>The zone idea and thinking in zones was simple yet right on the mark. I
>moved my chicken pin close to the house and I do go there a lot and this
>does save so much time. I value the stuff I'm learning here. I was
>wondering if anyone knows what kinds of food you can plant that the
>chickens will not eat. Also what are the plants that one would plant that
>would be done at about the same time so you can send the chickens in to
>clean up. Will it work with just 2 pins?Can you put chickens in one pin
>at night and vegetables in the other and then at the time the vegetables
>are done switch. I use to cut my front yard now the chickens do it but I
>would sure like to plant something that they will not eat around the trees
>that I can eat.
You are right with the program there, taking as someone suggested a while
back, the last first. Two pens or several pens, depending on your space
requirements. The more pens, the more land in growing but the less space
that the chickens have. I strongly recommend dumping all kinds of organic
matter into the pen with the chickens so that they are continually shredding
it into deep mulch. (Caution, mulch can be TOO deep in wet or clay soils,
especially for some plants such as tomatoes. Trial and error or experience
of local people is what is needed to fine tune.) chickens get a lot of
invertebrates out of deep mulch. In my observation, ONCE ESTABLISHED,
predation does not seem to limit earthworm populations much, mainly it is
available food. This could vary from species to species of worm, though.
Aside from cactus, what kind of plants indeed will chickens not eat. A lot
of woody plants, canes, shrubs, and even trees, are eaten by chickens, or
scratched to death, when small. The famous poultry forage plant for cold
temperate zones, Caragana, is eaten by poultry-=-the leaves, so eventually it
dies unless protected. The very best poultry yard plant I have found is
black raspberry. The canes tip layer and provide tunnels where chickens can
hide and raise young. Even racoons won't penetrate the densest of these.
Catbrier is good but I haven't as much experience with it as with black
raspberry. Chickens eat fruits of both, but since they can only reach so
high by jumping for the higher berries (a comical sight), the easy to pick
berries are left for you. I think you get more berries that way because the
chickens fertilize and suppress competition. Nut trees love being in the
poultry yard. I always have one yard that is mainly for chickens and crops
I've mentioned above and that has the most secure fence. That's where they
go if other gardens are all in production or if I need to be away for a while
and have strangers caring for them. Put the water source near the base of
any walnut (Juglans spp) or hickory (such as pecan, Carya spp) and watch it
tear up to the sky. Spilled water and somewhat concentrated manture, plus
suppression of competion, really makes a difference.
Further north, I've used virginia creeper (which everyone seems to hate
despite its beauty) on poultry netting. Poultry don't eat THAT. But it does
attract Japanese beetles. Chickens can't get to many JBs and you don't want
to have chickens in with your roses, eating petals and all.
Generally, if you plant crops with chickens you need to have plants that are
immune to scratching (such as what? cactus. agave any suggestions folks?)
or that are established woody plants that are higher than the chickens can
reach. What they don't eat, they destroy by scratching, as far as herbaceous
A good crop for living with chickens most of the year is asparagus. You have
to keep them out during the season when you harvest, but otherwise they are
very symbiotic. (They will knock off the shoots as fast as they develop
throughs scratching.) Chickens eat asparagus beetle, as do ducks, by the
way. Chickens scratch, ducks don't. But I don't know if ducks eat asparagus
SHOOTS. They have a different range of vegetation preferences than chickens,
but there's a lot of overlap. Chickens will eat anything (out of the water)
that they see a duck eat, just so the ducks can't have it.
Different rules apply to geese, which will go on a binge of girdeling
saplings from time to time with no apparant reason.
No one who doesn't live next door to you, or at least quite close, can tell
you which crops will finish at about the same time. You can try to use the
"days to maturity" figure on the seed package, but there are several factors.
You need a diary for this and other phenological definition. (I'll risk
another flame here and say we have an outstanding article on phenology in one
of our journals. Or maybe someone else can answer that one when the
inevitable question comes up.)
For this purpose your diary should say the month and day crops were planted,
what species were in blossom at the time (especially woody plants), and of
course you should have at least dawn, maximum and dusk temperature records
per day as well as precipitation. (Winter precipitation is important in many
areas where snow melt is the primary moisture available in spring.) Also
record irrigation, if any, which beds were involved, anything that could make
a difference in how fast the plant grows. Of course list the variety.
After a few years, you will get an idea of how long Commodore beans (my
favorite green been) take when planted in April vs how long they take planted
in June or on Sept. 1. These will be very different numbers. At that point
you can fine tune your sequencing. Meanwhile you can put your 50 day turnips
and your 60 day green beans in the same enclosure and have a reasonable shot
of having them end at about the same time.
This is a lovely complexity, synchronizing harvest times. The information is
also very useful if you want to market crops. YOu'll find some varieties of,
say, carrots, come in pretty much according to schedule if planted at the
same time of year whereas other varieties are much more sensitive to weather
fluctuations. You'll also find that irrigation can make these caculations
much simpler. Corn (maize) will survive drought pretty well, but it does so
by not growing until it rains. So much for your marketing.
When you add this to various kinds of interplanting, succession planting,
fukuoka systems, companion planting, and so forth, you have one of the most
fascinating puzzels in the world.
For Mother Earth, Dan Hemenway, Yankee Permaculture Publications (since
1982), Elfin Permaculture workshops, lectures, Permaculture Design Courses,
consulting and permaculture designs (since 1981), and now correspondence
permaculture training by email. Copyright, 1996, Dan & Cynthia Hemenway, P.O.
Box 2052, Ocala FL 34478 USA YankeePerm@aol.com
We don't have time to rush.