We're still working on our
chicken pasture infrastructure, with the ultimate goal of having enough
space so that our flocks don't overgraze
the pastures during the summer lull. Our laying flock has
four moderately sized pastures, which usually keeps them happy, but our
broiler flock only had one big and one small pasture until last
week. That's when my
long-suffering husband fenced in another large pasture up the side of
the hill in the powerline cut.
The good news about this
pasture is that the shade from forest trees at the top gives our birds
plenty of low-temperature foraging space in the summer. The bad
news is that the pasture is going to erode
away if I don't get creative.
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The powerline pasture
had grown up in small trees since the last time the electric company
came through and whacked the brush back, so the ground is relatively
barren of small plants. Our chickens think that's a great
opportunity to scratch through leaves, but I'm afraid all the topsoil
is going to end up on the downhill end in short order. There are
already big bare spots in the area closest to the coop where our lazy
chickens hang out the most.
I'm open to suggestions on
how to make this pasture sustainable. The traditional option
would be to finish clearing out the trees this fall and then to seed
the ground with grasses and clovers. From my experience in other
pastures, I'm pretty sure that would require me to keep chicken feet
off the sward for about a year as the pasture plants become established.
In the long run, I'd
like the pasture to be more interesting than just grass, so I'm
considering terracing the steepest parts. If I added logs at
intervals to produce retaining walls, I have a feeling our flock might
create the terraces for me by scratching dirt downhill. Then I
could plant useful shrubs within those terraces, a bit like the Mexican
idea of cepas.
Do you have experience
grazing chickens on steep hills? I'm all ears!