Hardy Bamboo and Chickens: Part One

Hardy Bamboo and Chickens

Hardy Bamboo and Chickens

Hardy Bamboo and Chickens are an ideal combination. Whilst bamboo doesn’t provide food for chickens, it does provide an ideal environment for them, and for the insects that they love to feed on.

Perhaps I should rephrase that. Bamboo isn’t known as a chicken food, but nobody told my chickens. They seem happy to browse on the young tender leaves. Here at the Sustainable Smallholding we are growing Hardy Bamboo. and keeping chickens, but the combination of the two is something that I’m really looking forward to.

The Domestic Chicken

The domestic chicken is descended for the Jungle Fowl. Like its ancestor, the chicken likes cover from the air, and a deep leaf litter, in which it forages for insects.In the UK climate, most of our trees and shrubs lose their leaves in Winter. Not hardy bamboo. It keeps its leaves, shedding them periodically throughout the year, or as a response to stress. This makes it ideal for chickens. it provides cover from predators, and from the weather. At the same time, the structure of hardy bamboo provides ideal habitat for many types of insect, providing a protein rich food for the chickens.

Chicken and Hardy Bamboo

Chicken and Hardy Bamboo

 

 

Types of Bamboo

The picture above shows one of my chickens in front of a nursery patch of hardy bamboo. There are four distinct species in this clump. Bottom right is Pseudosasa japonica, also known as the arrow bamboo The name comes as it has no nodes on the stem, allowing it to be used to make arrows. P. Japonica is a very hardy bamboo, and forms a dense clump. it can become a bit of a thug, and will eventually need cutting back hard to keep under control. The canes can reach 14 ft in height, but are often 10 ft or less. Like all hardy bamboo, the canes become more rigid after three years. This is the ideal time to cut them, and use the canes in the garden.

To the right of the clump you may be able to make out a couple of spindly looking shoots. These are Semiarundinaria fastuosa. This is a running bamboo, very upright, and like all hardy bamboo in this country is edible. The tall wispy plants were originally identified as Phyllostachys viridiglausescensby an expert. However he was working with a tiny twig, and I now think that this is P. nuda instead. Phyllostachys nuda is a particularly useful running bamboo. It’s particularly hardy, and excellent to eat. I have two varieties of it planted in my Forest Garden, and two nursery plants, waiting to grow and divide.

Hardy Bamboo for Smaller Gardens

For a small garden some of these hardy bamboo varieties may be too big, but there are a lot of smaller bamboo varieties that would be ideal.The picture below is of Fargesia robusta. This is another hardy bamboo, and forms a clump of attractive culms. These grow above head height. The picture below shows a juvenile plant that is about 2 ft tall.

Hardy Bamboo, Fargesia robusta

Fargesia robusta in a Chicken Scavenging System

One the right edge of the picture is a clump of Fargesia utilis, which I got free from a friend. This is planted in my Chicken Scavenging System. It is possible to find hardy bamboo species that are smaller than this. I have two, both of the genus Pleioblastus. The first, P. fortuneii is a 3ft tall, variegated, clumping bamboo. Mine were divisions made from a potbound, garden center plant, sold as P. variegatus. The second is P. pygmaeus, which is an even smaller hardy bamboo, useful for ground cover. It can be mown with a lawnmower, or scythe.

hardy bamboo pleioblastus

Pleioblastus fortuneii and pygmaeus

These bamboo are small enough to be grown in any garden, and can be cut and used as mulch, or even chicken bedding.

In the second part of this article I’ll take a look at some of the other hardy bamboo that can be used with chickens.

 

8 thoughts on “Hardy Bamboo and Chickens: Part One

  1. Pingback: Hardy Bamboo and Chickens part 2 - The Sustainable Smallholding

  2. Nicolas M.

    Red jungle fowl food habits : “Foods of plant origin that are frequently consumed include fruits and berries from trees and herbaceous shrubs, seeds from a variety of plants especially bamboo seeds when available, nuts, young shoots of bamboo and other grasses, leaves, petals, and tubers.” http://permaculturenews.org/2012/01/20/when-orthodox-science-meets-permaculture-principles-techniques-and-design-process/#more-6899
    I even thought of looking to flowering/seeding cycles of different species to provide a maximum of bamboo seeds, but i’m not in a rush as i wont be able to plant running bamboo near my futur coop/run (and i doubt about any info available !).
    I was thinking too to look at different bamboo species shoot/cane proximity to make a dense cane protected environment to poultry and specially youngs. If you are interested in designing with bamboo for poultry, i’ll be happy to try helping as far as i can (you have my contact mail if you are interested)

    Reply
    1. Deano Martin Post author

      Hi Nicolas
      I’m already starting to use bamboo to create part of my poultry system. I am hapy to share information with you. There are plenty of suitable species, depending on the available space.
      Deano

      Reply
      1. Nicolas M.

        Hi,

        Sorry for the quote, i didnt seen that my article fueled your design of the poultry scavenging system, great ! I understand now why your system sounds so familiar, we are on the same track ! 🙂

        If you are aware of some species of bamboo that tolerate dryness or drought, i’ll be very interested.

        I’ll comment on your very great scavenging system later. So inspiring!

        Reply
        1. Deano Martin Post author

          Hi Nicolas
          Your article gave me papers to read, and led to my discovery of the term ‘Chicken Scavenging System’. It was a good starting point for a period of research that led to the current design.
          I was also helped by comments in the Earth Care Manual, and Meat: a Benign Extravagance.
          It will be some time before I know how effective the Chicken Scavenging System is, and how effective it is to use hardy bamboo with chickens in the UK climate. Hopefully the design will help others to come up with their own versions of it.
          Hope that all is well with you
          Deano

          Reply
          1. Nicolas M.

            Hey there is absolutely no problem. English is not my mother tongue so i have difficulty to make my point sometime !

            My first initial thoughts was about a fodder forest, but as i’ve now changed the potential location of the coop in a fertile and flat location nearer the house, i was going to switch for a more useful system for human consumption. Your scavenging system design renewed my interest, and is a good tool to help thinking about it. (i finish this comment in your post about scanvenging cause it is a bit of topic here)

    2. Deano Martin Post author

      Hi Again Nicolas
      Just followed to your post about ‘tree fetishism’. I have just finished reading Vera’s book, and was impressed with his theory. Really interesting stuff.
      Deano

      Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *