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Chicken & Rabbit Pasture questions

May 10, 2010 -

Dear Peaceful Valley-

I have a couple of questions that I am hoping you can answer.  I have started a non- profit organization that grows food to be prepared for meals for Hospice patients.  I have 8 chickens that produce eggs for the program, and am thinking of adding 2 rabbits.  I wanted to grow as much of their ( chix & rabbits) food as possible, and ideally would be able to do this in the form of a cover crop that would also add nutrients to the soil.  I was hoping you could recommend one of your pasture mixes or an alternative cover crop that would be best suited for chickens, rabbits & soil betterment.

I live in Oakland, CA, which I believe is zone 9.  I have eight 4 ft wide x 8 ft long beds that I grow veggies in for the program.   I have built a portable 4 x 8 x 4ft high chicken coop that sits on top of the raised beds.  Ideally, I will rotate the coop to a new bed each 2-3 weeks of “non-growing” season, which will most likely be between mid November & mid March.   I’m still figuring things out as I go along here, but ideally, I would like to plant a cover crop in all the beds in say November, and then put my portable coop on each bed for 2-3 weeks for the chickens to eat the cover crop & weed seeds while fertilizing and tilling the soil in preparation for the next planting season.

Additionally, I wanted to grow some cover crop/feed in some dedicated spaces in my garden year round that are not the raised beds, so that I can feed my bunnies & chicks fresh food during the months that the raised beds are busy growing veggies. During prime time growing season, the bunny & chicken coops sit directly on the ground in the middle of my flower garden; that is to say, not on top of any of the raised beds. During the prime time growing season, the bunnies & chicks would only rarely be let out of their “coops” to graze on the crops that I’d like to grow in the permanent dedicated areas. Probably about an hour a day, as thier coops are plenty large enough for them to roam around in uncramped quarters. I am guessing that during the prime time growing season, that I would harvest some of the crops daily that were planted in the dedicated areas of my garden to put in the coops for the animals to feed on.

Also, is there any particular pasture mix /cover crop that you would recommend for shaded / part sun areas as well as full sun areas?

Lastly, I was hoping there was some way that I  could purchase at a discount or at wholesale.  I have a very small “operation” but am funding it 100% by myself, and any help you could pass on would be greatly appreciated.  I actually have my resale licence for my design business.  Maybe I could use this to purchase wholesale?

Thank  you so much for all of your help!!



pamella@groworganic.com Says:
May 24th, 2010 at 7:02 am

First of all Thank you for your service to hospice.   
Your ideas are great but a word of caution abut chickens and raised beds.  In the winter you should not graze them in a bed that is wet from rain.  Cover the bed until it is dry so they don’t destroy your soil.  They are wonderful rototillers but they do just as good a job at tamping.  Next full grown chicken in 1 hour can decimate your veggies.  I learned the hard way not to let them into the beds while growing things.  As for the pasture I would designate a spot and grow your pasture with a fence around it to keep them out of your garden and let them out in that.  Pick the veggies you want them to have and throw them in the pen and move the tractor between the beds to keep the weeds down.

Blessings Grama Pam

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