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Re: buckwheat and chickens

In a message dated 2/3/97 4:34:03 PM, you wrote:

>I grew a few acres of buckwheat this year.   One thing to remember is that
>unlike most grains it ripens a little at a time; some starts falling off
>while some is still totally green.  (a real challage to combine, by the
>I a PC setting I think this would be an advantage- long flowering period and
>stedy supply of grain for a while if you can keep the chickens from
>destroying it.  Some one had asked earlier about how to keep chickens
>occupied and out of trouble.  My suggestion is to give them acess to a
>substantial compost pile (smash your egg shells so they don't get used to
>eating whole eggs).  Such a pile provides scraps, worms and bugs; Chook
>heaven!  If you can sight it away from the garden a bit, they should stay
>put with simple 1meter checken fenceing and turn the compost for you.

>From experience, I can tell you that it makes sense to let the buckwheat
ripen mostly, then turn the chickens in.  They will scratch the shattered
seed also.  They will eat the green leaves at any stage.  I use buckwheat to
kick-start a Fukuoka type garden and the clover seems to just apear out of
nowhere after the buckwheat cover is removed.  Watch the chickens so that
they don't eat too much of the new clover and grain growth.

If you are letting chickens into buckwheat in the fall where frosts happen,
give them access to the field BEFORE frost, which will destroy the leafy
componet of feed. 

Also, with a fukuoka system, you might give your next grain a bigger head
start if you will be running poultry to harvest or to clean up shattered
grain.  Personally I don't like to fuss with dinky seeds in such quantities
and would rather eat them as flesh and eggs.  I do harvest a bit of the
buckwheat by hand after a frost, just for pancakes, maybe 5 pounds which is
all the buckwheat pancakes I want in a year.  In climates such as ours, in
Florida, buckwheat should be grown during the winter which risks frost.  It
does not like hot weather at all.

Since I don't bother with compost piles, using sheet mulch instead, I repeat
that chickens can get almost all their food from deep mulch, sort of a
horizontal compost pile, with the stacked function that when you move them
you have a garden to plant.  Chickens like to eat almost everything, really
like variety, and will suddenly go nuts on a crop they have walked past for
two months, like your almost mature cabbages.  Only a fence, preferably a
high one, will confine them.  

that is not quite true.  If you have an extensive property, you can probably
keep them within 100 feet of a coop with a water supply and maybe a bit of
grain, as you move your mobile coop through, say, an orchard.  We only have
12 acres and I wouldn't dare risk my annual garden without fencing.    A
rooster is required, also, to keep the flock together.  Generally, I'd rather
keep my laying birds in a fixed coop and my meat birds in a moving coop,
though inevitably the laying hens go broody and produce more than replacement
birds and the system gets jumbled.

A bit of grain is helpful also, to lure the chickens into the coop when they
are on deep mulch.  I give them enough to top off their crops at night
calling the birds as I pour out the grain, and turn them loose with empty
stomachs in the morning.  (If forage is scarce, then they have to get more
food.)  Chickens will eat most kinds of garbage, too.  We had them laying
rather nicely at the Natick (Massachusetts) Community (Youth) Farm on what
the kids at school scrape  off their trays at lunhctime.   Its nice to know
somebody likes that stuff.

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.