Chickens are healthier on pasture

Chickens eating compostAs
regular readers may remember, our forest pasture
currently has two paddocks.  The first paddock was eaten down to
the ground by the end of June, so I moved the chickens to a larger
paddock and
the bare soil with buckwheat and shelling beans
.  Since we ate all of
our broilers, the two chickens remaining in the forest pasture have
well fed on garden scraps and the insects they forage
that I’ve only given them a
bit of feed every week or two.  Meanwhile, the buckwheat and beans
are mature and waiting for hungry chickens to be moved back into
paddock #1.

Chickens in a forest pasture

After our coop
received its makeover
I herded and carried our four good laying hens from their tractors into
paddock #1.  I expected them to gorge on the high quality
buckwheat and beans, and they did nibble on a seed or two.  But
they were more interested in the pasture’s wild food.  One hen
gulped down nightshade berries as fast as she could while her sister
focused on the fresh, young chickweed growing on an old compost
pile.  Hen number
Hen eating chickweedthree
started scratching through the compost in search of bugs, while the
fourth hen went after calcium-rich snails.  When I got too close,
one of the hens stopped her searching to pick stick-tights off my pants

Our young rooster was
attracted by the commotion and his mother followed him over to the gate
to peer at the intruders.  I was struck by the difference in comb
color between his mother and the similar-aged Golden Comet, who had
trotted over to the fence to admire her new companions.  The truly
pastured poultry have brilliantly red combs, a sure sign of good
health, while our tractored hens look drab in comparison.  I had
thought they were healthy on a diet of laying pellets, grass, and the
ocassional insect, but I can tell that a grain-based diet is no better
for chickens than it is for me.  Clearly, I have my work cut out
for me — discovering a method to feed our whole flock on the fat of
the land, using grain only for emergencies.

Combining a homemade chicken
with a
forest pasture results in a very healthy flock of chickens.

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