[Market-farming] Free Range Chickens in the Garden

Lucy Goodman goodows at infinet.com
Fri May 16 07:54:24 EDT 2003

I really like Leigh's Answer about pathogens. I will add because i keep
seeing the term e-coli being banted around that chickens are not an
e-coli vector. salmonella, campybolactor, etc., could be problems but
not e-coli157, that comes from feed lotted cattle and humans but not birds.

but this does not answer the question asked, how to range chickens in
one's market garden. What we do is put the chickens in as a part of the
crop rotation. We figure out about a year before hand where they will be
pastured, plant clover for them, let that grow all fall and early spring
than put them on that area, where no crops are being grown. 

We have modified chicken tractors with pop doors and a fence around the
area we want them to graze so they don't get out. Our meat birds rarely
get loose but our hens especially as of late are another matter. There
are several who do get out and they can do a great deal of damage to all
sorts of things. If they find leafy green crops forget about a bit of
poop on the greens-our hens will destroy the bed(s) by eating and
scratching the plants to death. Tomatoes they will take a delicate bite
out of every mater they can reach unless cherries which are bite sized
for them so they just denude as much of each plant as they can.
Brassicas end up about like salad mix and spinach, eaten and scratched
to death. And if you mulch deeply with straw the chickens will have a
ball removing every bit of mulch from your beds and depositing it in the
isles as they go after bugs in the litter.

One thing we do to minimize damage from hens on our crops is we use row
covers. if they cannot see the bed they will ignore it as a non food
source. This also keeps wild birds from excreting on our crops.

We also found do not run chickens in your orchard after the apples
appear. we tried this for about 20 minutes only to find the hens
gleefully leaping up to grab the pommes off of the tree. right before we
got them off of the area they had figured out that climbing into the
tree meant even more tiny green apples (and lots of damage to next
year's buds). we were seeing if they could control the plum curculios-no
they can not.

Lucy Goodman
Boulder Belt Organics
New Paris, OH
Check out the Boulder Belt website:
"There is no way to peace---peace is the way."
A.J. Muste

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