More forest pasture experiments

Shady chicken pasture

The flip side of the forest pasture coin from my focus on trees
is what the chicken-level plant life is like.  Although it will be
years before the chicken-friendly trees I planted begin to cast serious
shade in our pastures, I have a preview of that effect in a pasture
my attempt to girdle the existing trees failed miserably
As a result this pasture is in near-solid shade for most of the day,
and the sward has suffered.  In fact, I had such a hard time
getting anything to grow there that I took the pasture out of commission
in 2013, planted grass and white clover in the spring and then cut the
weeds at intervals to make sure the pasture plants had a chance to get
their feet under them.

The result?  The
chickens love this pasture more than any of their others, but I can only
keep the flock there for about three or four days (instead of the six
or seven I’m currently clocking in the other pastures) or the chickens
will scratch up the tender young plants.  I’ll be curious to see
whether the grass and clover becomes more of a solid pasture in later
years, or whether this is simply what to expect from a very shady
chicken pasture.

Duck pasture

On a semi-related note, we turned the ducks into our hillside pasture
a week ago…and learned that ducks don’t climb hills.  I’d noted
the Cornish Cross were hanging out by the coop door when I opened the
pophole into this pasture, but had never experienced a problem with
birds balking at steepness before, so I blamed it on the broilers. 
Now I see that our ducks, also, have yet to leave level ground, which
makes me curious to hear from other duck keepers.  Do your ducks
handle rough terrain, or do they prefer flat land?

Young butternut treeI’ll
end this disjointed post with a picture of a tree I forgot to add to my
previous forest pasture post.  Long before I decided to turn the
starplate area into a pasture, I had Mark cut down a couple of trees and
then planted a little butternut tree into the gap.  And in the
last six years, it has grown…about twelve inches.

Granted, I never weeded,
mulched, or fertilized the butternut, but it does seem like many nut
trees are seriously slow growers.  The exception is hazels,
which fruit at bush size.  (My five-year-old bush had female
flowers for the first time this year and didn’t keep those fruits, but I
hope for our first homegrown nuts in 2015.)

Of course, chickens won’t
eat unshelled nuts, so adding nut trees to a chicken pasture is more of
an exercise in hope for eventual pigs than anything else.  Not
that I would mind adding some homegrown nuts to the human menu.

Thanks for wading through another long forest pasture post!  Now
I’ll probably forget to tell you anything more for six months or a
year.  These experiments are fascinating (to me, at least), but
take a long time to yield results.

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