Sunday, December 11, 2011
Chicken Powered Roto Tillers
The utility of chickens on a farm never ceases to amaze. Not only do they provide eggs to eat and sell (egg sales is our most profitable farm income), feathers (the online sales of which more than pay for the supplemental winter feed costs), and rich manure to spread on the garden, but I've also come to learn that they are willing to serve as literal shallow surface roto tillers as well!
We collect horse manure from our fields every day, and we end up using every single bit of it, mostly as a medium to control erosion but also as a fertilizer to nourish organic garden beds. We have recently expanded one of our beds and are now undergoing the process of turning heavily clay based soil into rich black loam. The introduction of organic material (leaves and manure), and the miraculous stuff that the worms do below the soil will result in a wonderful growing medium within 2 years. We use to accomplish this by turning over the candidate soil, dumping manure and leaves on the new plot, and then roto-till the mixture in the spring before planting. I've found that if I allow the chickens to process the manure before hand over the winter, the roto-tilling process goes much more quickly because the chickens will have turned the large lumps of horse droppings into a finely spread blanket of organic material that is much easier for the worms to digest.
And the great thing is, they really do work for 'chicken scratch'!