Fall is definitely a time of falling–leaves and feathers! My older hens have been molting for the last month and they look a sight! The coop is full of feathers, but it’s void of what I treasure the most–eggs! In fact the molting hens’ egg production has fallen off so drastically I haven’t gathered a single egg for two straight weeks!
I may not have eggs, but I’m practically up to my knees from the colorful leaves of the native oak, hickory and walnut trees that are on my property. I also have several maple trees that have brilliant autumn colors of red and yellow.–It’s these maples leaves that I love to add to the compost bin and also use as a mulch around tender perennials during the winter months.
Last week I stumbled onto a tip from a fellow chicken keeper on how she uses her abundant supply of fall leaves. Continue reading as Heather from Scratch Cradle describes how she puts her chickens to work in the fall clean-up of her gardens…
As every composter knows, dry, fallen leaves are a great source of carbon. Chicken poop is an excellent source of nitrogen, so the two are a perfect match. Dry leaves are excellent in the run. Just get a big pile and dump it in the middle of your chickens. They’ll know what to do!
If you are going to use leaves inside the coop as bedding, sometimes they can hold a lot of moisture between them and become a bit of an issue. Either introduce them as a small amount proportional to the rest of the bedding material or shred them first. You could shred the leaves by putting them in the run for a few days and letting the chickens tear them up and then shovel them into the coop as long as they are still dry.
Gather ye dry leaves while ye may! (Take that, Robert Herrick! I never liked that poem.) Rake and bag your leaves while dry and store them in your garage (beware of mice) or along the edge of your yard bagged and under a tarp. I fully intend to stalk the streets for bags of leaves this year, stealing away with them in the early hours. Every five bags or so of leaves I get is one fewer bale of shavings for me to buy.
For those of you who cry, “But what will I feed my compost if the chickens take my beautiful, carbonaceous leaves?” Never fear: By winter’s end, your chickens will have spun your leaves into gold – black gold, that is….
If you are going to use the compost on your garden, make sure it has time to age so that any of the newer manure (which is a fun phrase to say aloud) is broken down and won’t burn your plants. Alternately, rake back the top layer of bedding and take the deeper layers for the garden.
-Heather – Scratch Cradle
Thanks Heather for sharing with the readers of Community Chickens! You can view more of Heather’s chicken related tips, info and DIY projects by visiting these links:
Scratch Cradle (website)
Scratch Cradle (facebook)