Polutry + Fruit Trees = ??

Discussion in 'Planting, growing, nurturing Plants' started by smagrath, Apr 19, 2006.

  1. smagrath

    smagrath Junior Member

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    Are there any issues in having a chook run amongst an eclectic mix of fruit trees?
    Someone mentioned that some varieties of trees will suffer significantly from the chooks?
     
  2. Tezza

    Tezza Junior Member

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    On about the 6 of july this year will bring to an end of a 6 year association of a mixture of various Fruit,Fodder,native trees,and various bushes,shrubs ,herbs, with a large fluctuting number of chooks and or ducks.

    My permie area consists of an area of approx one third of a 1/4 acre suburban household block....Over the period of 6 full seasons I have had times where no poultry are present like now ,where i remove then to stop any possible build up of super nitrogen from all those chookie poos..My breaks from chooks usually last from a week or two to a few months..
    Under my observations,the only damage or destruction on any above mentioned species,that i can directly attribute to poultry,were actually caused by,Geese,The naughty buggers just love chewing bark on young tender fruit trees,and ultimatly they ended ring barking 2 fruit trees ,2 guavas and a street landscape tree,unfortunatly this occured slowly and unnoticeable untill id removed the offending birds.....funnily enough even after the series of ringbarking,5 years later those same trees ,bushes are still hanging in there,not exactly better homes and gardens style but never the less still growing and admittedly strugling to keep pace.

    The only time ive had problems with chooks has been ,from recolection is that when trees,bushes etc get planted and are small still,nothing can handle the scratchings of a pack of hungry,dust bathing chooks :lol: :lol:

    To solve these problem,i now run a lenth of chook wire small holed if needed to keep said chooks away from the roots and allow time to become established,before a year or two removing the wire,and fingers crossed that they will survive/handle chooks.....Some times ive had a problem of chooks wanting to roost in low branches of trees but young fruit tree branches and heavy chooks dont go well together ,unless of course you like fruit trees with a weeping habit. :lol: :lol: :lol:

    Of course I humbly admit that my tree species list isnt the longest but consider it a broad range of species, to at least give a broad indicationof what can, and what cant handle ,the average chook..

    Now with vegatables and soft leave plants is another story,chooks being scavenger/oppourtunistic feeders/browsers.anything is at the mercy of a hungry flock of chooks....
    Actually from memory of 5 years ago, a freind whod been a worker in the orchrd buissness remarked that my trees were maybe to big for their ages ,and hed noticed a bit of hmmm maybe a posibility of exsess nitrogen causing some tree barks to split a bit,whilst remaining healthy(they still going great 5 years after hes seen em..Hence my habit of culling my flocks,area rotations to help stop any exsess nitrogen build ups in my soils.I run my chooks thru a semi rotational basis,nothing too seriously organised,mainly to suit,myself or the seasonal temperatures most usually late summer or early autumn,and find,things run pretty dam well without too many blips

    Any questions feel fre to ask

    Tezza
     
  3. ho-hum

    ho-hum New Member

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    smagrath,


    Chooks and orchards go wonderfully together but its all about balance. Starfish has kindly pointed out most of the pitfalls that can occur.

    The chooks will do a first class job of removing most of the grasses from around trees.

    Being in Adelaide you may be in a similar situation to Starfish, ie, urban setting and this will restrict you a lot anyway.

    There are great advantages in giving chooks access to an orchard for both trees and chooks. Protect the small trees and dont let chooks roost in the trees at all. Get them home and tucked away otherwise your trees will act as roosts and take-off points for the chooks to jump/fly across fences and cause real damage and disturbance.

    Raking up around trees occassionally will remove a bit of the chookpoo and provide a great start to any compost heap you are making.

    If you do have a lot of chooks it would pay to rest the trees occassionally especially if you get to the point of having bare scratched ground.

    Also be careful when watering your trees. They should be deep-watered and a chook can soon dig down 20-30cms in nice damp ground which is right into the feeder root zone. Most trees can probably handle this occassionally but some deciduous trees like apricots etc may struggle if this happens too often. I know mulberries and guavas seem to thrive on this sort of treatment if you have room for them.

    Apart from that. Go for it. Time, observation and experience are great teachers.

    Cheers,

    floot
     
  4. Richard on Maui

    Richard on Maui Junior Member

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    As Floot and Tezza point out, there are pro's and con's and some balancing to be done in this sort of "species assemblage", some main factors being;

    age of trees
    age of chooks
    number of chooks
    number of trees
    timing of course will be a factor too.

    the amount of carbon mulch that you to the system too will be a deciding factor in tree and chook health.

    I think that if you grow a bunch of other types of plants in there as well, as mulch for the trees, and fodder for the chooks, (especially when the fruit trees are young and not yet producing) you are getting towards a pretty good balance...

    I have known chooks who were afraid to forage in the dense food forest environment of canopy legumes and sweet potato ground covers, probably because the food forest was such great python habitat! Bloody chooks were wasting all the fertiliser on the driveway all day.
     
  5. smagrath

    smagrath Junior Member

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    All great advice

    I wasn't expecting such a good range of advice! But I shouldn't have been surprised, should I?

    Well, a bit more details - the farm house we moved in to has about a dozen old fruit trees - all suffering from neglect. Some pests, thick grass encroachment right up to the trunk, inadequate watering and so on. Basically, they're pretty stressed trees. With a bit of careful slashing, I plan to run about 4-6 chooks as tractors plus fertilisers around the trees - plenty of space so the nitrogen build up can be easily managed if it ever becomes a problem.

    As was mentioned, I will put some netting to stop the birds roosting in the trees.

    Live and learn!
     
  6. FREE Permaculture

    FREE Permaculture Junior Member

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    Hi, if the trees are real ratty and infested, i'd hack them back to the trunks and let them re-vegetate nice fresh branches.

    I did it with a plum and it produces more fruit than it ever did
    when we just pruned it. citrus does even better.
     
  7. smagrath

    smagrath Junior Member

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    Prune

    Would you wait until winter before doing the prune? I'd guess so but I'm not sure what the trees are yet - I suspect stone fruit but again not sure.
     
  8. Precog

    Precog Junior Member

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    Hi guys,

    Im really interested in what methods you use to protect your fruit trees?

    We have 5 chooks in our small orchard and they love scratching around the base of the mounded fruit trees because that is where the soil is best and full of grubs and worms (from compost fertillization and irrigation).

    The problem is that they keep exposing the roots of the tree by scratching the mounding soil away from around the tree. We have sucessfully tried using chicken wire around the tree but it looks pretty unsightly ... and im sure there must be a better, more organic solution.

    Have a great day!
     
  9. Peter Warne

    Peter Warne Junior Member

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    I've been following this discussion with interest and we are thinking of trying it in our food forest next spring, because that's when the fruit fly problem starts up. OUr chook run is about 50 m or so from the food forest, but I'm sure we can herd them down there in the morning and back to roost in the evening.

    One question that occurs is what will happen about laying? I don't see them making their way right back to the coop to lay, and in any case I will be building a quick fence around the f forest and shutting them in during the day. I could put a large box on its side with a laying spot in that, but I'm not sure that they will adapt to this. Chooks are strongly habit bound creatures.

    Anyone got any ideas on that?
     
  10. ho-hum

    ho-hum New Member

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    Peter,

    Great Idea.

    Shouldnt have too many problems training them to go down to the forest and back again but you will need hungry chooks that will follow you. I dont know about the laying eggs there I think that you may lose a few eggs.

    It may be better if you leave the moving them till after about 10am, most of the laying will be done then and you wont encourage goannas etc to follow the chooks. Lead them with the promise of a handful of wheat, in the evening they should want to run back home [mostly] to roost. Keep them a bit hungry if you have a job for them to do. They will fill up during the day and look for a bit of grain at night and a bit next morning in their new enclosure. You dont need them hanging-off-the-wire-hungry, just lined-up-and-waiting hungry. I imagine your chookies are probably quiet enough to handfeed a few of them.

    Walk about 15m and bob down with a tiny bit of grain in one hand and let one or two peck the grain and the rest will run up.

    Temporary fences will only keep chooks in temporarily, there will always be some that will find a way out.

    You may find that with this new found freeom and lotsa new protein sources [bugs and worms] that one or two decide to go clucky.

    I dont know how many chooks you have but if you have any spring pullets reaching point of lay I would be tempted to keep them to one side and leave them in the pen. Pullets are naturally flighty and inclined to lay anywhere and at any time, generally they can fly quite well too. It is at this part of their life that they can easily form bad habits.

    Any stop-outs should be caught at night, have one wing clipped and that will slow them up a bit.

    An old sheepdog would be very handy for this job..

    Good luck,

    Mike
     
  11. Richard on Maui

    Richard on Maui Junior Member

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    Floot, you are so right. Temporary fences only keep chooks in temporarily. They don't protect them against ravaging neighbourhood dogs either, as I found out to my chagrin in the last few weeks...

    Precog, if the chicken wire is too ugly, you can cover it with rough mulch... Or just use so much rough mulch and get it all tangled up so that the chooks can't actually scratch it away. Might not look much more aesthetic than the wire, but the tree probably won't mind too much... I'm thinking bamboo prunings weighed down with some larger logs and rocks. I have seen mulches of rocks do the trick, with trees right in the middle of pretty intensive chookyards...
     
  12. FREE Permaculture

    FREE Permaculture Junior Member

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    Re: Prune

    I didn't wait this year really, i just pruned my stone fruit a month after i picked the fruit, now that it's getting cool you could do it if you wanted too. or yeah you could wait a month or so if you liked.
    cut them right to the main trunks, maybe look for some sort of ointment to paint on the large wounds. cut to just a stump with no branches.
    I also chop the stump to shoulder height so it doesn't get too high to pick.

    Sounds like they could well be stone fruits, citrus should be obvious and in fruit right now.
     
  13. Tezza

    Tezza Junior Member

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    Sorry but I must remember never to get you to prune anything of mine.

    I can not see how you can give advice like that....The pruning description leaves a lot to be desired,Even peter cundall aint that crazy
    As for geting chooks from one place to the other the best way is to let em find their ways normally,Chooks are a few bob short of a dollor if they dont know how they got there ,they got no idea how to get home again.Let them find their own way there and justkeep an eye at end of the day after 2/3 days they will know,You dont really need the wheat (hanzel n gretle),

    Never seen young pullets get flighty unless being chased by a rooster.

    To stop chooks laying out side of shed put plenty of nests in pen,Only feed and water them in pen or shed.And if new hens Lock them in shed for 3 nights before letting them out,that way they learn where bed and roost and every other bit of shed before anything outside.Free range chooks should never have wings clipped,Full wings may save your hens life one day,dont take away its one great chance of avoiding predators....Chooks ALLWAYS come home too roost,unless dead,injured,or odd case of gone clucky else where,it does happen but not often, Allways know how many you got and count em regularly,Id like a dollor evertime i counted up at night,if short u go look,But on the whole they do come home everynite...

    Dont have raised bits above and around trees when you got chooks without protection..If u must have, mulch the whole area should be the same level..This may seam impossible to do but it can,under raised areas its usually damp etc under bare ground you got nothing,no wonder the chooks are scratching,they know where the yummy bugs are!!

    If in doubt Buy some ducks Kharki Cambells are brillient egg layers up to 300 per year.and well who can go past the Pekin for the meet lovers,
    Actually Ducks are actually a better bet then chooks if you weigh up all the pros nd cons..but ........got me thinking now lolol

    Tezza
     
  14. FREE Permaculture

    FREE Permaculture Junior Member

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    yeah perhaps, in your mind, but it works.
    smagrath's tree's are suffering neglect and infested with bugs and most likely disease. what do you suggest then? a light prune, a dash of seasol and hope the bugs and disease go away? your not paying attention again (insert rolly eyes)
    my dramatic cure is yep, hack 'em to the stump and let them start again.
    i'm talking through experience as mine where like that once.
    you wouldn't believe how beautiful the plums are now.

    citrus trees do even better using this method, lets call it Ben's caveman club method :) and who the hell is peter cundall? send him my way and he can see for himself, can even give me a hand tilling the garden.

    i'll take a pick of what my lemon has done since i hacked a branch if i remember, on that stump there are about 8 spunky new 2 foot branches shooting off almost as if god himself gave it life.

    but yeah i agree, i'm crazy, an absolute lunatic star, with a belly full of plums :)

    yeah try some ducks star, i wanna learn about them as i want a few at my dream farm.

    oh, the chook/tree dilemma, try reverse phsycology or what i would do is give them better spots to scratch for worms and bugs.
    lay a few wide planks of timber on the ground near the tree's, then when they feel the need to rip up the trees, tip over a plank and they'll see a good feed there so they won't bother messing up the trees.
    i'm sure aventually they'll sit around the planks waiting for a tip.

    but that's just what i would try, keep in mind that anything i suggest cannot and should not be held against me in a court of sqwua
     
  15. SueinWA

    SueinWA Junior Member

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    I had always been advised to prune in cool weather, when the bugs are more dormant. Otherwise, the open cuts can attract more insects. But that's here in the U.S., don't know much about the bugs down in Oz.

    I don't know why soil would be mounded around the bases of the trees... that seems to beg for problems even without chooks. After a good soaking rain or watering, you might want to lay down some heavy cardboard, landscape fabric, etc, and then surround the bases with large rocks. The rocks will keep the chooks from scratching and help keep the soil moist.

    Sue
     
  16. Richard on Maui

    Richard on Maui Junior Member

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    Chicka, Your method for rejuvenating trees no doubt is effective under certain circumstances, but are you forgetting to mention the need to carefully follow up this kind of topping cut with several years of pretty involved work to select and train the new branche strucure? You will get a whole lot of sprouts after heading them back like that won't you? So, subsequently you would need to thin out a lot of excess growth, choosing well spaced branches, hoping that your new structure will have sufficiently strong branch attachment that they won't snap off under the weight of all that fruit you are going to get... The Certified Arborist training I just took teaches that the sort of pruning you are advocating is almost never appropriate since it causes weak branch attachment and is likely to promote "tree failure". They also teach that painting cuts does more to promote decay than anything, although if you know borers are around and likely to attack the tree it might be worth using.

    Peter Cundall is that great old bugger on ABC's "Gardening Australia". "Isn't it Marvellous!?", etc.

    By the way, let's all be civil, eh?
     
  17. Tezza

    Tezza Junior Member

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    Go Ricky Go Riky Go Ricky

    Tezza
     
  18. FREE Permaculture

    FREE Permaculture Junior Member

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    oh yeah, so peter is that guy, yep yep.
    everything is marvelous and that :) yeah i like him
    the way speaks of mulch and compost. he's funny.

    i am rough as guts with my pruning yeah, but like i said, the proof is in the pudding and my trees are bloody marvelous :lol:
    stone fruit don't really need to take much shape, they grow
    virtually over spring and fruit in summer, then get cut again.
    but yeah maybe smagrath should then just prune the tips
    and let it just work itself out. :geek:
     
  19. smagrath

    smagrath Junior Member

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    chooks + fruit trees = ??

    OK - missed the discussion for the last day but have caught up - well, the jobs on for tomorrow - no pruning but I'll start with getting the 4 foot high grass cut....

    Now, here's a second question - has anybody had serious problems with chooks attracting snakes? Apparently the Adelaide Hills has a fine collection of Brown and Black snakes, so I'm a bit concerned about that since we have three young kids who are very keen on the chooks and I want to mitigate any nasty surprises!

    Some clever tips from you guys! I'm glad I stumbled over this site - its a keeper

    Cheers
    Shane
     
  20. FREE Permaculture

    FREE Permaculture Junior Member

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    hi again :)

    well i'll just fill time as i'm bored, until you get the right answer..
    my guess is that chooks encourage mice and rats if you don't keep a clean coop, and if you don't store your grain correctly.
    like in a steel rubbish bin where the rodents can't get to it.

    so my guess is, snakes would be encouraged by the rodents
    and maybe eggs if you leave broken ones about.

    When building a coop, your first priority should be to build it with a rat wall that is prefferably on a concrete slab, but you could do it without.
    the rat wall is something like 10in high brick wall from the ground so they can't eat into it, thus not allowing them entry and not being a problem within your coop.

    that's about all i can think of as we don't get snakes in the heart of melb' really :) but i'm sure i missed something...... :axe:
     

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