Honeychick Homestead

Homestead, Health, and Happiness

A Perfect Match: Chickens and Cover Crops

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This may sound silly to non-homesteader’s or gardener’s  – cover crops make me HAPPY!  I like that they build healthy soil that feeds my fruit trees and it’s a yummy treat for my chickens.

Last fall I was finally successful getting cover crop seed in the ground at the right time (September or October), before our rainy season started. I didn’t get the entire orchard covered but I got about 1/3 of it seeded.

The cover crop I planted is a soil builder mix and it contains bell beans, peas, various types of vetch, and oats.  I picked this one because it fixes nitrogen and my soil is in desperate need of more nitrogen! It also chokes out weeds and provides a wonderful habitat for beneficial insects. Of course, I could just put fertilizer down but it is expensive and doesn’t help build long-term soil fertility. Healthy, fertile soil that will nourish my trees keeping diseases and pests at away is what I want!

Besides being an excellent “food” for my trees, once established (5-8 inches tall), I let my chickens do the “dirty work,” and turn in the cover crop. They love the green goodness and all the bugs and grubs it brings to the soil. Take a look a the progression of this season’s cover crop.

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The cover crop on January 2nd

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Three weeks later on January 21st, it was filling in and get taller.

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By February 6th, this section had gotten almost knee-high and I found my chickens jumping the temporary fence trying to get the green goodness, so I decided it was time to let them in!

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Here’s Rocky, the cover crop was almost over her head!

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Another chicken exploring….I still can’t tell my Delaware chickens apart 🙂

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Feasting on the green goodies!

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Miss brown chicken, digging in, and hopefully stirring up the roots of the cover crop!

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Just two days after letting them in, this is what it looked like. They had eaten a lot and trampled most of it down. They were doing exactly what I wanted!

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February 16th – 10 days after letting the ladies loose, they’ve almost eaten everything above ground.

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Here’s three of them, “working” the ground 🙂

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By February 26, they began reaching through the fence to an area I still had closed off so I decided to let them in.

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After removing a section of the fence, a few rushed over to check it out. Here’s a video of them chowing down and you can see how different the section they’ve cleared looks.

 

Here’s what things looked like this afternoon, completely picked over and turned into the soil, YAY!

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Now you know why chickens and cover crops work well together 🙂 Only six weeks after letting them into the first section, they’ve accomplished a huge part of spring time orchard maintenance and all I had to do was plant the seeds. Thanks ladies!

If you don’t have an orchard or fruit trees, you can still use cover crops. They can be planted in between vegetable rows to help provide nutrients for your vegetables. If you live in a milder climate but don’t plant a winter garden, planting a cover crop in is also a great way to build the soil over the winter and help grow healthy vegetables in the spring. Here’s a great article that provides tips for planting cover crops in garden beds.


What do you do to maintain healthy soil in your garden? Share with me in the comments!

Author: Jen @ Honeychick Homestead

Honeychick Homestead is about more than urban homesteading. Here you'll find a mix of diverse topics, about health, real food, Lyme Disease, and my newest adventure, urban homesteading!

One thought on “A Perfect Match: Chickens and Cover Crops

  1. Pingback: A Perfect Match: Chickens and Cover Crops | Honeychick Homestead – WORLD ORGANIC NEWS

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