When you raise chickens you get the joys of collecting fresh eggs daily, the joys of watching “the chicken channel,” the little peeps of baby chicks, the sweet sound of the egg laying song the proud (and sometimes awkward) robust crows of the rooster… and also the pleasure of watching them completely tear your yard down to dust. Two years ago our chicken yard was a beautiful, lush pasture. Now half of it is just a barren, dust pit full of feathers and poop. Not very glamorous if you ask me! Not like raising chickens is a very glamorous thing in the first place. Unless you’re Zsa Zsa Gabor or the Queen of freaking England. But I digress. We prefer for our chickens to forage for food, bugs and things and supplement with chicken feed so we needed to do something about our pasture. But re-seeding the chicken pasture while they’re in there can be really tricky. But we figured out a way with our moveable “salad bar.”
The first dilemma was to figure out a way to re-seed the pasture without the chickens getting in there to scratch around and eat all the seeds. We can’t really fence it off, they would probably find a way in, and the seeds may just wash off anyway. We needed something portable so we could section a part of the pasture off a little bit at a time. Basically, we needed to build a moveable fodder box. All we did was take some 2×4’s, squared them off, braced them just like we were making a frame. Then stretch some really strong wire over the top. And that’s about it. Pretty simple and easy to make in an afternoon. I should also note that we started out with just stretching chicken wire over the top but that wasn’t enough to deter curious chickens. So I’d suggest using some stronger wire or making your fodder boxes a little taller if you have to use chicken wire.
Next, it was time to choose seeds. Peacefully Valley Farm SupplyÂ has a great chicken forage seed blend that’s filled with Omega-3 rich grasses. Yes please, I’d love a natural way to make their yolks Omega-3 enriched. Sign me up! That was a wonderful place to start but we wanted to add some perennial grasses to make sure that we didn’t have to re-seed our pasture forever and ever, amen. We went to our local feed store and came up with our own blend of both perennial and Omega-3 pasture seed:
-red clover, whiteÂ clover, strawberry clover
-and then whatever else was in the Peaceful Valley blend
So we put our fodder boxes down in the pasture, sprinkled a healthy amount of seed in each box and watered it all in. After the first two days of hand watering, we just let the rain do the restÂ and didn’t pay much attention to the boxes. Figured we’d let the seeds do their thing. Naturally, the chickens were very curious as to what was going on in their yard! As the grasses started to come up, the chickens would walk all over the top of the boxes and try to peck out the little blades of grasses. But if you brace the boxes well enough and have strong wire across the top, they shouldn’t be able to get to the seedlings.
About 3-4 weeks after we seeded the fodder boxes, the blades of grass were pushing through the wire and it was time to move the boxes. I wanted to give the grasses a chance toÂ get big and strong before letting the chickens go crazy on the fodder. So when the tall grasses were about 2″ higher than the wire, we moved the boxes to another section of the pasture and started the process all over again! You could just leave the boxes in one permanent location and let the chickens just eat the tops of the grasses, and we may do that in the future too. But for now, we have a lot of pasture that we need to re-seed!
Let me tell you, the pasture looks 100 times better than it did a month ago and we have some very happy chickens! We’ll see how well it does over the summer but we plan on re-seeding the pasture as long as the weather will let us. I imagine it’ll take us a year or two to get the whole pasture fully recovered but in the meantime, it’s a great way to get a dense, nutrient chicken forage pasture.