Chickens in the Woods

No, this is not a post about mushrooms. I’m just writing a little blurb regarding my thoughts on keeping chickens in different environments.

I love my chickens. I am an advocate for every family having a trio of hens. I believe they bring us closer to our food with the eggs they provide, and their personalities are wonderful to learn and watch. We have lived in two locations with our chickens now: the old house was an open yard with some trees, the farm is wooded. I have to say that while I never thought our chickens seemed unhappy or bored free-ranging our old yard, I do think that now they are in love and completely at home on the farm. It’s pretty clear to me that these guys should live in the woods.

I did some searching, and found that chickens are actually best suited for woodland settings. While they can thrive on pasture, especially a very healthy pasture with mixtures of grasses and legumes, and plenty of bugs to feed on, they are far more equipped to meander through the woods each day. The immense amount of organic debris provides a much larger variation of bugs, grubs, worms, and other creepy crawlies to eat. They also do the forest a great favor by turning the leaves and debris, allowing for more rapid decomposition. Leaves and debris are far easier to turn and scratch through than a field full of vegetation and grasses. They can roam beneath the shaded canopies of the pine, pecan, and oak trees without having to take cover from the sun. They can forage the fallen fruits that some trees bear. They love hopping over logs and scratching around downed limbs for bugs. The woods also “consume” their droppings much faster than an open field (via scratching & turning the leafy humus). From my point of view, the forest provides a fully functioning ecosystem, which the chickens complement very well.

I’m not saying that having hens on pasture is bad, and that is certainly not the case. Hens can and do thrive on pasture and in tractors. I’m simply trying to encourage anyone who may live on a wooded or partially wooded lot to obtain some chickens. They’ll thrive in the woods, and don’t require pasture to remain happy and healthy. I’m curious and excited to see how the meat birds we will be getting in a couple of weeks do compared to our free range layers. We will be pasturing them in a wooded section of the property with their own coop. I’m hoping they thrive as much as our others do.

Next up to add to our woodland farm will be our pigs, and some ducks!

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