Elfpermacl at Elfpermacl at
Tue Sep 2 08:30:28 EDT 1997

Jack has another nice post.  And again I will add a few points.

1)  The issue of chickens vs geese vs some other pasture animal is stocking
density.  For typical breeds and conditions, a stocking density of 70 birds
per acre is as high as you want to go (if the chickens are in the ordhard all
the time.  We have a routine where we let chickens out of their regular
forage for the last few hours of daylight and they clean up bugs, get grass
seeds, etc.)  Geese are not overstocked because they require grass so will
starve before the grass all dies out.  However they don't eat insects and
they dont scratch.  Ducks are easier on mulch.

On the other hand, chickens are great a defoliating an area if mob stocked.
 Again I'd not keep them in an overstocked area all the time but let them
into fresh vegetation a few hours a day to scoop up whatever they aren't
getting otherwise.) They know to do this.  For example, if you wanted to set
up a Fukuoka system between your trees, and I can't imagine why anyone would
not want to, clearing the land with chickens can be a first step.  They
broadcast buckwheat, disc lightly or, better if you have it, scatter a light
mulch of grass-like materials, and let it rip.  

Ducks are more useful than geese at pest control as geese tend very strongly
to vegetarian diets.  If you have established mulch, ducks work it with their
probing bills rather than scratching, which is inconvenient with webbed feet.
 Chickens can also be used on established mulch by throwing brush or tree
tops around the feeder roots of your trees.  You don't really care if they
scratch elsewhere as they just move the mulch around.  Some breeds, such as
Araucanas  (i think I spelled that wrong--ones that lay colored eggs, blue,
green, etc.) are harder to discourage than others, but even so the damage
doesn't appear to harm the plants.

On observation, there was a time a few years back when I had chickens getting
into the garden.  We had mulched paths and densely planted beds.  They
scratched in the paths and only reached into the beds for the odd bug.
 However I shooed them back as I know that they can change behavior quickly.
 I have two stories about that, one involving geese and another ducks (I'm a
slow learner) I'll save for another time.  

I do want to add that geese will destroy your seedling trees.  They will go
along nicely mowing between the trees and converting the grass to tree
fertlizer and then one day they go bonkers and chew all the bark (if chew can
be the right word here) all around each one.  This is not a gradual thing.
 It is like somebody threw a switch that makes them attack trees.  This can
be expensive weeding.  

Geese are smart and remember well and will get any food you think that they
are too dumb to figure out, like corn ears on stalks too high for them to
reach. That's the story I'm not telling you.

For Mother Earth, Dan Hemenway, Yankee Permaculture Publications (since
1982), Elfin Permaculture workshops, lectures, Permaculture Design Courses,
consulting and permaculture designs (since 1981), and now correspondence
courses via email.  Next starts in Oct. 1997. Internships available.
Copyright, 1997, Dan & Cynthia Hemenway, P.O. Box 52, Sparr FL 32192 USA
 YankeePerm at  

If it's not in our food chain, we aren't thinking.

In a message dated 9/2/97 1:49:17 AM, jackrowe at (Jack Rowe)

>Re: geese as orchard animals... Chickens are great for intermittent
>cleaning chores, but tear up the ground quickly with permanent access.
>Ditto pigs. I second April's suggestion about the geese (I usually like her
>thoughtful comments)... they may be a little ornery, but I've found (as
>with most all outwardly-ornery animals, human or otherwise) if one doesn't
>show intimidation then they respect that and quit the theatrics. 
>An interesting story about observation (as in "looked with my brain instead
>of my eyes": the geese were getting into my garden of bean and cowpea
>seedlings, important heirloom seed samples, so I chased them out several
>times, with much theatrics of my own. Finally occurred to me to JUST LOOK
>at what they were doing... geese are grazers, they were going along the
>rows and carefully eating the grass (that I'd have had to come along and
>pull by hand, which for some reason seems to offend fire ants mightily).
>They weren't even TOUCHING my bean and cowpea seedlings. After that I left
>the geese alone, but they didn't let me forget what a rude host I'd been,
>sulking and waddling away whenever I got near.
>Speaking of thinking vis-a-vis looking, Huang Po said: "The foolish believe
>what they think and reject what they see [or maybe forget to even look? -
>JR]; the wise reject what they think and believe what they see". I think I
>see what you're thinking...

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