The Lawn

Discussion in 'Gardening' started by thewatsonfarm, Jun 10, 2017.

  1. thewatsonfarm

    thewatsonfarm Songster

    157
    153
    141
    Mar 22, 2015
    Orange County, California
    We used to have quite a nice lawn in the back yard. But the soil is clay and prone to a lot of weeds. And since the hens have been free-ranging in the yard, we haven't used any weed-killers or fertilizers. It's been seven years now and now the lawn out there looks just awful. It's full of weeds and bare spots. It's kind of embarrassing....

    Does anyone have any suggestions?
     
    Mace Gill likes this.
  2. Mace Gill

    Mace Gill Songster

    591
    868
    186
    May 26, 2017
    New Jersey
    Hard to combat the chickens!

    I say let the weeds grow! Many of them are healthy for the chickens, for people, and good to encourage the bees. Plus, when you get hit with a drought, the weeds tend to stay green long after those perfectly manicured lawns turn brown.

    Now, I don't know what you could plant that would be able to establish itself before the chickens make short work of it, but some healthy choices of 'weeds' could be:
    Dandelions - the greens are full of vitamin A and C. A cup of steeped dandelion greens gives you the same C as a half a cup of orange juice. They are a bitter green, but go nice In a summer salad or lightly stir fried like you would broccoli raub.
    Plantain (the leafy green, not the tiny banana) - also a healthy dark green, but if you crush the raw leaves up in your hand, the juice is a mild astringent that helps sooth bug bites.
    Clover - excellent for bees
    Sorrell - a partial food source, but the little yellow flowers are charming.
    Purslane - fleshy green that is great in a Greek salad and grows like a weed! Great to plant with other things because it draws up nutrients from the soil that helps the other plants nearby.
    Lady's Thumb, grape hyacinth, many other types of weeds that ... if we can figure out how to get the chickens to give the lawn a break, can grow wild and well in even poor soil.
    On the edges of the property (if it is not too overly suburban) encourage the taller wild plants like goldenrod, queen Ann's lace (wild carrot), onion grasses, wild garlic, thistle and the like ...
    No pesticides? No fertilizer? No problem for a whole lot of these plants that most folks (for some reason) actively try to REMOVE from their environments!

    If you can get a Few of these established in your bare spots, they will pave the way for other plants to return ... hopefully resulting in more forage than your chickens can manage!
     
    thewatsonfarm likes this.
  3. azygous

    azygous Crossing the Road

    15,826
    15,458
    812
    Dec 11, 2009
    Colorado Rockies
    Lawns, sod type grasses, don't stand a chance under the busy action of chicken feet due to the shallow root system.

    The best thing to do is:

    1- Spray the weeds with a generic 2-4D broad-leaf herbicide before the weeds produce seeds, if possible. Yes, it's safe to do where chickens will range, but you won't be letting them onto this area for a few days until the herbicide breaks down under the action of the sun.

    2- Then get a roto-tiller and break up the clay soil.

    3- Over the summer spread every bit of chicken poop you collect over this tilled area. It's okay to let the chickens scratch in this soil over summer to work in the poop and eat any new tender weeds that may sprout.

    4- At the start of fall, after the weather cools down, till again lightly if the soil has compacted. Then sow a mix of native bunch grasses and browse grass called, "dryland pasture mix". It's a drought resistant grass type called "bunch grass" that puts down vertical roots systems that are impervious to chicken feet.

    5- Keep the chickens off this area by staking some plastic deer netting around it at least four feet high. The netting comes in seven by one-hundred foot rolls.

    6- Over winter the rain and snow (if you get that species of weather) will seat the seeds into the soil and come spring, will germinate and grow and get established before the heat of the summer sets in.

    You will have a different type of "lawn", not exactly a contiguous carpet of grass, but it will stand up to chicken action and eventually fill in and look like a sod lawn. Keep fertilized with chicken poop, and you will see it grow like nobody's business.
     
    thewatsonfarm and Mace Gill like this.
  4. lazy gardener

    lazy gardener Crossing the Road

    27,610
    26,645
    907
    Nov 7, 2012
    CENTRAL MAINE zone 4B
    I would choose not to use any herbicide in my yard. But, have been successful establishing new sod by using deer netting to exclude the chickens from the area. My biggest issue is where they seem to gravitate to a particular spot in the lawn to make dust baths. In OP situation, I would divide the lawn into manageable sections, and sod them one at a time. Do some homework about what types of grass would do best in your area. Perhaps call your county agricultural extension office and ask for suggestions. Be sure to let them know you want a tough grass that will hopefully stand up to the chickens. If you welcome bee activity, be sure to include some white clover in the mix. It's a high protein forage, as well as fixing nitrogen to help the grass grow. IMO, multi species lawns are preferable b/c they are less prone to grub damage.
     
    thewatsonfarm and Mace Gill like this.
  5. azygous

    azygous Crossing the Road

    15,826
    15,458
    812
    Dec 11, 2009
    Colorado Rockies
    Just wanted to add this info to this thread since it may come up on searches and it's a question practically everyone is misinformed about - the safety of 2-4D where chickens are concerned. Pets and people, too.

    If you can thrash your way through a scientific paper, read this. http://pmep.cce.cornell.edu/profiles/extoxnet/24d-captan/24d-ext.html

    For those who want the gist of it in a few sentences, 2-4D has an extremely short half life, meaning it's almost completely disappeared from the soil in less than two months. It does not accumulate in the tissues of animals, but if ingested, is mostly eliminated in the urine. It's not going to hurt the bees as long as you don't spray them with it.

    You don't want to spray it on your chickens, nor would you be inclined to do so, but if you did, it probably wouldn't be the end of the world. You do not want to get it into any fish ponds as it has an entirely different and negative effect on fish.

    It's a very effective way to get rid of weeds and it won't kill any incipient grasses should the stuff get on them, and it's safe to use where you want to pasture chickens as long as you keep them off the area for at least two weeks.
     
  6. lazy gardener

    lazy gardener Crossing the Road

    27,610
    26,645
    907
    Nov 7, 2012
    CENTRAL MAINE zone 4B
    Is 2-4-D specific to broad leaf species only?
     
  7. azygous

    azygous Crossing the Road

    15,826
    15,458
    812
    Dec 11, 2009
    Colorado Rockies
    Yes. It's why it's a common ingredient in lawn care products. It has no effect on grasses.
     
  8. Diane Smith

    Diane Smith Hatching

    1
    0
    9
    Nov 14, 2016
    So glad to discover it's not just me who is battling to have 3 free range girls and a green lawn! It hasn't helped that we are in the midst of the most severe drought in 100 years here in Cape Town. I am thinking of fencing off some sections of garden ( definitely the herb and veg garden) as it seems seedlings and chickens are not a match.
    Will see if I can find a local equivalent for your lawn suggestions. Our kakuyu is very resilient. But clearly not chicken proof!
    Love my girls, but run a BnB from home too and my guests expect some green lawn
    Any other suggestions?
     
  9. thewatsonfarm

    thewatsonfarm Songster

    157
    153
    141
    Mar 22, 2015
    Orange County, California
    We have drought conditions here in southern California too. I'm really thinking about re-landscaping & giving up on most of the lawn & putting in more areas with DG instead -- along with more raised planter beds.

    I don't think the girls are actually responsible for destroying the lawn (because chickens are perfect and have no faults, right?) We just have miserable clay soil. I can't fertilize or re-seed in the yard with the girls free-ranging everywhere. There are areas where there is no grass & the soil has cracked open, but it's not dry. It's just the nature of the soil here.

    Maybe there's a way to amend the soil in the patchy parts? Perhaps I need to invest in a rototiller? I'm kind of afraid the soil here would destroy anything short of industrial strength machinery. It's too hot right now to deal with this project, but maybe in the fall....

    Thoughts, anyone???
     

BackYard Chickens is proudly sponsored by: