Creating a Food Forest/Chicken Habitat

jneerwin

In the Brooder
Jan 28, 2015
16
3
24
Northern NM
I've been trying to research creating a chicken habitat that doubles as a food forest. We're talking cereal grains, berries, herbs, and other edible perennials very densely planted in a 10ft x 30ft area. The coop and 5 hens would be inside the area with free access. I'm wondering how this might work. Will they just destroy everything, eating and digging it all up? They would not be solely depending on the plants for food, as we would still provide feed as normal. Any ideas are greatly appreciated!
 

oldhenlikesdogs

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They will quickly destroy the plants by their digging, especially anything not well established, a better practice would be rotational planting, with multiple pens, allowed to recover or to be reseeded. Mine free range in a pasture too big for them to dig up or totally utilize, we cut the grasses down in mid summer, so something with more grasses would be more durable.
 

Folly's place

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Think about shrubs for the site, for shade and yummy berries, and some edible plants. My birds won't eat mint or catnip, and love to dig in mulch. Unless you rotate areas, or use screen covered beds, it's going to be a mulched area. You could grow vines on the fence too. And cover the run with something to keep the hawks out! Mary
 

donrae

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I think it would be interesting to try. You've got a decently large area, and not a lot of birds, so your plants may have a fighting chance. I agree seedlings may get demolished, so you'd probably want to have the garden/forest pretty well established before letting the birds loose.

I've never grown grains, so I have no idea how those would do in the type of setting you're proposing.

Strawberry plants, I'm thinking those would take it pretty hard from the birds. Raspberries, boysenberries, blueberries, blackberries should all do well. Grapes should also be able to survive.

I'm not sure the birds would mess with garlic or onions, but they'll still scratch around the plants.

I think asparagus would be decimated as those yummy tender shoots appeared.

What else specifically are you thinking about planting?

I think dense planting may help. I'd also try to set up an area specifically for dust bathing. The birds will still scratch around the plants, but well established plants can handle some scratching. Use a lot of mulch, that will help protect the roots and also increase the insect population for the hens to eat.

If you go forward with this project, I'd love to see how things work out for you!
 

jneerwin

In the Brooder
Jan 28, 2015
16
3
24
Northern NM
Thanks for everyone's input! I think we'll give it a go this year if possible. We'll fence off the food forest and leave the run intact to start. That way we can control how much freedom they get in the food forest, but we won't have to worry about them getting into our garden. Maybe after everything is established we'll experiment and see how long it takes them to do any significant damage lol.

Honestly I can't remember all of the plants I had thought to have in there at the moment, but I agree about the berries. I'm thinking a lot of tea and healing herbs, comfrey, maybe mustard greens, Daikon radish, edible clovers, etc. I was also thinking chestnuts and hazelnuts. But I have yet to cross reference my list with the big list of toxic plants. I also need to figure what shade plants would be suitable because there is a good portion that is 90% shaded. It's going to be interesting!
 

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