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Pastured Poultry

Posted by Jacob Moord 
Pastured Poultry
July 24, 2020 11:12AM
I'm currently in the early stages of replanting an orchard. While the trees mature, I'm planning to make use of the orchard/pasture and raise broilers. Is anyone currently doing this? And if you are, what considerations have you had to make when you are spraying the trees? Are there any health concerns if the poultry are exposed to a holistic spray schedule?
Re: Pastured Poultry
July 26, 2020 12:43AM
We have run chickens in one of our orchards a lot. I have used the holistic spray with no problems. However, chickens DIG. They concentrate their craters underneath the trees because that is where the shade and shelter is.

Vista Ridge Orchard
Zone 8a in Washington
235 Cider and heritage apple trees, 72 varieties,
Re: Pastured Poultry
July 28, 2020 07:03PM
When my mother planted her orchard, I was a fulltime vegetable and livestock farmer. It made us both feel quite warm and fuzzy when I asked her for permission to run my 200 laying hens in her young orchard. The trees were less than three years old at the time. It did not work well for us, to put it mildly. We use the standard metal tags wired onto the base of our grafted trees, and it only took one chicken pecking at something shiny to launch a feeding frenzy. We lost dozens of young trees to girdling. Happily, I made up my mind to lose the chickens, as well (I'm not a chicken person anyway).

I'm sure it's possible for chickens and orchards to coexist productively, but another problem I had was excess manure burning up the orchard floor and allowing every weed (we're in the South, so read pigweed amaranth and morning glory vines) we didn't want to get a toehold in my mother's previously gorgeous orchard floor. But -- we're talking 200 chickens confined in one tow-behind tractor. If I didn't move it as constantly as I should, I left a bare razed patch of nitrogen-rich ground in my wake. Smaller quantities in multiple houses might be just fine. But please learn from my mistakes!

I currently raise pastured rabbits in our orchard, and 1 to 9 rabbits (when does are raising a litter) per 4 by 6 foot pen are much more passive contributors to the orchard at large, though the holes and scrapes they leave in their wake during much of the year (tendency to dig when it's hot and when it's cold) can be prohibitive unless you're prepared to fill holes daily or break your ankle a lot. I'm looking forward to taking a break from animals in the orchard sometime soon. In fact, my former farm's motto went, "You can't shoot the weather, but you sure as !@#$ can shoot the animals." I even did a cross-stitch of the saying, which still hangs defiantly on my foyer wall. But I truly do believe in the coexistence of animals and orchards, just also believe in going in with eyes wide open and being committed to a long learning curve.

RE: spraying, I don't worry about my rabbits in the least when doing a holistic mix based around neem oil. Lime sulfur and some of the other nastier ones, particularly copper with regard to sensitive livestock, I have plywood panels that lean against the pens so that the rabbits, as well as their pasture of the day is protected. But if you were spraying something like copper that might stick around on the pasture that you move onto the next day, you might need to do more.

Good luck!

Kordick Family Farm
Westfield, NC
Zone 7a
Re: Pastured Poultry
July 31, 2020 05:16PM
Thanks for the feedback, Karen and Brittany. I'll be sure to make note of your experiences as I continue to plan. I'm relieved to hear that a holistic spray schedule won't be an issue as far as livestock health. Brittany, I appreciate the way you "shield" your rabbits and pasture--nice tip!
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