Pasture/grass for Poultry : LUSENET : Countryside : One Thread

We fenced our 15-tree fruit orchard with 5-ft horse fence, topped with a hot wire against raccoons. It makes a good place to graze a dozen or so laying hens, but after awhile the horseweed and other weeds they don't seem to eat "take over" and we are trying to decide what to plant if we till the area. It formerly had white clover and whatever grass was left from a century-old horse pasture. Now it is all horseweed (giant ragweed) and (I think) nodding smartweed.

a. What to plant that will survive poultry grazing and deter other species?

b. Any other birds (or perhaps rabbit(s)?) to graze in there with them that wouldn't be tall (rule out goats!) and eat fruit trees, but might eat the stuff the chickens don't?

-- A. Johnstone (, August 05, 2001


We raise a few geese each year to graze down the weeds and grass. 4 will graze down an area 100 x 50 in just a few days. After they're feathered out in about 4 weeks we stoop feeding them and they graze until late fall and butcher before winter. We've raised pigs, cattle (both milk and beef) goats and horses and geese, to us, are the most trouble free and economical homestead meat source. 2 ft. high chicken wire will easily keep them contained. They poop an incredible amoun t so keep your rubber boots handy! Good luck!! Tomas

-- tomas (, August 05, 2001.

How about babydoll southdowns? (Sheep) They're a small breed also known as the "orchard sheep" - frequently used in orchards. You'll have to shear them or have them sheared once a year, but they'll cut down on some of the weeds and things and arent' too hard to handle. They won't bother the trees (I assume that's why you don't want goats).

-- Sojourner (notime4@summer.spam), August 05, 2001.

Sheep WILL browse trees - they just won't get up on their hind legs to do it, or climb the trees, like goats will. This is not necessarily bad - they neaten up the bottom of the trees so you can get under them, right up to the trunks. Means poultry can easily see ang get in to clean up windfalls; and you don't have to risk your back bending down for fruit. However, if you wanted fruit right down to the ground, you won't get it with sheep.

-- Don Armstrong (, August 05, 2001.

Yeah, sheep will browse trees - but the babydolls are too small to do any damage. They won't eat bark (I don't think even larger sheep will unless they're starving) and they're too close to the ground to get at any of the branches.

Also, the sheep may very well clean up the windfall before the chickens can get to it. LOL!

This is a good thing, since many orchard pests overwinter or spend a part of their lifecycle in windfall fruits. Keeping the orchard clean and grazed will greatly reduce any pest problems. See Gene Logsdon's "Organic Orcharding" for a detailed explanation of the process involved. The book is unfortunately long out of print but is commonly available used, or through your local library. Try a search on Advanced Book Exchange

-- Sojourner (notime4@summer.spam), August 05, 2001.

Andy Lee's Chicken Tractor book suggests planting buckwheat, which I think would be good. The only problem is if you cannot keep them off of it long enough for the seed to grow, they eat the seed. Experienced that. They would need to be confined, rotated, or moved. Don't forget that certain animals (maybe all) cannot eat single pit tree leaves. At least this is true for goats as the leaves have cyanide. Lynn

-- Lynn (, August 05, 2001.

Rabbits will eat the bark of the fruit trees. They eat it all the way around and it kills the tree! We have clover in mine and where the clover is there is not many weeds. It's a plus for my honey bees and it looks good.

-- Debbie T in N.C. (, August 06, 2001.

what ever you do, do not get pigs they will kill and eat the chikens good luck maybe you should try alpha ??

-- drew (, August 20, 2001.

Moderation questions? read the FAQ