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Cookie Cutter Front Yard With Chickens

 
Tony Park
Posts: 3
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Hello Permies. This is my first post so my apologies if it's not in the right spot. I live in your typical neighborhood where everyone wants green grass. My wife and i aren't really about that. She is wanting to plant an English style garden in the front with lots of flowers and some grass and i have the backyard to play with. Believe me I'm not to thrilled about planting something i can't get nothing out of but I know that it will help our re-sale later on. We just purchased 8 pullets, 2 weeks old, and I'm wanting to put them to use with the chicken tractor that i just finished this weekend (after they have their feathers of course). My question is has anyone used a chicken tractor and planted seeds right behind it each day? How long should i let the "chicken poo" set before i plant on top of it? Also should I scratch up the soil before doing so? Any help would be awesome and looking forward to learning from all of yall.
 
Jay Green
Posts: 587
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I'm curious...are you leaving this tractor in place until they denude the grass? Then reseeding? Not a good idea unless you have a terrible lawn in the first place and are trying to get better and more grass to grow. The concentration of manure on the same spot for too long will burn off any chances for young seeds to sprout and grow...I've found that it takes upwards to a year, or more, for denuded-and-packed-down-by-chickens ground to recover from the damage and high nitrogenous wastes unless you amend the soil with other additives and cover the bare soil while new seeds are germinating.

If moving it every day, you shouldn't have to reseed at all and the amount of manure will be light and incorporated into the soil to digest slowly and feed the existing grass. The aeration and fertilization by the chickens for one day's use could be all you will need to keep your lawn lovely and green, while producing food for chickens.
 
John Elliott
pollinator
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They will soon be old enough for you to realize the obvious answer to "should I scratch up the soil?" The problem you will have is filling in those really interesting areas where they have scratched an ankle breaking divot. I like to use a bagged topsoil/potting soil/composted manure product to which I've added alfalfa, clover, dandelion, chicory, and grass seed to fill in the divots. I put this down after the chicken tractor has passed and in a week to ten days, depending on the season, the lawn begins to recover and fill in. It also helps to hose down the area that they have been moved from; soak the manure into the soil and give the remaining vegetation a washing.

My chicken tractor stays in the back yard and they always love it when I dump a lawnmower bag and move their tractor over it. That can keep them entertained for hours. Needless to say, when you have lots of weeds and alfalfa, clover, wild garlic, dandelion, chicory in addition to the grass, it's more interesting and healthy for the chickens.
 
Tony Park
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Thank yall for pointing out my vague description on the yard. The size of the front yard is about 1/10th of an acre (that's guessing of course). I will be moving the chicken tractor once to twice a day. Half the yard is doing good but the rest is weeds with sandy soil. I have to say I like the idea of going back over/behind the tractor with soil.
 
Otis Banks
Posts: 6
Location: Watertown, SD
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Every place my chicken tractor has been so far this year has black oil sunflowers growing in it. It's the last thing the chickens eat out of the small amount of grain I give them, and usually some of it ends up buried/scratched in by them. Unless it's a pretty small tractor, 8 birds aren't going to scratch down to plain soil in half a day, so you're going to be planting into the remaining grass. And there will probably be a lot of it. If you want to plant into soil, you're going to need a few days for them to dig it up that much. But then you could just plant into it like it's a freshly tilled garden. Throw down the seed, rake it in lightly, and water.
 
Renate Howard
pollinator
Posts: 755
Location: zone 6b
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In half a day they would deposit enough manure to really give a fertility boost to that dry weedy soil, maybe enough so that grass can grow in nice and thick again. I put both the rabbit tractor and the chicken tractor on the poorer spots in my lawn and now I can't remember where they were, it's all green and nice.

If you hope to garden there after they leave the spot, geoff lawton does something similar with a chickens in an electric wire pen. He's got videos on YouTube about it. I'd say it will work better if you have some dry matter - leaves, straw, etc. to put down for them to dig in on the bare spots, that will absorb the excess nitrogen and maybe hold it in place longer. Plus it will cover your bare spots - any bare spot is risking soil loss, compaction, loss of nutrients, and loss of biological life (fungi, etc).
 
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