crabapple tree in run showing signs of distress

Discussion in 'Coop & Run - Design, Construction, & Maintenance' started by dftkarin, Jul 23, 2010.

  1. dftkarin

    dftkarin Songster

    Jun 27, 2008
    I have had chickens for 2 years and their run has been around an old (30-40 year) beautiful pink flowering crabapple tree. I asked a few people in the very beginning if it was safe for the tree to have 6 chickens scratching, dustbathing, and pooping in the dirts above the roots and everyone assured me it would be fine - even good for the tree because the chickens would eat buys, fertilize the ground, etc. Well, after 2 years, I thik I am seeing signs of distress from my beloved tree - it has pale and brown/yellow leaves scrattered throughout its branches - and I'm worrying. My yard is tiny so its not easy to re-structure the run to not be above the tree roots - but if I do try - how far away from the tree is "safe"? I assume the roots spread out at least as far as the branches - and that is a lot. Also, if I move the run, is there anything I can do to give the tree extra help in recovering from possible damage from the chickens? They have dug a little around the roots on one side - and I can put topsoil back, add something to counteract the acidity of the chicken poop, add some tree fertilizer - what else can/should I do. I love this tree and it would be a huge loss if it continued to get sicker and sicker. Any advice would be very appreciated!!

  2. patandchickens

    patandchickens Flock Mistress

    Apr 20, 2007
    Ontario, Canada
    First thing is probably to take a soil sample -- in this case, I would go down 6-8" and *discard* the top 2" or so -- and send it off to a lab for a soil test. This will tell you how much of your problem is obvious pH mineral imbalances, for instance excessive N or too acid, and suggest any solutions to that.

    Second, if they have exposed significant parts of roots, repair that and maybe put something over the repair so that they don't just re-excavate.

    Third, if (as is very common) the ground has become compacted, you might take a spading fork (size of a regular shovel, but fork-shaped) and drive the tines in as far as you can and lever *just a bit* on them, every 8-12" or so.

    Fourth, in future be wary of taking advice about long-term effects of chickens on trees from people unless they have the same size run as yours, same soil, and have HAD their chickens there for more than 5-10 years [​IMG]

    Good luck,

    Last edited: Jul 23, 2010
  3. new chick 203

    new chick 203 Songster

    Feb 8, 2010
    Ridgefield CT
    I agree with patandchickens. take the soil samples from several places, and your local Master Gardeners group can help you with getting it analyzed. It might just be a PH thing. It might not be a big deal. depending on where you live it could just be a fungal thing (from hot humid weather) that would affect you this year, but next year your fine. I have old farming and gardening books that always recommend putting chicken runs under apple trees since they are mutually beneficial. That's how my set up is just for that reason!
  4. dirtsaver

    dirtsaver Songster

    Mar 20, 2010
    Northern Kentucky
    Check with your county extension agent or an arborist if you know one. The description of the leaves sounds like it could be Fireblight,a disease common to apple trees and not chicken related at all.

  5. darkmatter

    darkmatter Songster

    Jul 10, 2009
    I have trees in my Chicken Run, (check out my BYC page) for over 15 years. The trees did better after the chickens. Like a previous poster, I would suspect reason other then chickens.
  6. okiechicken

    okiechicken In the Brooder

    Jul 7, 2010
    as an arborist w/o pics of the tree/leaves, you could have fireblight, apple scab or some other leaf spot problem.

    these are a fungicidal problem that can be treated in the spring time w/ fungicide treatments, but you'd have to move the chickens for a spell everytime the tree was sprayed which sounds like it would be a hassle. there may be someone around that can do a injection treatment w/ fungicide, so check your local yellow pages under tree service. look for the ISA Certified Arborist credentials.

    your tree sounds too like it may be lacking in moisture. put a sprinkler out and water it. the chickens wont mind the water and may actually enjoy it if its as hot there as it is here.
  7. hallerlake

    hallerlake Songster

    May 30, 2010
    Quote:The radius of the roots is about equal to the height of the tree. So if the tree is thirty feet tall, the tree is at the center of a sixty foot diameter circle.

  8. mudvstheory

    mudvstheory In the Brooder

    Sep 27, 2012
    northern virginia
    Hmm. I've been thinking about this. I would like to have mulberry and crabapple in my run. Definitely check your soil, but also, the lifespan of a tree is not forever. It may just be getting too old to fight disease as its aging process.

    It seems odd (to a newbie) that chickens would compact the soil, maybe it's more the loss of vegetation that does that. More scratching/light tilling would come from mulching with chicken goodies in the mulch. But then again, most of the tree roots are in the top few inches of soil. I'm guessing the roots need more protection from scratching, especially if berry cleanup is tough on the roots.

    (Here goes my creative bent!) With 2x4, make a square that fits around the tree. Set the corners on bricks or something to keep it dry. Then attach spacers (small chunks of 2x4) and then another slightly larger square. You could build something around the tree that looks like a cross between a garden bench and a teak bath mat, Do it in hexagon, and paint it, for extra pretty credit! Make it low enough and closely spaced enough, and it will keep the chickens from scratching under it, and maybe allow something tough to grow under it. And for extra extra credit, make the hexagon into a spiral, by allowing one end to stick out past closure, and begin the next round.

    Purslane or chicory if the chickens are giving you plenty of nitrogen, or clover or vetch if not. Allysum is a good choice, but might need help establishing. It's not as tough, but it will bloom all summer, which brings free protein to visit the hungry chickens. A shade tolerant fescue? You wont get a verdant ground cover, but a scattering is fine, since any mud will be under the ?.

    Umm, what to call this? A chicken tree bench?
  9. chiknhurder

    chiknhurder Songster

    Jan 8, 2014
    Cass County Missouri
  10. aart

    aart Chicken Juggler! Premium Member

    Nov 27, 2012
    SW Michigan
    My Coop

    Would be nice if the OP had come back to report what actually happened with their situation.
    @dftkarin ..did you find an answer/solution?
    Last edited: Jan 16, 2014

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