Pastured Poultry - Pasture : LUSENET : Countryside : One Thread

My husband and I live in Northwest WI and will be getting our first batch of 25 chicks this spring. I have been reading Andy Lee's Chicken Tractor book and have one started. I have also been reading about pastured poultry. We have been reading about permaculture etc. and really believe in being a good steward of the resources we have. My Prairie Nursery seed catalog came recently. The land we live on was likely native prairie long ago. Would it be possible to plant native prairie grasses that the pastured poultry could feed off in the future? Some of the listings under Prairie grasses and sedges include: prairie cordgrass, Indian Grass, Prairie dropseed, Porcupine sedge and fox sedge. Has anyone had any experience doing this? Any thoughts/ideas? I am a complete novice and open to any suggestions/ideas. Is this completely crazy or could it be part of a long-range plan for raising pastured poultry? Thank You!

-- Julie (, February 08, 2002


Julie, call your County Extension Service and if you have a Farmers Co-Op in your area call them to. Another good resource is your closest University, Agricultural College. Also some states, like ours, have people on the payroll who grow experimental grasses, some heritage species too, for eventual planting. So, Your State might be a good place too. How interesting! Good luck with this. We are in Oregon and have been changing our meadow and pond area back to natural grasses, sedges and the like for wildlife. I hope you will keep the forum up on what you find out. LQ

-- Little Quacker (, February 08, 2002.

I live in Wisconsin and have free range chickens. They like short grasses. Mostly white clover and alphafa (sp?) so the insect population can grow and be found. Also the tall grasses are not "safe" for them to travel in so they avoid them.

I am thinking about trying some Indian Grass for my sheep. I don't know anything about prairie cordgrass or the two sedges. Prairie dropseed is expensive (so is Indian grass).

I would like to know what others have done as well.

Also, you will note that I have "free range" chickens. They are free to go where ever the food source is. They lay, sleep and sometimes eat in the coop. Pasture poultry is usually caged birds on hay fields. Chicken tractors are really any cage that can be moved. Cage chickens will kill anything under the cage if not moved often (usually every day). A simple cage can be made using cattle panels (cut/bent) and wrapped in chicken wire.

I suggest you introduce your dog(s) to the chickens right away. A good dog (or two) is needed to avoid problems with local wildlife.

You should post your question on the Poultry Connection

Not all chicken breeds are good for free ranging or pasture poultry setups. I suggest you try a few different breeds. I like the standard Wyandotte. They are winter hardy with rose combs.

Good luck

-- ChrisN (, February 08, 2002.

I used to keep some banty hens and a rooster when I had my farm in northern PA. I made a pen for them out of 2X4s and stapled chicken wire onto the 4'X8' panels. I covered the top with chicken wire too. Then every morning put the chickens into it and moved it all over. I could 'walk' the pen with them in it anywhere. It was light weight and easy to move. I didn't have to worry about dogs around the chickens because I kept a Maremma Sheepdog who protected everything on the farm. She even tried to 'herd' a wild tom turkey to the barn every morning when he crossed out blueberry patch to get to his roost in our pines! Not sure how many chickens you want to keep but for just a few the pen I made worked pretty good.

-- Karla Deithorn (, February 08, 2002.

Another excellent book on the subject is "Pastured Poultry Profits" written by Joel Salatin. He is an internationally respected leader in the eco-friendly farming movement. carries it.

-- daffodyllady (, February 08, 2002.

My flock free ranges (daytime) on the pasture (Coastal grass) and insects. The Coastal grows all year around. There's also native grass on some of the acreage. The birds will also eat any weed seeds. In fact, from what I hear from others, they'll eat just about any pasture. Just make sure you don't have any grasses/weeds that could be fatal for them. Our ag extension service will come out and tell us what's growing here, what's safe and what has to go.

-- ~Rogo (, February 09, 2002.

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