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

A chicken is not a cow

Chcikens on spring pasture

The gist of my last post is—a chicken cannot live on grass alone.  But why not, if a cow can?

Chick in the grassA cow's digestive system is very different from that of a chicken.  Cows are ruminants with a four-chambered stomach and with the ability to chew their cud (regurgitating swallowed food to grind it up further at their leisure).  In addition, the cow's gut contains a large quantity of bacteria, fungi, and protozoa that help digest the cellulose that makes up such a large percentage of the grass leaf.  That means a cow can get energy from tough, woody blades of grass (or from hay, which is nearly entirely cellulose), while most other animals can't.

Chickens don't have any of those digestive assets.  The birds don't even have teeth (although they do grind up food in their gizzards), so they can't break apart tougher blades of grass in order to swallow them.  And chickens wouldn't want to eat tough grass anyway, since they'd quickly fill up their small gizzards with low-quality food and go hungry.  Instead, if you watch a chicken on pasture, you'll see the birds nibbling on tender young grass leaves, but spending more time snapping up bugs, pecking apart easily-digestible broadleaf plants, and swallowing seeds.

To read more about pasturing chickens, check out my ebook Permaculture Chicken: Pasture Basics, which is free on Amazon today.  If you enjoy the read, please consider taking a few minutes to leave a review so strangers will take a chance on my ebook.  Thanks for reading!

This post is part of our Permaculture Chicken: Pasture Basics 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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The chicken's food is ground up in their gizzard. This is where you will find the tiny stones they eat for that purpose. The crop can not rind up anything. It is a thin see through pouch. Anatomy 101 when you butcher a chicken....:o)


Comment by Edith Fri Feb 22 21:45:47 2013
Edith --- You are totally right. I changed that in the book, but completely forgot to change it in the lunchtime series. When copying and pasting goes wrong.... :-) It's fixed now.
Comment by anna Sat Feb 23 09:02:34 2013

How would I read this book if I don't have a Kindle. Could I get it in PDF form? Thanks, Heidi

Comment by Anonymous Sat Feb 23 12:26:25 2013

I'm looking forward to finishing your chicken pasture book. I started a few days ago but set it down and got distracted in the meantime.

My next move with poultry is to bring chicks and geese together. I'm not sure exactly how to work it all out, but eventually I want a complex forest garden/pasture and a system to run them all through the garden area every once in awhile to clean up rotted fruits, turn the soil, etc.

Anyway, when I finish the book I'll leave you a review. I'm so glad you wrote on this topic. For some reason pastures and perennial systems are so much more exciting to me than vegetable gardening.

Comment by Sara Sat Feb 23 12:36:15 2013

Anonymous --- I usually remember to tell folks to email if they want a pdf copy instead on the free day, and I'm glad to do that even though I didn't get around to answering your comment yesterday. :-)

Sara --- I hope you enjoy the ebook! I'm looking forward to reading your goose experiments on your blog --- then I won't have to try it unless it works well.

Comment by anna Sun Feb 24 10:48:40 2013

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