Chickens in the orchard...a bad thing?

Discussion in 'Feeding & Watering Your Flock' started by wordgirl, Sep 3, 2009.

  1. wordgirl

    wordgirl One of the Shire-folk

    Apr 14, 2009
    We have an old apple orchard on our property, and as it's the ON year for the apples (apple trees – or ours, at least – seem to take a break every other year), the ground is covered in lots and lots of apples. Our chickens free range, and lately they've been wandering into the orchard. They like apples (maybe I shouldn't have introduced them to the it...) and are either eating the apples in the orchard, or eating the flies off them – I think, maybe both. My question is – is it okay for them to be in there? On Buff Hooligan's Treat Chart, (go there – it's great! https://www.backyardchickens.com/web/viewblog.php?id=2593-Treats_Chart ) it says apple seeds are bad for chickens. Will the chickens be smart enough to not eat the seeds, or will they hurt themselves if they eat too many?

    Thanks!
     
    Last edited: Sep 3, 2009
  2. rebelcowboysnb

    rebelcowboysnb Confederate Money Farm

    The chickens will eat the bugs more than anything. The bugs that eat the apples hibernate in the mulch grass under the tree so if you keep chickens on that land you should have less apples lost to the bugs next year.
     
  3. wombat

    wombat Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jun 23, 2009
    I doubt you'll have a problem with them eating enough apple seeds for it to be an issue. That's probably more of a problem if people are just feeding the seeds, or a lot of apple cores as treats.

    If you have a lot of apples left lying around, you'll probably have a codling moth problem (they're the cause of those worm holes in your apples). Chickens help keep down coddling moth populations.

    Your trees might be less on-off year to year if you thin apples down to no more than three per cluster when the apples are just starting to develop. Same holds for pears.
     
  4. chickiedoodle

    chickiedoodle Out Of The Brooder

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    I agree that you might notice an improvement in your crop, especially if you thin as wombat suggests. My neighbor swears that the only cherries she ever gets to eat are the ones that overhang the chicken yard. For some reason she says the wild birds don't take those. I have also read of orchards that are running chickens through in the fall and winter to clean out bug populations. I myself have recently started an experiment. I planted two cherry trees inside the chicken run and one outside where even the free ranger gals are not allowed. In only a couple years we should know if the chickens really help or not [​IMG]
     
  5. rebelcowboysnb

    rebelcowboysnb Confederate Money Farm

    I have an old multi-trunked crab apple tree where my grandfather threw out a apple core 40+ years ago. This tree has never had a good apple on it in its life. About 5 years ago 10 or so of my chickens started roosting at night in this tree. We have been eating apples from then on. Fertilizer!
     
  6. wordgirl

    wordgirl One of the Shire-folk

    Apr 14, 2009
    So I guess it's a good thing they're in the orchard. Great! They love it in there, and they look so cute with all the scattered apples around. Thanks, everyone! Now I won't feel like I have to chase them out of there when I seem them in there. [​IMG]
     
  7. JJ Gandy Dancer

    JJ Gandy Dancer New Egg

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    Do you harvest the apples off the ground? Is that going to be a problem if chickens are in there? You probably won't be able to get the ground falls...they will be pecked at or pooped on? I was searching for chickens in an orchard, as we have several apple trees, and I was wondering if the chickens could be put in there also. I was thinking of having the coop right there, and having a run off one side, and then another run off into the orchard for when the chickens can go in there after the main harvest.

    I was thinking the chickens would attack the bugs for sure, too. Grand. But I do harvest ground falls for applesauce and juice. Maybe just have the orchard run, and only let the chickens in when it is okay for the apples? Sorry to ramble, but great place to get ideas!
     
  8. silkiechicken

    silkiechicken Staff PhD Premium Member

    When the apples start to ripen from my trees, which are all semi dwarfs with low hanging fruit, I fence the chickens out. They will pick holes in any apple they can reach and devour any that are on the ground. I just use a warm sopy solution to wash all the apples that have hit the ground.
     
  9. Red-Stars-in-RI

    Red-Stars-in-RI Chillin' With My Peeps

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    That sounds like a good idea. In addition to the pecked apples, you need to be very careful with the chicken dropping around apples you hope to use.

    Animal waste, specifically deer, is the reason that almost all cider you now buy at the store is pasteurized. It's very difficult to clean animal waste out the "star" of the apple, so you'll likely want to harvest all apples for human consumption before letting the chickens in the orchard.

    That being said, there's likely no better way to leverage the unused drops and the bugs that come with them than running them through a flock of happy chickens, who will clean them up and turn them into great fertilizer for next year's crop.
     
  10. WVDoug

    WVDoug Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Between the deer, squirrels, possum, rabbits, and raccoon, there aren't any apples on the ground in the morning at my place!
     

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