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Nitrogen Fixing Chickens

Apr 02, 2010 -


Improving soil quality with free-range poultry: an innovative solution for organic crop farmers and the environment

Increasingly, farmers are interested in adding an animal component to crop farms, but there a few scientific studies that document what effect this has on farm sustainability, particularly for poultry. Poultry are a viable choice for integrated livestock-crop farming due to a more supportive regulatory system than for ruminants. I am a Ph.D. candidate at UC Santa Cruz studying the potential of poultry-crop farming to enhance soil quality in a profitable manner. To maximize the usefulness of the research, I have developed the themes in collaboration with farmers.

Specifically, the research entails a 12-month soil study to investigate whether pastured poultry can replace or reduce the need for compost and cover crops in regards to soil nutrient levels, soil organic matter, and soil compaction. I am also analyzing soils for foodborne pathogens such as E. coli O157:H7, Campylobacter, and Salmonella to ensure that this practice does not cause food safety problems. In the greenhouse, I am growing crops in soil from chicken pasture and comparing growth to crops grown in regular crop soil.

Farmer interviews are an integral part of the research design, and I am interviewing them about three major areas. Firstly, I am gathering economic data to assess how much farmers spend annually in such areas as compost, cover crop seed, pasture seed, and poultry feed. I will use these data to determine if integrating poultry into a crop farm is more affordable than purchasing soil amendments. Secondly, I am seeking their views on regulations related to inspection, butchering, and organic certification; consumer concern about animal pathogens; and market viability. Thirdly, I am asking those farmers who already have integrated poultry-crop systems if they have found success. By documenting the challenges they have faced and how they overcame these barriers, I hope to share their stories with other farmers who would like to try integration but need more information.

If you are allowing your chickens to free range or using a chicken tractor in your crops or orchard and are interested in being interviewed contact:
Kathleen Hilimire, PHD Candidate Agroecology UCSC  <.(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)>


matt farrell Says:
Apr 2nd, 2010 at 4:33 pm

i have a small farm just starting out and am trying to produce/gather all of my required nutrients.i have a chicken arc and 3 lovely birds that roam the grounds depositing there goods.would love to talk

Thorne Barrager Says:
Apr 6th, 2010 at 3:25 pm

I am pasturing approximately 100 heritage turkies on my friend’s organic vegetable plot along the Consumnes River in El Dorado County. Allong with about 5 acres of annuals and olives (newly planted)  I plan to try to grow them for market using available forage on the property.              Thorne Barrager

Kalita@Peaceful Valley Says:
Apr 7th, 2010 at 12:05 pm

Sounds like a great project.  Perhaps you may want to get involved:

If you are allowing your chickens to free range or using a chicken tractor in your crops or orchard and are interested in being interviewed contact:
Kathleen Hilimire PHD Candidate Agroecology UCSC

eddie vargas Says:
Apr 13th, 2010 at 4:02 pm

I have 8 birds that free range during the day. They roam in and out the my raised beds and have been turning the soil the last 2 months along with fertilizing as they go. I am curious to see how it works out.

JT Says:
Jan 29th, 2013 at 8:41 am

I know this is an old post, but would be interested to see the results!

Charlotte from Peaceful Valley Says:
Jan 29th, 2013 at 5:29 pm

JT, I haven’t heard any results. Will look for more info and post a link here if the study is complete.

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