The Walden Effect: Farming, simple living, permaculture, and invention.

Chicken forest pasture experiment: Year 2

Chicken in front of a barnWhen we got started with chicken-keeping, we were what I'd call chicken enthusiasts --- we loved the eggs, thought the idea of getting chicken manure for the garden was cool, and didn't consider whether we'd break even with the endeavor.  We spread our laying hens out in a few chicken tractors and enjoyed the healthy eggs, but I eventually realized that our style of chicken keeping would require us to buy chicks every couple years and chicken feed every couple of weeks.  We also weren't really making use of all that copious chicken manure either.  Was there a way to tweak our system so that we were raising our own chicks and feeding them some or all of their food from on-farm ingredients while making sure more of the manure went to the garden?

Hens on pastureOur first experiment with becoming sustainable chicken-keepers was starting a chicken pasture system last year.  The most successful part was using deep bedding in the coop to capture half of the day's manure --- I've got a pile of chicken manure mixed with leaves composting right now and waiting to go on the fall garden.  Our pasture also cut feed costs quite a bit during late summer with our laying flock, but our broilers were far too lazy and the pasture too small for them to get much feed from the pasture.

This year, I've got another ambitious pastured poultry experiment planned out.  This one is even more complicated than last year, but I hope it will bring us closer to chicken independence!  Stay tuned for all of the facts and figures in this week's lunchtime series.

Our chicken waterer makes it easy to experiment with pastures without worrying about dirty or empty waterers.

This post is part of our Chicken Pasture lunchtime series.  Read all of the entries:

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About us: Anna Hess and Mark Hamilton spent over a decade living self-sufficiently in the mountains of Virginia before moving north to start over from scratch in the foothills of Ohio. They've experimented with permaculture, no-till gardening, trailersteading, home-based microbusinesses and much more, writing about their adventures in both blogs and books.

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