|meat chicken set-up under the walnut tree|
We have a serious mob of broilers that we've been raising under the huge English Walnut next to the barn. Trying out some integrative pest management, our goal is to have the meat chickens scratch and peck all the insects around and under the tree. This particular walnut has been infected with the walnut husk fly for the last several years. Each year the tree produces an amazingly prolific amount of fruit which looks healthy and ripe on the outside but on the inside is a black mush. Our hope is that these ravenous birds will stop the cycle of the husk fly by eating all the larvae which burrow into the ground to pupate. This season we are raising both Cornish X broilers and heirloom French Freedom Rangers. It has been interesting comparing the two breeds. The Rangers are true to their names in that they are better foragers but we have found the Cornish X to be pretty good foragers too, especially when we don't give them free access to layer pellets. In three-four weeks they have taken waist high grass down to dust. We feed them once in the morning and let them hunt around for the rest of the day. Their growth rate is a bit slower this way but the feed bill is much lower and the birds seem healthier. We have also been mixing in about a gallon of whey each day into their feed making a sort of mash, as well as, feeding sprouted grains such as wheat berries, oats, and milo. They definitely seem to like the extra protein. Can't wait to see if we get some viable walnuts this year!