Utilizing the Chicken Yard

Discussion in 'Managing Your Flock' started by JFreeman, Feb 7, 2017.

  1. JFreeman

    JFreeman Chillin' With My Peeps

    Is it possible to grow grain in the chicken yard, or will the chickens eat it? I was thinking about utilizing as much of my property as possible. I have 3 and a half acres. A third of that is the chicken yard, letting them free range during part of the day. I was hoping they would help weed and be a good pest control for a grain crop, but I'm uncertain if the struggle of keeping off the plants until harvest would be worth it.[​IMG]
     
  2. lazy gardener

    lazy gardener Flock Master

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    They will gladly harvest your grain crop, just as soon as it sprouts. If you want to grow grains for them, you will have to fence it off. But, before investing the time and effort into planting grains, I urge you to do some homework. A lot of ground required for a meager grain harvest. You might be happier planting some Sorghum, field corn, white clover, and BOSS. Other crops they will benefit from: squash or pumpkins, mixed greens. They will also eat any garden veggies that get past prime for human use, and will gladly clean up your garden at the end of the growing season.

    consider planting other items that will be dual purpose... food for you or wildlife and shelter/food for chickens: High bush cranberries, elderberries, apples, raspberries, mulberries (if you are far enough south) June berries. For the flock: Siberian Pea shrub, Bocking # 14 Comfrey.
     
    Last edited: Feb 7, 2017
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  3. aart

    aart Chicken Juggler! Premium Member

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    My Coop
    [​IMG] Oh So True!!


    Probably the best way to 'utilize' a chicken yard would be to split the available land,
    and use one half for chickens and the other for growing veggies(or whatever),
    then alternating the usage each year.
     
  4. Howard E

    Howard E Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I'm doing pretty much the same thing. Converting an area of lawn out back to poultry pasture. This lawn area was mostly sterile junk....crabgrass, fescue and maybe remnants of bluegrass or rye. It will be a series of raised beds, sporting alternating strips of seasonal fodder. Cover crops like oats and winter peas, rape (same plant they grow canola from), forage turnips, tillage radishes, beets, etc. Perhaps some Korean lespedeza. If you want some fast, quick and dirty high stuff for them as shade and hide under, scatter in some sudan grass seed. In addition to green stuff for them to eat, many of them will attract insects of various kinds. Some, like sweet corn, field corn, sunflowers, and that sudan grass, in addition to being tall protective playpens, are also heavy feeders of nitrogen and phosphorous, which the chicken manure is high in and which tend to accumulate and overcook your ground if you are not careful. So these plants feed on the Nitrogen at least to tie it up.

    But all of these plants have to be protected until such time as they are either large enough to not be affected or enough of them to overwhelm the number birds you have. So much that they can't keep up. I going to use some 28" high poultry netting to ward them off during the establishment period. Initially, it may have to be hot to train them not to mess with it, but for the most part, it won't be left hot, which eliminates the maintenance issue.

    Chicken and other livestock manures are good, to a point, but over time, you can get too much of a good thing. All the salts, all the minerals like phosphorous, calcium, etc. keep building. The best way to filter those is to use plants that are heavy feeders, then remove the plants.
     
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  5. Howard E

    Howard E Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Forgot one additional item. In the middle of this pasture area are going to be some clumps/plantings of miscanthus grass. Once established, it will provide more or less permanent seasonal shade and cover.

    [​IMG]

    Scale is hard to see but that stuff is about 8 feet tall. Birds tend to hang out under stuff like that, leaving droppings, which the grass will suck up and use. Once a year around late March, that grass is cut down and will be shredded and used as chicken litter in the house. It takes about 3 years to become established as you see it. Propagated by root cuttings. Seed heads are sterile. It will spread, so you confine it to where you want it by mowing tight up against the wall. Or simply use some other ornamental grass that grows in tall clumps for them to hang out under.

    That plus a whole lot of this.......
    [​IMG]

    So what you are seeing is edge cover. Lots of edges of different plants vs. just a low solid mass of sterile grass like that shown between the rows.
     
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  6. lazy gardener

    lazy gardener Flock Master

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    Excellent planning for long term poultry/land use balance.
     
  7. Mrs. K

    Mrs. K Overrun With Chickens

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    My great aunt never let her birds free range, the losses were too high, but she did have two pens attached to her coop. In the early spring, she would put her girls in a new pen. Into the old, she would plant wheat or oats. Then in the late fall, she would turn in her girls to the mature crop.

    Mrs K
     

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