out to the garden.It's the germination in cold weather that is the problem,corn once up can actually take a little frost.Lived in a frost pocket once,where it regularly frosted July 4th,and that was when I learned about the frost hardieness of corn.

Cover the garden bed with a hoop & plastic structure,put in 'hot water bottles'-gallon milk jugs painted black to absorb the solar gain,and you're on your way.If you happen to get above70,remember to open the ends or you could cook everything

We do tomatoes,peppers,cabbage,and lettuce this way as well.

Garden to the MAX!

Sam- on Aztec,how was it as a sweet corn?I grow super sweets.But I also grew Double Standard,a new O.P.,and liked it's flavor really well.

Oh yeah,as Sam indicated, make sure you isolate from any other corn;it's wind pollinated.

-- sharon wt (, December 30, 2000.

I thought I would never run out of questions on this topic. But I did! Thanks everybody - I'm ready to give this a shot!

Oh! One last thing: How do you "roll" oats? Where can I find a "roller"? I'm guessing a rolling pin would work, but that seems like a lot of work.

-- Paul Wheaton (, December 30, 2000.

Paul, if you find you can't grow corn reliably where you are, try oats and barley. Barley is grown even in parts of Alaska that are surely zone one!! As far as the rolled oats problem, I haven't tried making my own, but everything I've heard is that it is a pretty major project. I may try someday because oats are one of the few grains I'm able to eat, but would like to hear from someone who has done it, first!

-- Kathleen Sanderson (, December 30, 2000.

Hi Paul, there is no reason you have to shell or crack the corn before you feed it to chickens, they do the job quite readily on their own, just provide plenty of granite grit so their gizzards can do an effective job. You can purchase grit at any feed store. You will have to feed an additional source of protein to get any egg production to be worthwhile as corn is only around eight percent protein, and you should be feeding 16 percent protein for laying hens to produce well.

As for growing your corn, around here you can buy 100 pounds of shelled corn for six dollars, which we figured out is way cheaper than us growing it ourselves, and since you have to feed other grains in addition to make their ration work, what's the point?

-- Annie Miller in SE OH (, January 02, 2001.

Hi Paul. I believe that Country Living (of the Grain Mill fame) has an attachment to their grain mill that you can use for oats. I saw the prototype a little over a year ago. I haven't bought it yet b/c I'm broke, but I am considering it. This company is in Stanwood WA and they have advertised in Countryside for years. I have their grain mill and like it a lot.

Btw, we buy cracked corn in 50# sacks at the feed store. I think we last paid about $6 a sack. Probably cheaper where you are. Are you in Stevens County? I'm over here in Snohomish County. I planted sweet corn for the first time last year and was lucky to get a harvest. I didn't get any germination until mid-June (and had to plant twice.) Ooh, but the corn was good!

Good luck to you.

-- sheepish (WA) (, January 02, 2001.

I'm in Spokane county. About 25 minutes north of the city of Spokane.

This is gonna sound crazy, but I want to feed the chickens strictly organic corn. To be sure it's organic, I'm gonna grow it myself. Granted, after the first year or two I might get horribly bored with it and just go get the sacks of feed. But I still want to try.

Will check into that roller.

-- Paul Wheaton (, January 03, 2001.

Paul, I don't think it's crazy at all to want to grow your own corn. Certainly you should grow it a few times, so you know you can. If you decide at some point to buy feed, it's still possible to get organic grains or mixed feeds. I have a list of sources somewhere if you want .

-- Sam in W.Va. (, January 03, 2001.

Hi Paul. Here in central MN (borderline zones 3 - 4), corn is a very important farm crop. I'm sure, though, that those fields are neither O.P. nor organic. Farmers are in no hurry to harvest - they just let it stand & dry in the field all fall. Many times I have seen their combines working in Nov or even in Dec in the snow. You can grind corn in a garden shredder and need not even shell it first - just toss in whole cobs. The chx will sort it out for themselves. A few years ago, we made a home-built shredder from our ordinary rotary lawnmower. We had a welder-friend cut a hole in the top of the mower deck, then we built a plywood hopper to fit the hole and dropped in whole ears. Worked Great! And it still mows, too - just screw a metal plate over the hole. We now buy cracked corn at the Farmer's Co-op Creamery in 100 lb sacks - $16.50 for 300 lbs.

-- Sandy in MN (, January 03, 2001.

Hi, Paul and Darren,(and everyone else) I live in Kuna,(pronounced with a Q) and it is about 10 miles out of Boise. I have grown Hopi Pink & Purple, and we just love them. I got the seeds from Seeds of Change. It grows on a fairly short stalk(4 to 5 ft.) as I recall and it is very drought tolerant.I just left it out in the garden until late Oct. or Nov. then harvested it. Shelled it by hand, set in front of the TV and shelled till I got it all done, my fingers got sort of sore, but I lived! We store it in 5 gal. buckets with diatamatious earth in it, in the root cellar, we used about a cup per 5 gal. bucket, we also use alot of Bay Leaves in our stored food. We prefer the purple it is much smaller kernel than the pink. It makes wonderfull cornmeal. I fed the extra corn to our chickens right on the cob, they love it and it gives them something to do, instead of picking on each other when the weather is bad and they don't go out of the chicken house. The mill I use for wheat and corn is a hand crank one called Back to Basic, I purchased it at Harvest House in Boise for around $50.00 I think, it might have been $65.00, its been a long time, anyway. I think I have seen them in catalogs. It works quite well, and you can grind fine or just crack, wheat or corn in it. I hope this is some help, you can email me, if you like with any questions. Bye now, Mary in Idaho

-- Mary in Idaho (, March 05, 2001.

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