Are chickens in the orchard alright? : LUSENET : Countryside : One Thread

My husband and I finally made our move to the country just two months ago. We are near Garnett, Kansas. We are making plans on where we want to place things around the property. Is it alright for chickens to be in the same area as the orchard? We don't have either, yet, so the trees will be small at first, of course. I am wanting Dominques, if I can find them. Any advice on good apple trees for this area? I thank you for any help offered.

-- Janet (, October 09, 2001


Hi Janet! Welcome to Kansas! I have some very good friends who live in a very small community outside Garnett. They have been homesteading for quite awhile and if you email me I will give you their name and phone number. As a chicken raiser from way back, I can tell you that chickens will not hurt your orchard. If the trees are the twigs that you get from Arbor Day Foundation, I would keep the chickens out until the trees get some size on them. Almost any apple tree grows well here in Kansas. They will need to be watered, esp. during the dry hot spells in the summer. Besides the old standbys, Red and Yellow Delicious and Jonathons, that sell well, I really like the Fugi and Gala apples. You might consider some peach trees too as they sell well too. There are several hatcheries in Missouri that hatch Dominques. It would be a pleasant drive thru the Ozarks to pick them up. I'm trying to remember the names of the hatcheries, Cackle Hatchery is one, Marty Hatchery is good too and there are several more that escape my memory now. Good luck and best wishes for your new adventure.

-- karen in kansas (, October 09, 2001.

Before we moved, my chickens were in the orchard area. The only problem that posed was that they do like the fruit and will fly up to peck the lower hanging ones. They didn't do a lot of damage that way though(certainly not as much as the birds and squirrels;) And they do help tremendously in keeping down the grasshoppers.

-- mary (, October 09, 2001.

Hello, Janet! Welcome to Kansas. We live about 30 miles north of you (just south of Osawatomie), and my DH and MIL are in Garnett as I type this, visiting the Tuesday auction there. There are a couple of hatcheries in Missouri you might try - Grain Belt Hatchery in Windsor (660) 647-2711, and Heartland Hatchery in Amsterdam (660) 267-3679.

Best of luck to you! Hope we can meet in person some day!

-- Cheryl in KS (, October 09, 2001.

I have "run" my chickens in the orchard for 5 years now. The geese may tend to damage some of the lower branches and the chickens like one particular tree to nest in but the benefits seems to outweigh that. Birds REALLY like the Japanese beetles that like to decimate the orchard. Put a trap down low, leave off the bag, and watch the show! Just remember to NOT pick up fruit that has fallen on the ground. Or at least use a bleach solution on it. Remember that on the ground is contaminated with chicken poop! Have fun! Ducks are a hoot in there too...

-- Gailann Schrader (, October 09, 2001.

Running poultry underneath fruit trees used to be the standard method of poultry farming in a lot of the country before confinement operations became the norm. In fact I'm reading a book titled California Poultry Practice dating from 1915 that recommends doing just what you're asking about. It's what I plan to do myself next year.

Having said all that, I will throw in one caveat. With the E. coli situation being what it is in this country today I'd pull the birds out from under the trees for at least one month before the apples are ready to harvest. This would especially be important if you were planning on selling any of the fruit. Provided you won't be selling fruit that fell to the ground I myself have no problems with running birds under the trees year round but the Feds seem to be gravitating towards keeping quite a time span between harvest and the last application of uncomposted manure - which is what birds under the tree would be doing. In fact, from what I've found so far they're recommending not applying uncomposted manure to crops any less than 120 days before harvest!

Of course, if you're not going to sell the fruit you can do pretty much what you please.

I haven't received my copy yet but the below is the document I'm told covers the ground so to speak on this sort of thing.

"Guide to Minimizing Microbial Food Safety Hazards for Fresh Fruits and Vegetables", from

Food Safety Initiative Staff, HFS-32 US Food and Drug Administration Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition 200 C Street Washington, DC 20204


-- Live Oak (, October 09, 2001.


You've received some good advice so far. I do have one additional suggestion. You might want to think about using some form of "chicken tractor" type moveable pen rather than letting the chickens run free. It would only take a few minutes every day to move the pen to a different spot in the orchard. Moving them every day would help to prevent problems with manure buildup and would also give them fresh grass and a new supply of bugs to eat. Another benifet of using this method is that it could cut down your purchased feed bill a little bit. Live Oak's suggestion about removing the birds from the orchard before harvest makes a lot of sense to me as well. Good luck.

-- Murray in ME (, October 09, 2001.

Guess you guys don't have the predator problems we do. How wonderful; I envy you. I hate having the birds penned at night. At night, aside from the 4 legged critters, the owls will pluck the birds from the trees :^(

-- ~Rogo (, October 10, 2001.


I don't know if Janet intends to allow the birds to roost in the trees at night but I'm certainly not going to. We've got our share of predators to include owls here in North Florida and I intend for my hens to be locked up at night. During the day there'll be electric wire around the area I'm ranging them in to keep the four legged varmints out.


-- Live Oak (, October 10, 2001.

I want to thank everyone for their input and friendly advice. I do not intend to let the chickens roost in the trees. I plan to lock them in a chicken house at night. We have heard coyotes in the distance, but, so far, haven't seen any. I will think about putting a strand of barbed wire around the top. Again, thank you everyone.

-- Janet (, October 11, 2001.

I do not mean barbed wire, but electric wire.

-- Janet (, October 11, 2001.

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