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Using chickens to prep garden

 
Andrew Breem
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I know people use hogs to root up old pasture and turn it into something plantable. Has anyone here used scratching chickens to do the same? Did it work well?

I have a small pasture that I want to convert to perennial plantings (orchard trees, perennial vegetables and berries, and the like). These won't be going in till next spring (2016), but in the meantime I will be getting some chickens. What I was thinking of doing was using movable fencing and coop to move the chickens around the pasture for a season to scratch up the sod and fertilize the place.

Will they do an effective job of shredding the sod? If so, are there any particular breeds that are better than others for this use? How many chickens would one need for a given area, and how long should they be left in place?

Thanks!
 
Zach Muller
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Location: NE Oklahoma zone 7a
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Hey Andrew, I think you will find chickens can break up the sod and make an area very plantable. Here's a cool video that geoff lawton made on the subject.



As far as breeds go, there are a lot more breeds that can scratch well than ones that don't really scratch. Find a local breeder is my first advice for getting birds since they can give you animals that are perfect for your locality and predictable in their characteristics in your climate.

For chickens per square ft there is no hard and fast rules since it depends on what plants are there, what your desired timeline is, and your chickens themselves. I have put 2 chickens confined to 8 x 4 ft pen on grass and it seemed like they would pretty much destroy it daily depending on the turf. So if you wanted to turn a whole acre into planting bed in a day that would be 2700 chickens or so. 500 sq ft would take 31 chickens to process in a day at that rate.

here a thread more generally about chicken per acre numbers.
 
Shannon Sheridan
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Location: Michigan
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Chickens in the garden work great for us. I haven't used them to shred sod, but if I had sod or hard ground to break up, I'd totally expect it to work.
Our legal medical marijuana garden is a thousand square feet, fenced on all sides plus netting on the top. Early each spring, I put a couple-three baby pigs in there, letting them churn it up for about a month. I scatter shell corn to encourage them to dig.
In mid-April I move the pigs out, and put as many as a dozen chickens in the space. They further redistribute the soil, evening out some of the larger pig trenches and eliminating any specks of green that sprout, as well as dispersing the pig manure.
By mid May the birds are out and the space rests for a couple weeks, then I plant in the first week of June.
There's no sign of the animals left. If I had way more chickens I might run into problems with uncomposted manure/nitrogen burning the plants, but I haven't had that problem thus far. Marijuana is a heavy feeder, and an altogether tough plant. Other plants might be more sensitive.

Chickens will de-nude a space of all plant and insect life, if given enough time.
 
Andrew Breem
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Very good video! I thought I counted 25-30 chickens, which agrees roughly with the 30-eggs-a-day figure given in the video. (The breed looks like Australorp to me.) On 1600 sq ft, that's about 50 sq ft per chicken. Your chickens are each clearing 16 sq ft per day. If his are working at the same rate as yours, then he probably leaves them in place for 3-4 days.

All quite back-of-the-envelope, but helpful in giving me a rough sense of what to expect. Thank you, both!
 
Joseph Lewis
Posts: 21
Location: NE Missouri
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My chickens have spent all winter in my garden doing the work for me. I use 5x14 chicken tractors that have about 30 birds in them. I follow the chicken tractors putting down cardboard and cover the cardboard with 10 inches of mulch. The chickens work great, depending on conditions they can destroy the 5x14' area in less than a day in wet weather, or several days in dry weather. They don't dig deep, they only destroy the surface. But I have used them to go over sod with good results.

I think chicken tractors would work best for this use as it keeps them in a small area. Here is what can be done in short order in good working conditions, left a little longer and there is no vegetation:




 
jimmy gallop
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Location: east and dfw texas
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I have runs from my chicken pen to the garden and then runs that can be moved from one row to the next so that I can let them clean one row at a time as needed .
They can come and go in these runs from there pen as they please.
they are 30 inches wide and 10 ft long and just slide together ends are open all except the last one.



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I agree. Here's the link: https://richsoil.com/wood-heat.jsp
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