|Lamarosa, Torres Novas, Portugal
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Posted by Tiago Amado Simões over 11 years ago
After many "spontaneous learning opportunities" (formerly known as mistakes), our chicken system is starting to work Really Well.
I still buy them some wheat and corn, mainly for psychological reassurance, but also as an energy boost, and to keep the chickens well fed if I'm away for several days. By the way, I've noticed corn disappears much faster in cold weather, whereas wheat consumption is more stable, and has more to do with how much of the other stuff they're getting.
The main food source for the birds is "pasturing" - not an actual pasture set up specifically for that purpose, we just let them out onto the weediest place we can get them to, surrounded by wire mesh, and let them work there for a few weeks. This improves the soil (provided we get them out of that patch and into a new one before they trash everything, which happened a lot at first), provides lots of green plants and bugs for them, shifts the weed ecology towards more useful species... In all, a very good system. Until recently they found out how to fly over the fence! Now we only let them go outside if we're doing something nearby and can watch them, or if they're working on a fresh patch, preferably far from the vegetable areas.
We now have three organic "waste" buckets in the kitchen: one for citrus (my grandfather always gives us LOTS of oranges), one for the worm bin, and one for the chickens.
The worm bim was set up in February with precious few red composting worms from older compost piles, and the worms have only recently started getting their numbers up. We hope there will be enough in a couple months to start feeding them to the chickens as well.
It's more or less easy to get manure from under the roosts, and this week we'll start our first experiments with manure "tea" - just put a bit of manure in a bucket of water for a week or two, filter and dilute it, and water the plants with it. My uncle has been doing that for a year or two and says it's a really efficient way of getting nutrients into plants when you have very little amounts of manure and lots of plants (he uses the manure from just 4 or 5 chickens in a whole organic market garden that sells vegetables to some 15 or 20 families).
The money we get from selling eggs is enough to pay for all the corn and wheat, plus we saved enough of it to buy some more wire mesh to make a new chicken shed. That space will be used to raise baby chicks next year, but for now it will house the chicks we'll buy from reputed breeders, which will replace the very badly raised descendants of industrial hybrids we made the "mistake" of buying last year.
I couldn't finish writing about our chickens without mentioning a fabulous book we bought a few months ago: "The Small-Scale Poultry Flock" by Harvey Ussery. It's one of the BEST books on our Permaculture shelf! Highly recommended!
Thank you for reading!
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|Permaculture Design Course
|Type: Permaculture Design Certificate (PDC) course
|Teacher: Lesley Anne Martin
|Location: Várzea da Gonçala, Aljezur
|Date: Mar 2010
|Curso Teórico-Prático em Keyline
|Teacher: Jesús Ruiz Gámez
|Location: Lavre, Montemor-o-Novo, Portugal
|Date: Oct 2014
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