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Q: Cover Crop to Share with Chickens

Feb 09, 2010 -

PVFS Customer Question with Staff Response:

Question
Hi,
I have a 85’ X 100’ fenced orchard area that doubles as a chicken yard. I want to plant a cover crop to enrich the soil. Then I want to plant your chicken field mix. Which cover crop would be safe to share with chickens? I was going to broadcast it by hand and attempt to lightly rake it in. I live up near Susanville, CA on a southern facing gentle slope. I can irrigate a few times with a hose and sprinkler.

Thank you,


Answer
Hi,

When you say that you want the cover crop to enrich the soil, do you mean that you are planning to till it in later on?  Usually, a green manure crop to enrich the soil is one that you grow then incorporate back into the soil so that the organic matter breaks down and releases all the nutrients it accumulated.  That is considered the best way to build up your soil for future crops, including the Omega 3 Chicken Forage Blend.  If that’s what you want to do, you would choose an annual cool season crop such as the Soil Builder Mix, plant it now (although you might not get a lot of growth until Spring, since the soil is cool), and till it under (roto-till, double dig, etc.) and wait 4-8 weeks before planting your chicken pasture.

As far as a cover crop to grow with a chicken pasture seed, I don’t think that would be a good idea.  The blend itself is good for the soil (it has clovers, cowpeas, and alfalfa which are all Nitrogen fixers) and as long as you prepare the soil before hand by sowing a green manure crop or adding compost and fertilizer, it will grow well.

The Omega-3 mix is an irrigated mix, by the way, so you’ll have to water it probably a couple times a week through the dry times (depending on your soil, natural rainfall, etc.).

Give me a call if you want to discuss this any further.
Hope that helps and thank you for growing organically!



Laurie Says:
Feb 9th, 2010 at 6:30 pm

If your orchard area doubles as a chicken pen you will have to pen your chickens when the seed is sprouting and during the early stages of growth. Chickens may eat the seed and they love the sprouting seeds. Also their scratching may destroy young seedlings.

Hot Belly Mama Says:
Jun 17th, 2010 at 9:55 am

Hi we currently have a garden about 35x35 that we are using.  The plan is to move the chicken run onto the top of it in the fall so they can naturally compost everything for us and then in the spring we hope to move them back over to another area.  We plan to do this every year.  I’d like to plant something in between the rows of our garden now (mid-June) that they can enjoy when we move them on top of the garden.  It also needs to be something that they will consume so we can hopefully employ a no-till approach.

Any recommendations?

Kalita@Peaceful Valley Says:
Jun 23rd, 2010 at 9:24 am

Are you planning to plant in the rows between vegetables.  If so a perennial low growing clover such a white dutch (6’-10’) is probably your best bet.  Clover will fix nitrogen especially if you inoculate the seed before planting and add to your soil health.  Though it will spread in your beds you can weed it out of areas you want to plant and it makes a good companion plant with most possibly all crops.

You can also plant clover in your pathways. However you will need to plant your paths when you can avoid walking in them perhaps at the end of your summer season but before frost.  Another option would be to plant Omega-3 Chicken Forage Blend.  The chickens will love this.  All of these cover crop seeds and inoculates are available at Peaceful Valley Farm Supply.  Good Luck.  This is a good step toward sustainable living.

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