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February 13, 2009

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Lucy Holten

I like the idea in principle, but I dread the loss of earthworms!! So I think I'll stick with the old - dig a trench, drop in compostables( including chook run materials,light branches, lawn clippings, shredded paper, hair clippings, leaves, cardboard pieces,horse or other manure, tissues, etc, etc,) then cover with good depth of the soil from where the next trench will be - adjacent and parallel to current one. Sometimes I stomp on it and water it in and plant seeds or seedlings straight into the newly turned soil. Other times I leave it for a while, then plant. My folks' way-Austrian/ Italian? Now in Australia!

Nik Fingar

I take the idea of composting chickens 1 step further. I've worked in restaurants for the past 15 years and i've always been amazed/appalled by the amount of good food that people waste and ends up in the landfill. About 1 1/2 years ago I started collecting food scraps in 5-gallon buckets to bring home and compost. Soon I realized how much work was involved in turning that much waste into good clean compost (that i so desparately wanted for my garden). I decided to get some chickens to aid in the process. Now I keep a flock of 30 laying hens (and growing) inside of an electric fence. They get all the food they need between the food scraps, the bugs(specifically the black soldier fly larvae), and all of the yard waste, grass clippings and mulch (that local tree service guys are more than glad to deliver to us for free!!) that we use to cover up the old food scraps. I'm trying to build up the size of my flock so that they can more efficiently utilize all of the food available to them. We keep a rooster or two in with the hens and the compost and we incubate as many eggs as we can (for now our capacity is 82 at a time). After a 3 week brooding period in which they eat chick starter and grit, we put the teenage chicks in moveable field pens (chicken tractors)where they supplement their feed with forage and bugs on the pasture. Once they mature, we let the hens join the compost flock and all but the biggest luckiest males are doomed for the oven. Using this method, the only time in our chickens' lives that costs us money is from when they first hatch until we put them on the compost pile. Commercial egg laying hens are usually only allowed to lay for 1 year beacause that is thier most productive year. We are trying to breed for longevity. If food cost is no longer a factor, you don't need to get 300 eggs a year from each bird to make a profit. If you only get 150 eggs a year from a hen but she lays for 6 years (like red jungle fowl do in nature) than that bird is more profitable in the long run. Whether you burn out a bird in a year or two or encourage them to act naturally, you still have to raise her up for 5 months before she starts laying.

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