• Post Reply Bookmark Topic Watch Topic
  • New Topic

Please critique my chicken pasture rotation for summer crop design  RSS feed

 
Paul Cereghino
gardener
Posts: 856
Location: South Puget Sound, Salish Sea, Cascadia, North America
15
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
It is time for my 2010 chicken pasture experiment...

The setting, an old llama pasture, with bentgrass, thistle, orchard grass, plantain, some leftover rapeseed.  Deep silt loam soil, wet in winter, dry in summer.  Maritime northwest US climate, and annoyingly cold due to frost pocket.

The preamble, Over the winter of 2009-10 I left the chickens on 1/6 of the chicken pasture for a prolonged period, while cutting and adding pasture hay from the rest of the pasture.  The result was an area scratched free of green and covered with straw mixed with some chicken poop.  Since then the chicken tractor has been wandering the rest of the pasture, and some grasses, thistle, and mustard have grown back.

The goals:
1. Site remains flat so that the chicken tractor can return in the future.
2. At the end of the summer season the site is left with a bunch of chicken forage and understory of white clover.
3. The site is to produce a summer crop of storage food items.  The candidates: winter squash/pumpkin, corn, amaranth, potatoes?
4. The crop is relatively resistant to deer – enough so that they could have an impact without taking it all (Based on their past preferences I think beans are out).

The proposed treatment:
1. Run chickens one last time to knock back regrowth, and add some more pasture cuttings.
2. Spread potatoes in widely spaced rows.
3. Rake mulch into windrows, one on potatoes, one between potato rows with nothing.
4. Sow spaces uncovered between windrows with buckwheat, amaranth, white clover, millet, etc… from the coop bulk bin.
5. Dump small piles of soil/compost down the middle of the empty windrow and alternate squash and corn seeded into piles - sow some transplants as backup

Suggestions?

chicken experiment.jpg
[Thumbnail for chicken experiment.jpg]
 
Paul Cereghino
gardener
Posts: 856
Location: South Puget Sound, Salish Sea, Cascadia, North America
15
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Wow... great thread here that lists lots of chicken forage options.
http://www.permies.com/bb/index.php?topic=845.0

Add sunflower, and that yogurt container of purple sprouting broccoli I collected last year.
 
Toby Hemenway
author
Posts: 105
22
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Can't help you on this one, Paul. I've never used that sort of system.
 
Jocelyn Campbell
steward
Posts: 4044
Location: Missoula, MT
352
books food preservation forest garden hugelkultur toxin-ectomy
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I've never raised chickens myself, though I've been exposed, shall we say, to a lot of information and opinions on the topic. 

It wasn't clear to me, did you intend to convert the 1/6th where it's largely hay, or the entire pasture?

Did you read Paul W.'s chicken article? In it, he recommends a pasture paddock system, using portable, electric fencing. So in your picture, you've already got a portable coop, so I'm thinking moving the electric fencing around the place would be a snap (pun not intended, but welcome, I guess!).

As for predators and pests, would a short portable electric fence help deter deer? They'd have to nuzzle it or bump into it before jumping over, which might not be very likely. The chicken tractor provides overhead predator protection I suppose, where the paddock shift doesn't so much, but if the portable coop or other bushes or shrubs are around, the chickens would have some cover to duck into.
 
Paul Cereghino
gardener
Posts: 856
Location: South Puget Sound, Salish Sea, Cascadia, North America
15
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Ideally I would like to have a paddock system - the cost of fencing makes the return on investment low, given my small flock.  MY #1 predator is redtail hawk, so cover is necessary given the small size of my flock (5-10 plenty for a family).  I have arrived at the current contraption after not having the freetime to move temporary fence with overhead cover regularly.  I value moving them to fresh ground.  The other alternative is to let the run pretty free in an oversized food forest... which is where I may end up... only using meat birds to covert sections of the pasture.

To be clear... only the inner portion is chicken pasture.. the rest is slowly getting converted to food forest.

My goal is to have 1/6 of the chicken pasture in vegetables and forage crops mainly to just figure out a method.  I believe I need at least 3:1 donor area:mulch area to get the buildup of mulch in a deep litter system to convert from pasture to crops.  I do not have a good source of straw or hay.  The scything is good exercise.

Regarding deer, I understand that you only have to shock each deer once or twice before they start avoiding your land... I have read that tinfoil smeared with peanut butter in a nice lure.  I have a fenced garden, but an curious what I can keep outside the fence.  I was particularly interested in getting the sprawly storage crops out in the pasture.
 
Emerson White
Posts: 1206
Location: Alaska
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
If they spent enough time in this area to kill all that was there before you should be fine just hoeing the current growth under and planting what you want. I also wouldn't grow a cover crop between the rows, the bulk bin goods will compete with your storage crop. Potatoes, corn, and squash is a fine polyculture, but I'm sure that Amarinth will be fighting with the potatoes for root space, and clover only puts nitrogen (which you should have in abundance in a chicken run) into the soil after you turn it in.

Good luck!
 
Hey cool! They got a blimp! But I have a tiny ad:
This is an example of the new permies.com Thread Boost feature
https://permies.com/wiki/61482/Thread-Boost-feature
  • Post Reply Bookmark Topic Watch Topic
  • New Topic
Boost this thread!