Growing greens in the chicken yard

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While we feed our chickens a high-quality organic feed, we also like to make sure that they get plenty of greens and grass. They love grazing, and fresh greens improve the amount of vitimins in the eggs as well as the fatty acid profile of the yolks. Yet it took just a few days for our flock of 8 to completely denude their daytime grazing yard, a 200-or-so-square-foot fenced area next to The Garden Coop.

So how to make sure that there’s always something green growing in their yard? We’ve divided the yard into three separately fenced sections. The main section — the one they enter as they leave their coop — will stay mostly dirt. This is also where we keep our compost bins for yard and chicken waste.

The other two sections connect off the main section. In each of those, we’ve seeded rye grass, and depending on how well this exercise goes, we’ll add in crimson clover and some other greens for variety. We did this in raised beds that we weren’t using in the garden anymore, but you could seed it directly in the ground as well.

When the grass comes up, we’ll open the fence on one section and let the hens in to graze. (Keep in mind, chickens do best with young, bright-green grass about a couple inches high.) After a while, we’ll close that section off to let it recuperate, re-seeding as needed. We’ll open the other section next and repeat this rotation as frequently as we can.

Because our space is limited (we have about 50 square feet per section), 8 hens won’t be able to graze these “pastures” all the time — you’d probably need about 100 sq. ft. per chicken for that. But it’s a snack at least, and it’s a way to put their grazing yard back to work. I’ll keep you posted on how it goes.

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4 Responses to “Growing greens in the chicken yard”

  1. Doug Danhoff says:

    I have heard that chickens won’t eat millet seeds but love the greens. Any truth to this?

  2. Here’s the post to the grazing frame idea. This has worked really, really well. In fact, I just reseeded a couple of our frames today, something I do maybe 2 to 4 times a year.

    It is so easy. I lifted the frame and set it aside for a day or two. The chickens then had free range at whatever weeds and bugs were contentedly living below it. Once they tilled it all, I spread some grain, raked it in, and watered (well, didn’t get in the way of the rain that was falling).

    When that sprouts and grows through, I’ll do the other two frames (we have 4 total now) which are beginning to peter out. The chickens couldn’t be happier.

  3. Rita says:

    How is this working? I was thinking of a similar plan and am about to embark on a design with three sections to the one yard.

    • Rita, it worked out okay. I liked that I could work on one section at a time, but I had to re-seed each yard with new grain seeds after a few days of the chickens tearing at it, and that got old after a while. I’m now testing out another solution that I’m very excited about. It’s basically this idea. I’ve had it set up for a few weeks now and so far, so good. The chickens graze, but since they can’t rip up the roots, the grass keeps growing for them. I wanna give it a little more time before doing a full post on it. So check back!

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