Chicken Pasture Composition Recommendations

andrea4

Hatching
Dec 4, 2021
1
2
2
Hi all,
I'm fencing off four "mini pastures" in the chicken enclosure in my backyard to provide them with forage opportunities. Wanted to get some feedback on what a good seed mix would be that is both beneficial for the chickens and the soil. I'm located in Idaho so my growing season is relatively short and I want to avoid plants that are invasive to the area. Here are some of the ideas I've come up with thru some googling. Would love to hear other's thoughts. Cowpea and snowpea on the fences for shade and forage. Radish and carrot for forage and to prevent soil compaction. Parsley, oregano, dwarf basil, thyme, calendula for medicinal properties. Mustard for forage. Dwarf shelling pea and white clover for nitrogen fixation and forage. Thanks!
 

saysfaa

Crowing
Jul 1, 2017
1,191
2,661
281
Upper Midwest, USA
Mustard can be invasive, probably not all varieties are but you may want to check. Garlic mustard is very invasive.

I just read a great booklet about cover crop mixes. I hope I kept it; if it turns up, I'll share some of the info. Even if it doesn't, you might find such info from your nearest land grant university or its extension offices... then look up the plant species for use with chickens. If they don't have pasture mix recommendations for chickens.

Same for deer plot mix recommendations. They could come from your state's version of department of natural resources or conservation office or hunters organizations - pheasant and partridge habitats might work.

Sometimes they say why they chose each element in the mix.

It might change after doing all that research but I would consider alfalfa or red clover depending on soil pH, pearl millet, and a grain - probably rye or wheat- along with the radishes, white clover, peas, and herbs. And current tomatoes if you can protect them until they fruit.

Also, some boards flat on the ground as habitat for bugs. These are to turn over periodically.

Let us know what you choose and give updates on how it works.
 

U_Stormcrow

Free Ranging
Jun 7, 2020
5,040
15,065
606
North FL Panhandle Region / Wiregrass
I'm in the wrong Climate Region for you, but I'm doing what you are discussing (apart from dividing the pasture - I simply have an "excess" of acreage to reduce damage) - My Acres of Weeds [Incomplete]

@saysfaa 's advice is correct. You want a blend of plants, similar to a commercial cover crop, which compliment one another with multiple crops coming into and out of season at any given time. Like a good feed mix, you want a blend of plant types - legumes, forbs, grains (or grain-like grasses).

Clovers are of course a great choice. Alfalfa and Orchard grass. "Panic" grasses. Sorghum, Buckwheat, grain Rye, Millet, Corn (in moderation), etc to provide stiff verticals for other vining plants to climb. Flax and Vetch are good for that. Cucumbers, Squash, Melons, Zuccini are also decent choices. Winter Peas (in moderation). Radishes and carrots both good choices for breaking up hard soils. The various brassica ("mustards", kale, spinach, broccoli, chard, brussels sprouts, cabbage, etc) are hit or miss, but tend towards cold tolerance which helps extend your season. You can look to herbs like parsleys, dill, fenugreek (probably not in your climate), cilantro/coriander (maybe your climate) and mints, as well as early season annuals like marigolds, thyme, and lavender.

Chances are, it will take you a couple years to get things "dialed in" to a largely self managing plot which requires little care on your part, except to prevent any single plant from taking over. I'd recommend picking three from each "group" with an eye towards both yoru growing zone and their time to maturity, and scattering broadly - then adjust next year based on what does best (or doesn't do at all)
 

Folly's place

Enabler
10 Years
Sep 13, 2011
24,315
42,664
1,156
southern Michigan
Welcome!
Great advice already, can't add much.
Chickens are jungle animals, and prefer to be under sheltering trees and shrubs. If you do pasture only, add overhead sheltered areas for them.
You haven't mentioned the size of your flock, or your fenced areas. Unless you have a lot of space/ bird, everything will devolve into dirt and the plants the chickens refuse to eat.
Very careful pasture rotation will help, but may not be enough.
Mary
 

glib

Crowing
14 Years
Dec 8, 2007
267
136
266
Lots of chicory and dandelion, and some legumes. Basically, as many forbs as possible, which they like better than grass. The mixture will also benefit the soil the most, since C and D have deep tap roots.
 

Sally PB

Crossing the Road
Premium Feather Member
Aug 7, 2020
9,206
41,363
983
Belding, MI
Another possibility is to plant something like winter rye in the fall. The roots get established, and it has a head start on growing the next spring. The benefits are the soil is protected from erosion, and the roots bring up minerals and other nutrients up to the leaves. These can be tilled back into the soil, or become food for the chickens.
 

centrarchid

Crossing the Road
12 Years
Sep 19, 2009
26,760
19,269
876
Holts Summit, Missouri
Why not do a mixture of your native warm season prairie plants with strips of legume planted in between. My birds like edges. Insects collect there, and they have more edible plant options. Also consider cutting some areas really close and letting others grow up like Prairie Chickens prefer.
 

HollowOfWisps

Previously AstroDuck
Aug 28, 2020
1,563
3,276
336
Iowa
Most feedmills can actually do a custom blend of whatever legumes and grasses are native to your area based off of how much of each you want. Also know that based on the time of the year certain plants grow better than others when planted. For example we use a clover/Blue grass mix in our pastures and if we were to plant the mix in spring the clover would be more predominant in the fields, but if we were to plant the same seed mix in fall the blue grass would thrive while the clover would just fill in the patches.
 

New posts New threads Active threads

Top Bottom