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Chickens in a prairie

 
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I have been contemplating keeping chickens in a prairie/savanna system for a while and haven't been able find any info on anyone doing this before. Prairie plants are extremely drought tolerant once established and heartily survive being grazed by large animals so I would assume the could survive being regularly pecked at by chickens. Adding prairie species to my land would increase the diversity in many ways and go a short way to restoring what was naturally there before it became farmland. I also think that the chickens would get decent forage from insects and seeds attracted and produced by coneflowers, sylphium, bluestem, lupine, aster, bergamaot, goldenrods, ironweed, milkweed, butterfly weed, indian grass, vervain, bodelias and many other possibilities. Are any of these harmful to chickens? Will chickens annihilate any of these? Comments? Ideas?
 
Posts: 395
Location: west marin, bay area california. sandy loam, well drained, acidic soil and lots of shade
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I don't know much about prairies but I do know one thing you have to consider with chickens is the scratching. not just pecking and scratching is different from what larger animals do. maybe look into how scratching the ground will impact it? I suspect it will work fine as long as you don't put too many chickens in for the space (true for all critters)
 
Posts: 299
Location: Oklahoma
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Matt Darkstar wrote:I have been contemplating keeping chickens in a prairie/savanna system for a while and haven't been able find any info on anyone doing this before. Prairie plants are extremely drought tolerant once established and heartily survive being grazed by large animals so I would assume the could survive being regularly pecked at by chickens. Adding prairie species to my land would increase the diversity in many ways and go a short way to restoring what was naturally there before it became farmland. I also think that the chickens would get decent forage from insects and seeds attracted and produced by coneflowers, sylphium, bluestem, lupine, aster, bergamaot, goldenrods, ironweed, milkweed, butterfly weed, indian grass, vervain, bodelias and many other possibilities. Are any of these harmful to chickens? Will chickens annihilate any of these? Comments? Ideas?



Just keep em moving.

 
steward
Posts: 3999
Location: Wellington, New Zealand. Temperate, coastal, sandy, windy,
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Welcome to permies Matt
My main questions would be:
How large is the potential chicken area?
What sort of system are you thinking? As in chickens always in a single area, rotation, etc...
Chickens are naturally woodland birds, and are generally pretty uncomfortable with no overhead cover.
Do you have aerial predators?
I've never known a chicken to poison itself, but most of our plants are different...




 
Matt Darkstar
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I am planning on somewhere between 4 to 8 layers, i would not subdivide the prairie it is looking to be between 1/4 to 1/3 of an acre. Savanna typically has single oaks and beeches spaced out, so a couple of those could provide decent cover, also prairie plants like compass plant get quite tall up to 10 feet, and the grasses like big bluestem and indian grass would be over four feet. I was hoping they could survive 3 seasons a year on mainly forage on a piece of land this size. i guess i will consider adding more woody plants for cover. any suggestions on woody plants that chickens like? as far as scratching goes this will not damage prairie plants their root systems are extremely deep once established.
 
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Location: Northern California
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I don't know much about prairie, but I know a bit about chickens, and your system sounds like it will work great. Our chickens love to scratch in leaf litter and disturbed ground-- we have to screen them out of areas where we are establishing plants-- but they don't do any damage to established areas. We even had a volunteer garden of squash, tomatoes, and onions arise out of undisturbed ground and the chickens left it alone.

A little more cover would be nice, but it sounds like you have enough. Low ground cover from shrubs and bushes is at least as important as trees. We have 50 chickens/acre, and at 4-8 chickens on 1/4 to 1/3 of acre, you'll be even less dense than that. So I don't see any reason to think your chickens will cause you any more trouble than ours do.

Good luck, and let us know how you do.
 
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Have you tried it out, OP? I'm curious how it is working.
 
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