I live in New York, in an area where many cicadas emerged this year. Observing this large population of bugs and how my chickens responded has raised a question in my mind about the paddock shift system.
This is my first year raising chickens. I have a fenced area 50’ x 130’ with nine 2-3-year-old apple and pear trees. I’ve divided this area into 4 paddocks which I will be planting with various fruit and seed producing plants. I have 8 chickens this year and plan to have more next year.
When the cicadas started emerging I would let the chickens out of their paddock into the larger fenced area for about half an hour every day to find cicadas. Then they would go back in their paddock.
Now that the cicadas are gone I can see that the trees in their paddock have no cicada damage while the trees outside the paddock have quite a lot of damage. This makes me wonder, if I had let the chickens roam at will wouldn’t all the trees be damage-free and wouldn’t the chickens be full of high-quality protein?
It seems that growing a variety of vegetable and seed food for chickens is easy but providing protein is harder. Isn’t it better to plan a system so that the chickens have maximum opportunity to find protein? I don’t know when or where wild bugs will emerge but the chickens will figure it out. Isn’t it to my benefit as well as the chickens to let them roam at will?
I know there is concern that the chickens will over-graze areas but I haven’t seen that. I have had my 8 chickens in a 25’ x 40’ area for over a month and the vegetation is still thick.
As I said, I am a beginner at this and would appreciate any feedback.