Increase soil fertility by adding chickens in field rotations

About 100 Black Australorp chickens at Big Train Farm in Cranston, RI.

Black Australorp chickens at Big Train Farm in Cranston, RI.

Building soil fertility and organic matter is a standard practice in organic agriculture. Organic farmers count on healthy soils to increase crop yields and crop quality as well as their farm’s long-term sustainability. Farmers build soil fertility by feeding soil organisms, often by spreading composted animal manures. Efficient farmers encourage their livestock to spread and incorporate their own manure for speedy incorporation. Chickens can produce 1/4 pound of manure every day.

Crop planning accommodates appropriate “days to harvest” or waiting periods to allow fresh manure to break down. Farmers must wait 120 days for root crops or ready-to-eat crops like fennel and greens. A 90-day period is sufficient for crops without soil contact like broccoli or tomatoes.

Moving livestock regularly prevents destruction of soil structure and protects against overloading soils with potassium or nitrogen from too much manure in one place. Allowing chickens to scratch and peck at crop residues and weeds helps incorporate the manure, minimize Nitrogen loss through volatilization and prepare fields for future planting.

John Kenny of Big Train Farm in Cranston, RI uses his 100 Black Australorp as part of a four-step field management process. [Learn more here.]

Advertisements

About Sanne Kure-Jensen

Sanne Kure-Jensen is a frequent contributor to Country Folks, Country Folks Grower and Wine & Grape Grower bringing regional and national attention to agriculture in RI and across southern New England. She has also written for newsletters of the Northeast Organic Farming Association (NOFA), Holistic Management International (HMI), RI Beekeepers Association and RI Tree Council. Read Sanne’s work at her Sustainable Living page at examiner.com. Sanne has written successful grant applications for alternative energy projects, staff and board training, products and services. Clients include agricultural businesses, farm stand/markets and non-profit organizations. Recent successful grant projects include a $90,000 USDA Rural Development‘s Rural Energy For America Program (REAP), $10,000 Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) Farmer and $20,000 Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) Conservation Innovation Grant (CIG). Sanne is the part-time Administrator for NOFA/RI, a Rhode Island Certified Horticulturist and beekeeper. She is a NOFA Accredited Organic Land Care Professional and has lectured across southern New England on Beekeeping, Native Pollinators and Ecological Landscape Design. Learn more about the NOFA’s Land Care programs or contact Sanne for a garden consultation through the NOFA/RI website.
This entry was posted in Agriculture, Food, Livestock, Produce, Recent Posts, Vegetables and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s