Today we are going to talk about a subject that might be unpopular. It will be especially difficult for city folks who spend a premium on pastured eggs. I, however, am not one to shy away from touchy subjects! (At least online where people can’t throw tomatoes at me!)
We need to talk about cow poop. And chickens. And how much chickens enjoy cow poop.
There. I said it. Chickens LOVE cow poop!
Have you ever noticed that in many pastures, you can tell that the farm raises cattle before you ever lay eyes on the first bovine? Their tell-tale droppings look like black polka-dots on the green background. Well, not to brag, but you don’t find many cow pies in my pasture. What you do find are happy, well-fed, free-range chickens who like to follow my Jersey cow, Beulah Belle, everywhere she goes!
Chickens love cow poop. Did you know that?
I assure you, before we were homesteaders, we had no idea!
Now, they don’t love poo like my dog loves the litter box, that is a whole other issue, but they love to dig through the poop! They pick out undigested grains and any bugs that the poop attracts. In the process they spread the poop around, sanitizing and fertilizing the field. It’s all part of the natural cycle of things. I believe this clean-up behavior is part of God’s plan for keeping our environment operating smoothly.
Farmers actually BUY this stuff!
I don’t know about where you live, but in my neck of the woods, it is actually a very common practice for cattle farmers to purchase the “litter” from commercial chicken houses to spread on their pastures.
It stinks to high heavens and aggravates the neighbors *ahem* who have to endure the stench. I just chuckle (between gags) because what they don’t seem to understand is that a flock of chickens would sanitize their pastures, add their own nitrogen-rich droppings to the mix, and reward them with the most delectable eggs under the sun for their trouble!
It’s win-win-win if you ask me! Of course, no one DID ask me, so until they do, I will continue to roll my eyes as the neighboring cattle farms waste money by adding poop to their fields the hard way!
This may take more work in some locations than in others.
The way our homestead is situated, we are primarily surrounded by pasture land. This helps keeps the predators at bay somewhat and allows us to free-range our chickens all day long. Yes, we occasionally lose a bird to a predator, and we hate that, but we know that they lived a full, fun life and were allowed to act, well, like a chicken every single day! Those surrounded by forests might have more trouble with free-ranging safely.
If your place is more predator-prone, you might need to set up some sort of rotational system where the chickens always come in after the cows to clean up.
This also saves money on chicken feed!
Joel Salatin of Polyface Farms is a wealth of knowledge on this subject. I can’t recommend his book Folks, This Ain’t Normal *affiliate link* enough! He is truly a pioneer of rotational grazing and running chickens in an area just after the cows have moooooooved on. (Sorry, I couldn’t resist!)
One little trick that helps…
We noticed that when Beulah’s diet consisted of just hay and her pelleted non-GMO pelleted grain ration, the chickens were somewhat less interested. When she had a little “all grain,” however, the chickens were all over that mess! Basically, some of the grains pass through undigested, which is how she also occasionally “plants” the nicest squash plants for me!
The “all grain” ration we were buying, however, contained GMO corn and wasn’t something I felt comfortable feeding either to the cow, whose milk we enjoy, or the chickens, who lay us breakfast. Luckily, the mill that produces our feed started offering a non-GMO chicken scratch! It is just a mix of whole wheat, milo, oats, sunflower seeds and peas. We add just a little of this to Beulah’s bowl each morning and the chickens stay very interested in the grains that pass through. She seems to enjoy it too, in moderation, of course!
So, now you know the “dirty” little secret to keeping your pastures pile free! For more great information, please follow my Raising Livestock board on Pinterest!
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