Im now feeding the girls staright onto the compost so any waste gets incorporated along with their manure. They dig for insects in the pile.

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Comment by Earl Mardle on January 5, 2014 at 1:58pm

PS, clip a wing on each chook, especially the steering feathers at the end of ther wing. Tends to keep them in their own space, especially since, if they do get off the ground, they fly in circles

Comment by Earl Mardle on January 5, 2014 at 1:56pm

SMFF, the link is in the text at the end of the comment. Hover your mouse over the word "thousand" and you will see it.

At present we have 6 chooks just coming on to lay in a small orchard about 6 times the size of the urban run. They are starting to get into serious scratching so I'm about to start tossing all my weeds into their space and adding a few metres of wood chip for them to work on. 

Because the orchard is on a gentle slope I'm planning to put new material into the orchard at the top of the slope and, eventually, collect the compost at the bottom as they kick it down while they scratch.

Comment by Suburban Micro Food Forest on January 5, 2014 at 8:49am

Hi Earl. Nice to hear from you. Im trying to figure out how I can give my girls more free run. I didnt plan to have them originally so I have a mish mash of veg and orchard which is a problem. These ones are also from a free range lifestyle block so they fly over the fence and dig up the neighbours driveway to make a dirt bath. If I expand their territory I will need to erect more fencing, which is expensive. In hindsight I should have kept a fence which subdivided the garden nicely. I may be able to grow a containment hedge over time. Wheres the Geoff Lawton link you mentioned? What system do you have at present?

Comment by Earl Mardle on January 4, 2014 at 9:25am

When I had a suburban garden I kept a special compost pile for the chooks. It was a bunch of old tree roots that I had to dig out plus any and all of the weeds that came from the garden.

The chooks either ate the weeds or made damned sure they didn't grow because everything was scratched up a thousand time a week. Because we had such a small place we confined the chooks to a set area and, because the soil there was on clay pan it turned to soup in winter so I buried it under about 10cm of wood chips which the chooks also scratched together with the underlying soil and assiduously manured.

The net effect was that every autumn I could go through the chook run with a garden sieve and sift everything on the ground. From an area maybe 5m by 15m I would take out nearly 30 barrow loads of beautiful new soil ready for the garden.

You might also be interested in this piece from Geoff Lawton (free reg required) which looks at a Vermont commercial compost maker who feeds a couple of thousand chooks on nothing but compost.

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