Ken Clark wrote:Thinking about it some more, I should word this question differently. I have some ecological niches to fill on our organic farm. There should be some ground birds that eat weed seeds and insects, but there are no birds filling that niche. It's too important a niche to leave unfilled.
I introduced pheasants, but they didn't stick around. We hear them calling frequently, but not from our fields. I introduced northern bobwhite quail last fall, but there's no evidence that they are still there. They may not have survived the winter, or they may have wandered too. The farms around us are a real wasteland for natural weed/bug eaters.
So what would you do to fill this niche? The deer will browse the pasture, so that's covered enough. What should I get to eat the weed seeds and insects? If not chickens/ducks/pheasants/quail, then what? I'm willing to go through some trouble to help make it work for them, but I'm much more interested in filling empty niches than worrying about whether a particular animal/species survives in any particular year. In the natural environment, not all animals survive, and if we lose all of them to predators by October, they still will have served their purpose. What should I introduce to fill the ecological hole?
I'm thinking more in permaculture terms than in homesteading terms. If you have a guild missing a member, you attempt to fix that problem. If you fail in your first few attempts, that doesn't mean you give up. You have to figure out a way to fill that hole. The pheasants didn't work out, the quail didn't work out. What should I try next?
Ken Clark wrote:Would turkeys work? I'd certainly be willing to consider them. The only problems I could see is that turkeys supposedly like to eat vegetables too(!), and keeping them on our property. The wild turkeys don't seem to care too much about property boundaries. Of course, the pheasants didn't either.
I'll look into turkeys a bit more. For some reason I thought they'd be even more of a problem, but I'll check.
Ken Clark wrote: If they survive the summer, they eat lots of weed seeds and insects, and we get some chicken for the freezer in the fall. If they don't survive, they eat lots of weed seeds and insects, and we're no worse off than we were with the quail.
Mike Turner wrote:One way to protect your ducks from predators if you have a pond or lake is to install floating duck houses out away from the shore.
Ken Clark wrote:I have 12 acres of land about 20 miles from my house. Part of it is our organic vegetable farm, part of it is being rotated into some field crops, part of it is just being left as pasture for now. I could fence part of this land in if needed.
But the problem is that we're only out there once a week. That works OK for vegetables and fine for our bees, but I'm wondering if it there are any animals we could keep out there on that schedule. We'd want them out there for meat and weed control, and because it seems a bit of a waste to have that much land without some animals on it besides woodchucks, raccoons, and deer. (Already hunting those.)
Ken in Michigan
Tyler Ludens wrote:Poultry are too vulnerable to predators to be left alone, in my opinion and experience. They need daily, or more properly twice daily, care.
Adam Klaus wrote:I left my chickens unattended for seven weeks last fall. The door to their house was wide open. They foraged for feed in the garden, after everything was harvested for us. They drank water from the creek.
I didnt know how it would go. Many of my friends expressed their doubts. I came home mid-November and all my hens were perfectly fine. No problems at all.
I knew the cows would be fine, but the success with the chickens was a real confidence boost.
Of course, a lot could have gone wrong. But it didnt. This was just one experiment, but I was pretty pleased. Vacation is a joy.
Marsha Richardson wrote:In the United States, try to find some American Pit Game chickens, the kind that they fight in cock fights. We get to our property weekly, sometimes every two weeks. The game chickens are wild and free. They fly very well and roost 75 feet up in oak or pine trees and forage for their feed. We do throw scratch grains out for them whenever we are there and they appreciate it. That being said, everything eats chickens - raccoons, opposums, skunks, hawks, owls, feral cats, neighborhood dogs, bears (we have had a problem this year). The game hens hatch out their own broods in the spring and often again in the summer. We keep trapping out coons, possums, etc. but not a lot can be done about owls and hawks. Once they find the birds they will keep coming back until they have caught them all. We also have chickens in fortified brood pens with automatic feeders and waterers. When they hatch a brood, some of them venture into the wild and have a grand time. You must also be aware that chickens will devastate a garden, eating new plants emerging, scratching up young plants, will eat ALL the ripe red tomatoes, berries, cabbages and squash. If they can fly well enough to escape predators, they can fly over your garden fence. In the winter, the young roosters will mature and if you don't eat them (you will have to shoot them since you will not be able to get near them), will begin fighting until there are none left. Old English Bantam chickens are also very self sufficient and not nearly so destructive. Dark colored ones seems to avoid predators better. They also fly like eagles. I keep chickens though because I love them and enjoy watching them - they can be very destructive though.
It is very easy to encourage native wild birds to hang about and eat insects. If they have nesting places they will harvest many insects for their young. We have perches on tall poles in several places in our garden and the birds use them to launch attacks on insects in the garden. Brush piles provide habitat for predatory wasps and wasps are encouraged to help with cabbage loopers and such. They really hunt among the cole veggies for the caterpillars for their nests.