Growing greens in the chicken yard

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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