Chickens and cover crops go very
well together. Harvey
Ussery uses his
flock to scratch in whole
sections of cover crops when they’re mature, but our more patchwork
garden requires me to get creative about putting chickens together with
crops. Luckily, chickens and cover crops are both so flexible,
you can combine them in a way that’s bound to fit just about any farm.
This year, I’m letting a
couple of my cover crops go to seed, then I’m cutting them for bedding
and feed in the chicken coop. The photo to the left shows the sunflower heads I clipped and hung for
our girls to peck at when they get bored — I left the roots and
stalks to decay in the garden and the empty heads will eventually
become part of the coop’s bedding.
Similarly, I usually tear up buckwheat as it reaches full bloom,
but I let one bed get away from me and seeds formed. I don’t want
to let those buckwheat plants decay in the garden the way I usually do
since buckwheat seeds can be a weed problem, so I hauled the plants
into the coop to refresh the deep
bedding while giving
our birds a snack.
Of course, if you take
cover crops away from the garden, you don’t get organic matter buildup
in the soil, which is the technique’s primary purpose. However, deep
bedding goes from the coop back to the garden in the spring, so those nutrients will
just keep cycling through the farm.
What’s your favorite way
to combine cover crops with chickens?
unlimited, clean water.