Not everybody likes the term ‘Chicken Scavenging System’. World renowned Permaculture author, Patrick Whitefield would prefer me to use something that sounds less desperate. Most permaculturalists use the term Chicken Forage, so what’s the difference, and what are the implications of using one system or another?
My Chicken Scavenging System is designed to feed my Chickens using insects living on the floor of a type of Forest Garden, to reduce the amount of wheat and other grains that I need to feed to them. I described this Permaculture system of my own design, in my Chicken Scavenging System Design that was written up as one of the ten portfolio designs for the Diploma in Applied Permaculture Design. The Scavenging System is designed to build up a deep litter of leaves and rotting wood, which is an ideal environment for insects, on which the chickens can feed.The problem is that this will take years to develop, so I am using another Permaculture technique called ‘Chop and Drop‘ to speed the process up.
It’s funny how ideas, or inspiration, comes into us. This one relates to my Chicken Scavenging System. I have been using a shredded Miscanthus product for chicken bedding. It is about the same price as a bale of chopped straw, but is grown without chemicals, is a perennial, and most importantly works well. My long term aim is to house a single flock of chickens, and possibly another of ducks, on a deep litter system, with the raw materials coming from on site. Probably a combination of Common Reed harvested from gray/brown water systems and Swale, along with tree and shrub prunings, straw from my grain growing, and bamboo. In the medium term, I have two deep litter systems, along with two conventional poultry houses, and another house due to be used soon.
I wanted to show you all how far my former battery hens are ranging. Here’s a picture
of them at the top of my field. it was taken a few days ago. The hens are quite difficult to spot, but if you look for the White Cockerel, the little brown specks are the hens. It still annoys me when I think of the conditions in which they’re kept. At least these are getting to feel the sun, the wind and the rain, and are learning what it’s like to be a real chicken.
They’re still not producing many eggs yet, but who cares? If I was worried about the eggs, I would have bought some point of lay hybrids. These will earn their keep eventually. If not by producing eggs, by clearing patches of ground for me, eating slugs, or just by giving me the pleasure of their company.
I’ve also posted on my scything blog, about a deal that I’ve done for some egg laying ducks. You might want to check the article out. Scything Article.The link is on the right side of the page. I hope that you enjoy it.
Well, the Battery hens are coming along fine, and their feathers are starting to grow back. If you take a look at my earlier post, you will see what they looked like when they arrived. Battery Hen here are some photos, which show the feathers starting to grow back.
The new feathers are the dark lines which you can see on the neck and back of this chicken.
This close up view shows the feathers emerging from the sheaths, which are the dark bits on the photographs.
The hens still have a long way to go. The big feathers will take longer to grow back, and the cockerel will keep damaging the wing feathers every time that he mounts the hens, but they will certainly look better than when they came out of the cages.
The last picture shows some of them out and about in the field.