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The Working Chicken!!

Discussion in 'Managing Your Flock' started by shadetech, Apr 18, 2012.

  1. shadetech

    shadetech Out Of The Brooder

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    Feb 12, 2011
    Maryland
    I recently (2 weeks ago) got my first herd of baby chicks. First in over 30 years. A mix of Welsumers and EE's with a half a dozen Dark Cornish thrown in. They will all be working chickens in one form or another. Eggs or breeders for the most part, but am looking forward to putting them to work in the garden as well as helping to compost.

    I was wondering which breed(s) would be best at "composting" and working wood chips from the local arborists in the area that are clearing lines and roadsides? I would assume some breeds are better at this than others? [​IMG]Good excuse to increase the herd.[​IMG]

    I understand there may be certain risks to letting the chickens work unknown vegetation, as far as toxicity of some woods or weeds, but think it would be an excellent way to add tilth to my soil and fertility. The chips would age from now till the composter herd "comes of age." Maybe the use of tractors or a specified run for the working of the chips?

    Chickens were always to become a part of the overall plan here. They are integral with the garden and I am looking forward to them helping me till and keep bugs and weeds down. Also another link in food security for the family in these times of growing need and dwindling resources. The meat and eggs will be a welcome addition to the "pantry" and the additional labor in gardening and composting will be appreciated by this old back of mine. [​IMG]

    Something to think about. I know we all have tree services around our areas and this is a resource that usually goes to waste in a lot of areas. Let me know what you think. I don't post much, but do very much appreciate the wisdom on this site and have learned much.

    henry
     
  2. RedDrgn

    RedDrgn Anachronistic Anomaly

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    May 11, 2011
    West Virginia
    My Coop
    I'm kind of confused. Are you planning to go around collecting wood shavings/sawdust from tree cutting operations and/or have said operations bring this material to you?

    The chickens will certainly dig and poo and make their very own compost material for your garden, but it's entirely out of control in so far as how they do it. They'll eat your garden plants as quick as they'll eat your weeds; your vegetables, too. They can't be trained to do otherwise. They're also adept at digging up plants that they actually shouldn't. They're indiscriminate. They wreak absolutely havoc if you don't have areas you don't want them in fenced off or you're not out with them every second.

    All breeds will do all of the above. Certain breeds are better at foraging than others, but most (if provided with enough land to roam) are capable of sustaining themselves. Since most also offer feed anyway, that's often a moot point, though.

    So, I'm sorry if I'm way off track here. Not sure if I interpreted what you were saying correctly or not.
     
  3. shadetech

    shadetech Out Of The Brooder

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    Feb 12, 2011
    Maryland
    I understand your confusion RedDrgn, I didn't want to write a book on the first post, sooooo.... it was a bit vague.

    The chickens will be contained in the garden to the areas that require their labor, by use of tractor or fencing. The composting will also be in a contained area so as not to spread it out over the entire yard. I (unfortunately) have a touch over a half acre and many hungry critters that would Love a good chicken dinner. I will have them in fence at all times.

    My garden is a permanent path method, kind of like raised bed, but without any frame, just mounded dirt and paths to walk on between beds. All beds are 42" wide with somewhat varying lengths. This makes it rather easy to make a run that will "adjust" to length and be a 42 - 48" wide by 48" high tunnel with a small movable coop outside the bed. The tunnels will be panels about 10' long and easily moved also. This should allow me to put the chickens where I want them when needed for tilling and taking care of the vegetation after harvest. I understand that chicken and chaos are synonymous terms.

    The regular composting will probably be in a 8 X 10 section of the run that they are allowed into when it needs turning or their "deposits" for enrichment.

    The chips are delivered by truck by grateful "tree experts" as a convenient place to get rid of them, especially after the land fill closes at 3:00 pm. I was just thinking they would be an excellent source of carbon and attract bugs and worms while breaking down into wonderful humus for growing more and better "stuff."

    After all this......the main concern was what chickens would do the work the best? The clean legged chickens will obviously scratch better in the chips. Would Games or Asil or Shamos be better at this than the Heavy breeds?

    henry
     
  4. RedDrgn

    RedDrgn Anachronistic Anomaly

    1,302
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    May 11, 2011
    West Virginia
    My Coop
    As long as you have enough square footage of space per the number of birds you have penned in, you're garden idea sounds like a most excellent one! Again, just watch out for excess digging, because when chickens decide to take a dust bath, they will dig a pit that is deep enough for them to sit in and have their backs level with the natural grade. It's NUTS. I've had plants in my garden ruined by this because they did so much root damage. So if you've got a plan to minimize destruction, you're golden!

    Be cautious of those wood chips, etc. If these are the leftovers from tree trimming operations, then they're contaminated with the fuel, oil, and grease used to run all of the saws and equipment that generated it. The distribution of the contamination throughout the piles will not be equal. If it were me, I'd not expose my birds to that.

    Both clean-legged and booted birds will do the job, though the clean-legged varieties will stay clean and the booted birds will tend to muck up the feathers on their feet a bit. Still, the feathers really don't impede them doing the job. Game birds would also work well, but keep in mind that they're small, excellent fliers, and can be a little skittish. I think the two traits that you need to focus on the most to serve your purposes here are one that bear confinement well (because you're planning to keep them in fenced in areas) and ones that are excellent foragers. If you've got wellies and EEs, then you're off to a very good start as both types carry those traits in spades.
     
    Last edited: Apr 19, 2012

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