We’re about to renovate this area back into a larger main crop area for bulk crops, bulk grains, mulch crops and broad scrambling crops like pumpkins and melons.
So with 50 birds ranging through this area some of the weeds have got so big and so strong that we’re having to cut them back a little bit to give the chickens a bit of an advantage to scratch the area over. In the meantime, they’re getting the weed seeds and having a good time.
I was working around this area where there was a big patch of thorny weeds and underneath is a pile of dirt. I know there’s a pile of soil there because it come up at the end of the bed when we had bed formed the beds earlier on. And so it had grown a big patch of healthy weeds.
The majority of the weeds were a spiky weed, spiny amaranth. This spiky amaranth is one of the weeds we hate because, although it’s easy to cut and it’s quite succulent in the stem, it has really nasty little thorns that stick in your fingers. Little sharp points that actually stick like splinters. Nobody working in the gardens here likes the spiny amaranth. Although, it does indicate we’ve got quite good ground for growing amaranth indicating the amaranth genus grows well here. It also grows in ground that’s a little bit loose.
This whole mound is covered in a diversity of weeds but majorly, some very large amaranth.
As I was cutting through, I could spy that in the middle of this mound inside of all these weeds but particularly inside of the spiny weeds where there was a beautiful nest of chicken eggs.
I realised the chickens had been using the protection of the spiky weeds to make it a safer place to lay their eggs. The mound up above the ground was a little bit warmer and a little bit better drained. So there was less moisture in the ground and it would’ve been easier to sit on the eggs and keep them warm, for the broody hen to sit there and rear the baby chickens.
This is a principle observation. One of the main things we use as a tool in permaculture. It is well written in permaculture literature, the Introduction to Permaculture and the Permaculture Manual, that one of the useful things in a chicken pen or where your ranging chickens, are where your spiky bushes or spiky plants, particularly shading bushes that are spiky, are growing, because they give the chickens predator protection.
If a hawk comes over, the chickens all run for the spiky bush but it also makes them obviously feel safer to lay eggs.
This could be designed into a system with perennial spiky bushes and nest sites set up that are hard for predators to get to. We could set ourselves up a convenient access to help this, to harvest eggs or to get broody chickens to rear their baby chicks.
Where are some of the places you have witnessed chickens laying and why?