Miscanthus as Litter?

Discussion in 'Coop & Run - Design, Construction, & Maintenance' started by Howard E, Apr 1, 2016.

  1. Howard E

    Howard E Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Posted this in another thread, but these things tend to get buried.......

    Curious if anyone has tried miscanthus as poultry litter in either their coops or runs?

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Miscanthus_giganteus

    Scroll down to the part about using it for bedding / litter. There was a lot of ethanol research started on it in the US a few years back, but that appears to have been put on the back burner. Latest I've heard was some of those test plots were being considered for use as sources of litter for the large commercial broiler and turkey barns.

    I'm thinking of planting some to use as summer shade, cover and windbreak, but also to harvest and chop up as litter.

    Before the fox got em all, my daughter's birds loved to hang out under some tall clumps of ornamental grass that were planted in the corner of the yard. Miscanthus would be similar.
     
  2. aart

    aart Chicken Juggler! Premium Member

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    It's usually better to start a new thread anyway...especially as this is a unique topic.

    Never heard of the stuff, haven't seen it mentioned here.

    How would you harvest/process it?
    Like straw.... or hay?
    Would you chop it for bedding use?
     
  3. Howard E

    Howard E Chillin' With My Peeps

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    As long as I don't get too crazy with the size of the plot, my plan is to cut it with my gas powered hedge trimmer. That thing is like waving around a Jedi light sabre. It will get large swaths of it on the ground pretty fast. If I get too carried away, neighbors have a disk mower I might borrow. As near as I can tell, you generally harvest it in the winter months when it has gone dormant.

    After that, I still have a good sized chipper/shredder from when I lived in town on the wooded lot. It will chop it down to about 1 inch or so pieces. Would probably want to bag up the extra to use throughout the year. Local stores used to sell large paper bags used for lawn cleanup in the fall.

    I understand the stuff is used quite a lot as poultry litter in the UK and such. They bundle and bag it there as they do pine chips and shavings here. Or at least that is what I've heard.

    That is the part as litter. The real benefit for me will be the shade cover for the birds and windbreak for me and them. Where I am now is on the top of an open ridge and must be the windiest place on the planet.
     
  4. aart

    aart Chicken Juggler! Premium Member

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    I've used an electric hedge trimmer to cut down my huge ornamental grasses.
    Works a charm... especially if you have someone to hold the stalks/leaves, or tie them off, in a bundle before cutting.
    I usually cut them late fall, depending on site location, or very early spring before new growth starts.

    What is your location/climate?

    Not sure how they'd go thru a chipper shredder.
    Biggest concern might be drying them before storage, if there was much 'green' left the chopped stuff might turn into silage.

    If you go for it, I do hope you come back here and update this thread with your results, good and/or bad.
     
    Last edited: Apr 3, 2016
  5. Jensownzoo

    Jensownzoo Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Hmmm...this is pretty interesting. I may order a few plants for experimentation myself. Mostly for privacy barrier/wind screen, but knowing I can potentially use it for the chickens if it gets out of hand is a plus.
     
  6. Howard E

    Howard E Chillin' With My Peeps

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    An update.......these are photos of miscanthus grass growing near me on a research plot.........leaves top out about 8' high and the seed heads / plumes about 10'. That would make a pant load of litter!

    [​IMG]


    So growth characteristic is it spreads via rhizomes, so you get a dense stand like that, but as long as you keep it mowed, you can keep it in check where you want it. But it will be dense there. So those alleyways between the stands are about 8' or so wide. As is, in stands this dense, I'm not sure birds would be able to use it. They would if you wanted to mow it in narrow rows with the occasional cross cut. In shade like that, not much competition is going to grow to compete with it, so mowing would not be as frequent as most lawns. Also a great place for furry predators to lurk, so you would want a tight perimeter fence surrounding this to keep those out.


    Probably not an option for most (a couple clumps might be) but perhaps an option for those like me with enough room to try it.

    Yet another pasture / shade / playpen option for birds to roam around and play under is a patch of sunflowers:

    [​IMG]

    Once upon a time it was common for birds to graze under these and also under sweet corn and field corn. Just keep the predators out!!!
     
  7. aart

    aart Chicken Juggler! Premium Member

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    WOW! Sweet!
    That looks much like the larger of the ornamental grasses I have here.
    No idea what species/variety I have is as someone gave me chunks of it years ago.
    And I have given away many multiple chunks over the years...found a sawzall with an extra long wood blade worked best for dividing.
    It didn't grow quite as tall as usual in this cool and rather dry year.

    Where are you located?

    You know, it might be better to let it over winter then cut it down before it starts to grow again in spring,
    then it might be dry enough to put thru the shredder as soon as you cut it down.
     
  8. Howard E

    Howard E Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I'm in Missouri and that is a U of MO research plot. I put out about 15 plants back in the spring, so mine don't look like that.......yet.

    I think the general plan for harvesting this stuff is to let it die down and winter over and harvest it sometime in late Feb or early March. I looked at that plot back in early April and it had been cut flush to the ground. So it would be a seasonal thing, although I suspect if you had a large stand, you could harvest off the top half all winter.

    The grass in the photo is some type of patented prototype or some such thing that was actually mentioned in the Wiki article (MFA oil and U of MO) and although I tried pretty hard, wasn't able to pry any of it away from them for my little plot. So I wound up ordering some from these guys: (Maple River Farms)



    Towards the end of the video they show some double rows. That is how I intend to grow mine. A jungle grass for the jungle birds to hang out under.

    Doing some research on this and I find it is growing almost over all of North America. From Ontario to the gulf coast. Also seems to be popular all over northern Europe. A source of biomass used for heat, maybe cellulosic ethanol and animal bedding, including poultry litter.
     
    Last edited: Oct 4, 2016
  9. Jensownzoo

    Jensownzoo Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I didn't order any this year as I decided to start some comfrey out instead. May be a project for next year. I do have a big sack of sunflower seeds to plant in the spring too. It would look pretty nice to have a row of sunflowers just inside the fence with a miscanthus row behind them. Hmmm...
     
  10. Howard E

    Howard E Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Yes, I imagine a stand of the miscanthus and an adjacent stand of sunflowers, sweet corn, etc. would make a fun play ground for the birds. Sunflower patch shown above was about 1 acre in size. I'd think 50 birds could disappear under that canopy and could play all day under there. All of those......miscanthus, sweet corn and sunflowers.....could take advantage of the manure the birds leave behind. It will use it all.....N-P-K.



    A second video showing growth stages. My experience with 1st year growth was right on target. We were hot and dry starting out the summer and actually watered it a few times early on, but later on we got hot and extremely wet and it did much better. I put out about 15 plants, which makes a 50' row.

    Note, the way to contain it into neat rows like that is to mow those rhizomes off as they emerge from the clump. Mow right up against the edge and tight to the ground.

    If you decide you no longer want the stuff, you can spray the early spring growth with Roundup.
     
    Last edited: Oct 4, 2016

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