Making my run into an orchard - suggestions needed

Discussion in 'Coop & Run - Design, Construction, & Maintenance' started by gottaknit, Oct 21, 2008.

  1. gottaknit

    gottaknit In the Brooder

    May 28, 2008
    I have a plan to fence in a run for my 4 girls (due to their garden-destroying and patio-pooping ways), and this area will also be our "orchard". (About 4-5 fruit trees.)

    What can I plant under the fruit trees (which are yet to be planted) that will be good forage for the chickens, but can stand up to their scratching, and will do well in (eventual) partial shade? I'm thinking perennial. Clover?

    Also, will the chickens damage the new trees before they can become established?

    It will be a large area - about 600 sq ft - for only 4 chickens, and possibly a few ducks someday. Suggestions welcome!!

    Btw, I live in Oregon. Zone 7, I believe. Thanks!
  2. Heather J

    Heather J Songster

    May 29, 2008
    I have no plant suggestions, but if your trees are more than just babies (you know the type, like the free ones the National Arbor Day Foundation gives away) you'll be fine. I planted fruit trees in my bird pasture, the shortest was probably about 5' and the birds didn't bother them at all. I can't wait until the trees are big enough to provide actual shade for the birds, never mind fruit for me!
  3. cjeanean

    cjeanean Can't Decide

    Mar 5, 2008
    no clue, but HI!!!!
  4. Mahonri

    Mahonri Urban Desert Chicken Enthusiast Premium Member

    May 14, 2008
    North Phoenix
    My Coop
    I don't believe that there is ANYTHING that will stand up to their chicken scratches. They destroy anything that is green. They can't help it, it's just the way they are!
  5. gottaknit

    gottaknit In the Brooder

    May 28, 2008
    Quote:Well, half of the area is overgrown with invasive blackberries, so let's hope that's not the one thing they refuse to eat! [​IMG] It took enough to warm DH up to the chickens - I don't think he'd go for a goat!
  6. walkswithdog

    walkswithdog Crowing

    Jul 17, 2008
    DC Region
    Quote:Well, half of the area is overgrown with invasive blackberries, so let's hope that's not the one thing they refuse to eat! [​IMG] It took enough to warm DH up to the chickens - I don't think he'd go for a goat!

    Goats eat baby trees....

    you can make an area that they can't scratch to the ground with a frame of flat pressure treated wood and 1/2 inch hardwire or even 1x3 for plants with larger leaves. Ground raspberries, i bought mine from an oregon nursery online -- are a great ground cover. they have other good safe ground covers and plants there. 1/2 wire worked for the ground raspberries. i built a taller almost box for hostas. So they get a chance to grow up before the chickens start taking them down. i planted some flat leaf parsley - which has done awesomely. Freeze or snow, it comes up again and puts out enough sprouts to keep them busy and it's great for them.

    Good luck. it's fun to plant the runs and have it work. it is frustrating while it doesn't work but you figure it out.
  7. gottaknit

    gottaknit In the Brooder

    May 28, 2008
    Quote:What an excellent idea! Thanks!! I could build these around the trunks of the new trees and plant the groundcover under them. [​IMG]
  8. Wynette

    Wynette Moderator Staff Member

    Sep 25, 2007
    Walkswithdog, do you happen to have any pictures of what you describe?
  9. lleighmay

    lleighmay Songster

    May 21, 2008
    Woodlawn, VA
    If you want the blackberries cleared a goat will definitely do a good job (mine ate a patch the size of the GARAGE in a couple of months and they haven't come back so you could clear it without herbicides) but I would have a goat clean it off before you planted the trees. Not only will they eat baby trees, they will also stand on their hind legs or even partially climb a grown tree and will strip everything they can reach... I have seen a big billy hook a 4"/diameter locust tree with his horns and pull it over to get the higher leaves. They will also strip bark sharpening their horns. If you wanted to use a goat without owning one perhaps there is someone in your area who would loan you one for a short time- I've loaned Earl out to friends before so he has different brush-munching opportunities lol. Of course, you could also leave the blackberries to grow as managed cover (aggressively pruned by you to stay in areas where you want them so they don't take over the pasture) and the chickens could use them for shade, berries, and the insects they attract. Herbs like mint and oregano might stand up to the chickens since they are practically invasive in growth habit and could be mixed in with clover and other shade tolerant grasses. They'll also attract bees like crazy which will be good for your fruit trees. However, I don't know if they would flavor your eggs or how much the chickens would have to eat to make that happen. I really like your idea of using the orchard as chicken pasture and am going to steal it to use as alternate pasture for the turkeys I plan to get in the spring (they were already going to get the goat pasture so I 'll just connect them)..... Of course, at the rate I'm going by the time I'm done my 1 acre "farm" will be fenced and cross fenced so much it'll look like a prison camp.......
  10. cmom

    cmom Hilltop Farm 10 Years

    Nov 18, 2007
    My Coop
    Quote:I agree with Mahonri. I have an orchard of Pecan, Apple, Peach, Pear, Plum, Mulberry, Tangerine and Orange trees. I did a lot of research to find different varieties that would grow here in Florida. I put metal rings around the smaller trees as the chickens were scratching around the base of the trees and the Tangerine trees have shallow roots of which some actually are esposed. I do not have the chickens in the orchard right now, but I am planning on moving the coop to the part where the larger apple trees are. When there is fruit on the trees, any that drop to the ground they eat. I have Blueberries that I made an enclosure around as they would get the berries as soon as they were ripe enough. Here is a picture of the blueberry bushes with the frame around them. The frame is 6' tall. We made a door frame on one end. We have netting that goes over this when it's blueberry season to keep all birds out.

    Last edited: Oct 21, 2008

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