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Thorny Croft Ducks and Chickens

We’ve just planted another 200 trees in our future poultry/pig forage paddock…. We’re creating perennial polyculture a la Mark Shepard in Restoration Agriculture and the Forest Garden design model we have developed in our Design Your Own Forest Garden Booklet

We’re planting

  • Nitrogen Fixers: as follows to support the rest of the forest
  • Maakia amurensis: coppices, ground durable posts
  • Alders: lots of kinds; Coppices, firewood, Biochar,
  • Tagasaste: seeds for poultry , coppices for mulch and animal feed
  • Robinia pseudocacia: coppices, seed for poultry, ground durable posts
  • Acacias: firewood, seeds for poultry
  • Eleagnus augustifolia: berries for poultry
  • And more…

And the rest of the forest consists mainly of:

  • Mulberry fruit and leaves: pig and poultry feed
  • Figs: fruit, pigs and poultry
  • Oaks: all kinds for ducks ad pigs specifically
  • Chestnuts: pigs
  • Hazelnuts: pigs
  • Cider and other apples: pigs and poultry (and us)
  • Pears: pigs/ poultry
  • Sorbus torminalis: berries poultry/pig  food
  • Cornus ammomum, capitata, and mas: pig and poultry food
  • Edible large fruiting hawthorn: poultry/pig food
  • And more all the time!!!

No doubt it will be a few years before this forest comes into it’s own and we get eggs and pork from it, as well as all the other side benefits: biochar, fenceposts, firewood, mushrooms berries/nuts  and fruit for processing/selling, but it is a great feeling putting the trees in.

fawn and white Indian runner baby
fawn and white Indian runner baby

 

In the meantime we have our special breeds of ducks and chickens that we have held for many years now and taken great care of in terms of breeding and maintaining strong lines. We have been specifically breeding these ducks and chickens for egg production under organic, free range systems for 30 years now. Our breeding stock all originally came from Ken Vincent who has been a great mentor for our family over the years. And I still remember his advice: “if you keep them waiting for food they will keep you waiting for eggs!!”

While we wait for the chicken forest to begin bearing seeds, nuts and berries we are doing our best to provide them with high quality food. The chickens in the Koanga Urban Garden, the Legbars, are on a compost heap and get to turn that over constantly eating the microbes and bugs in it as well as being fed worms daily from the worm farm under the rabbits, as well as daily armload of greens, as well as nixtamalised whole grain. Nixtamalising the grain makes the grain swell and changes the nutritional profile and it literally goes three times as far as feeding poultry straight whole grain. They will also be getting soldier fly larvae shortly, we have built a flash home for them to breed and live and grow in (we’ll do a blog about that soon).

mother legbar teaching her young to eat curds and comfrey
mother legbar teaching her young to eat curds and comfrey

 

Our Legbars and Brown leghorns that are in our free range systems get nixtamalised grain , high quality pasture and curds as well as poultry minerals daily.

Taiamai chose to maintain the Legbars above all other potential heritage breeds because he saw them as the best utility breed, with super high egg production and great weight as table birds too. They are beautiful, birds, laying white eggs, and some of his birds are 7 years old and still laying well. They are not a recently bred up line of Legbars but the original version from Ken Vincents breeding stock years ago. They are originally a cross between Brown Leghorns and Barred Rocks but it is a very long process from first cross to a stable line. They are also good foragers and  have done very well in our urban garden chicken coop on compost as well as free range on pasture.

Fawn and white indian runner ducks
Fawn and white indian runner ducks

 

I choose Brown Leghorns as my favourite breed because they are beautiful and because they are the best egg layers of the heritage breeds as well as being very efficient converters of feed to eggs and meat (like the Dexters are if you’re talking cows).

Our ducks are Fawn and White Indian Runners. Indian Runners used to be the birds that provided our commercial egg production because they lay so many eggs. Duck eggs are larger than chicken eggs and are around twice as nutritious. They are a very good deal. If you have enough area to keep ducks on free range they are cheaper to feed as well because they forage voraciously over large areas of pasture and damp ground. They lay huge numbers of eggs, as high at least, as Leghorn chickens. Ducks prefer wetlands and chickens prefer dry lands or even better forest edges. Match your poultry to the environment you can provide them.

legbar hens and rooster
legbar hens and rooster

 

We have fertile eggs available this spring NOW, for all three of these breeds. If you are buying them let us know on the order form when you would like them sent. We will contact you when we get your order to confirm dates and availability.

Our East Freisian Sheep have almost all lambed now, most having triplets and many of them having triplets that are all ewes!!! We will have at least twice as many females in our flock this season even if the rest are rams! The Wiltshires have not begun lambing yet neither have the Dexters, the Geurnsey cows or the Jerseys. We’ll write the next blog about the East Freisian (milking) sheep.

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