Re-Seeding the Chicken Run

| by | chicken coop, chickens | 35 comments:

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 Supply 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:

-alfalfa

-flax

-buckwheat

-red clover, white clover, strawberry clover

-perennial rye

-winter rye

-forage chicory

-winter wheat

-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 rest 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.

Setting out the chicken fodder boxes. You can see how crappy our yard was looking... absolutely in need of some re-seeding.
Setting out the chicken fodder boxes. You can see how crappy our yard was looking, in dire need of some re-seeding.
Shortly after germination
Shortly after germination
Curiouser and curiouser...
Curiouser and curiouser…

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 to 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!

It's about time to move the boxes and let them loose on the "salad bar!"
It’s about time to move the boxes and let them loose on the “salad bar!”

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.

The "salad bar" is ready and open for business!
The “salad bar” is ready and open for business!

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35 Responses

  1. April 24, 2014

    Love the idea! I have patches in our barnyard that I want to re-seed. I know the chickens would eat the seed, but the goats and the pig would smash those frames quickly! I’m going with t-posts and fencing around my newly seeded areas. Your idea is so much more clever and elegant!

  2. merryann
    April 25, 2014

    How long did it take to raise fodder to the point that you moved the frames?

  3. April 26, 2014

    I love this idea. Thanks for sharing! I might just use it in our run.

  4. suchandsuchfarm
    April 26, 2014

    Merryann, about 3-4 weeks total. But we had a lot of rain in those 3-4 weeks too!

  5. merryann
    April 27, 2014

    Thank you! Terrific idea!!

  6. Paula
    April 27, 2014

    I have raised chickens for a long time and never thought to do this….I just moved them around and let nature take course. This looks like a fun idea to try! Thanks for sharing your ideas.

  7. April 28, 2014

    This is fantastic. I’m not sure if I’m more in love with the idea of ground fodder or the Alice in Wonderland reference. I know what Farmer Eric’s next project is!

  8. April 28, 2014

    This is very Kool! I have been using the neighbor’s chickens to work my garden in a movable chicken tracktor / tunnel. Here are the details and other links that relate to chicken tunmels. http://www.pinterest.com/mart85yahoocom/chicken-tracktor-tunnel/

  9. Corissa Howell
    April 28, 2014

    How long after you let the girls loose was it all gone again?

  10. suchandsuchfarm
    April 28, 2014

    It’s been about a week since we let them loose and the salad bar is still holding strong! But this only is about 1/5 of what they have to forage on in their run and it’s rained quite a bit too.

  11. April 28, 2014

    Many, many thanks for the reseeding idea! While you may find it hard to believe, our chicken run is seriously worse! I never knew that 10 chickens could decimate a fenced in area right down to dirt and tree roots! Quickly! I am going to start this idea this weekend!

  12. April 28, 2014

    Leigh from Natural Chicken Keeping here – GREAT idea! Kudos on a job well done!

  13. Kathy
    April 28, 2014

    Nicely managed! When I saw the headline I wondered if this would be a story about using the “chicken tractor” in your pasture, but this works too. Very clever solution. (Chicken tractors are, too, if you have a big one or not too many chickens 🙂 )

  14. April 28, 2014

    LOVE LOVE LOVE this idea, implementing! So glad that

  15. roger benham
    April 29, 2014

    It so reminds me of the New Zealand idea of pasturing goats or sheep. You divide your pasture into 3 or 4 sections and keep the animals in one section for a week then on to the next. The poop bugs all hatch but die off during the time the livestock are elsewhere. I did a variation of this and found that the foods the goats liked best including clover survived best whilst the crappy grasses like timothy got wiped out. Best of all the shrubs kept on poking up new sprouts.

  16. Donna N.
    April 29, 2014

    Our bare areas are plentiful–would reseed, but afraid that the ground is too ‘hot’, meaning that the chicken droppings that have embedded into the ground, unseen to us, would burn any seedlings or new grass. Any thoughts?

  17. April 29, 2014

    This is brilliant! I’m going to try this for our chicken pen. We also foster dogs/puppy’s. We have just an average sized fenced yard and they have killed off all of the grass. ( So tired of mud! ) I was trying to figure out how to re-seed and still have them access this area. I think this may be some thing to try and work on a few areas at a time until it fills in again. Thanks for such a great idea.

  18. suchandsuchfarm
    April 29, 2014

    We’ve didn’t section off our chickens before we put these fodder boxes down so I’m sure there was a lot of droppings in the dirt already (we have about 30 chickens in this run). And the wire on top will prevent the dropping getting down on the grass seeds and burning the seedlings. We didn’t notice any “hot spots” in ours but every chicken run is different. I’m sure there’s some pretty hardy nitrogen loving grasses, maybe use those if you’re worried, otherwise I say give it a shot and see what happens!

  19. April 29, 2014

    I have a fine lawn that stays green because I have wire mesh on the ground. The chickens can eat as much grass as they want but are unable to scratch the dirt. They have other grassless areas to scratch and bathe in.

  20. April 29, 2014

    Interestingly chicken poop is ready to use as fertilizer straight from the chicken! It is one of the few types of critter feces that doesn’t contain such a high amount of nitrogen that it would damage seeds – so go for it!

  21. May 1, 2014

    Looks great! I’ve considered such a box and leaving it there permanently so the chickens can graze what grows up through the mesh, but the roots are protected. Not sure how well that would work.

    Right now I try to paddock shift the chickens around so they’re not in one spot too long.

  22. May 1, 2014

    Great idea I really need to do this because our run is (well fertilized!) and all dirt right now.

  23. May 1, 2014

    Is it ok if they poop in it, will I need to turn it or anything

  24. suchandsuchfarm
    May 1, 2014

    With the wire on top of it, they can walk on it, poop on it or whatever and it won’t fall through and bother the grass seed! Poop is no problem 🙂

  25. Dawn
    May 1, 2014

    Great idea

  26. Debra Haworth
    May 1, 2014

    How cool!! What types of seed did you use for your salad??

  27. Marilyn
    May 1, 2014

    Thank-you for sharing! This is a great way to re-seeding not only for the chickens. Now I can easily patch areas in my yard to keep the dogs out too! Now, I have to get busy and make some frames!

  28. Ig Vigé
    May 2, 2014

    I’d think poop would be beneficial, actually! 😀

  29. May 2, 2014

    This is something we need to plan for in the near future. I love how you handled this!

  30. May 4, 2014

    How long does it take for the chickens to eat a new patch?

  31. Edenwood Farm
    July 7, 2015

    Just found this. I’m making frames today – thx !!!!

  32. Fran
    November 7, 2015

    Thank you for this idea! I am in tropical Australia with the Seven Sisters in the flock. I also use an old wooden playpen to keep dogs off any bare patches in process of reseeding. The ladies go out in the garden for a scratch each day – some days the garden resembles an excavation site. Going to have a crack with the frame concept- the ladies will love it!!

  33. Beth
    February 8, 2016

    This looks great. I’m just wondering if you put the seed straight down on the hard ground? We are chicken-less at the moment but may be getting more in the spring. the ground in the run is very hard. We are mostly clay and rock here.

    Thanks for the idea!

  34. suchandsuchfarm
    February 11, 2016

    Hi Beth! We put the seed down without tilling or breaking up the soil. But then again, we had chickens around to help break up the surface. I would go to your local seed/feed store and ask them what grasses would grow well in your area without tilling. That should give you a good place to start.

  35. April 21, 2016

    I love what you guys are up too. Such clever work and exposure!
    Keep up the very good works guys I’ve included you guys to
    blogroll.

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