Letting chickens graze in the woods

Chicks in the garden

Our adult chickens told
me that they were
of their over-grazed pastures
and jealous of the Light
Sussex who have been happily foraging throughout our garden and orchard
for weeks.  “But you’ll scratch up the mulch!” I complained. 
“Those Sussex are too little to do much damage yet, but I’ve seen how
destructive a full-grown hen can be.”

Chickens in the woodsYou may remember that I let
our first batch of Australorps run in the woods as youngsters, which
worked fine for a while.  However, when the flock neared three
months old,
the Golden
Comet hybrid cockerel led them around the barn and up into our garden
, where they quickly got into

“But you ate him,
remember?” the remaining Australorps coaxed.  “Come on.  Give
one chance.”

The truth is that Mark
and I had started to doubt the foraging abilities of our current flock
due to their tendency to laze around the pasture.  So I decided a
test was in order — I opened the gate and let them free.  Seven
hens and a cockerel spread out through the young woods, scratching
industriously and filling their crops until they nearly burst with good
food.  The storebought pellets I’d scattered for their breakfast
were ignored until after lunch, and without a
to tempt them
near humans, our hens have so far stayed away from our cultivated

Chickens in autumn weeds

I’m working on a new
hypothesis about pasture quality — if your chickens are lounging
around for more than about two hours per day, you’re either
overfeeding, or the pasture is subpar.  Perhaps chicken activity
level is the best way to gauge when a pasture needs to be rested?

Our chicken waterer provides clean water for the
active bird.

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  1. anna October 25, 2011
  2. anna October 29, 2011

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