I posted previously about letting
our chickens graze a pasture of annual winter forage. After watching them
utilize the pasture for four days, I have to admit that I was a bit
disappointed. Yes, they did nibble at the annuals — especially
the tenderest mustard leaves, which the chickens pulled all the way up
and killed — but the flock just wasn’t that enthusiastic about the
pasture. Despite that fact that I cut back their grain rations,
the chickens were still spending most of every day snoozing on the
sidelines and waiting for me to bring them snacks.
To be fair, I was
similarly disappointed by our chickens’ reactions to grass in their
spring pastures, then later learned that the chickens did enjoy grass in the summer
when weeds were less succulent. So perhaps the winter oats and
peas will be eaten with more relish later in the fall and winter when
perennials have gone to sleep.
Another factor to be considered
is the continual grazing that all of our pastures have endured this
year. Yes, I’ve been rotating our chickens from paddock to
paddock every week or so, but I can tell my management wasn’t top
notch. I’ve read that cows have “repugnance zones” and won’t eat
any pasture plants within ten feet of a cow pie, often avoiding that
area for a year and a half! Perhaps our chickens consider all of
these over-grazed pastures to be repugnance zones despite the rest
periods between bouts of grazing?
I’ll keep you posted as
I tweak our pasture system, but meanwhile, our chickens are enjoying
scratching up the nearby woodland. More on that in a later post!
do even when they’re bored by their pasture. As a result, our
flock is free from feather plucking and bullying.