Chickens on Allotments - Biodiversity
Biodiversity is a term which describes all varieties of living things on Earth. Biodiversity is everywhere. At allotments we can encourage a biologically diverse plot and ecosystem that includes chickens.
For example, create wildlife features close to the chicken run. Their habitats such as invertebrates entering the run will be a welcome snack for the chickens. Insects, beetles, worms, berries, fruit and greens will all help feed the chickens.
A chicken run can be enhanced by the use of native hedge and climbing species around the boundaries. As well as shelter for the chickens it gives visual interest and, if a plants such as Berberis and Holly are used, protection from intruders.
Fruit trees in the chicken run provide a lot of protein and the chickens help control damaging insects. Chickens also help control diseases by cleaning up dropped fruit. Chestnut trees provide shade and the chickens help protect the trees by eating chestnut weevils.
Small insects provide essential amino acids required for good growth & wellbeing. E.g., grasshoppers, spiders, earwigs, crickets and even small frogs. Mealworms are packed full of protein, vitamins and high grade edible oils providing a great source of energy. They are larvae of a beetle which feed on vegetables, unlike maggots that feed on rotting meat.
Wildlife friendly gardening practices shown to be particularly good for biodiversity include: create a pond; plant wildflowers; rainwater harvesting; store log piles in damp corners; avoid peat-based composts; use a composter to recycle household and garden waste; collect seaweed for compost; plant native trees and shrubs; sow wild bird cover crops in grassy areas; and, do not use chemicals but follow organic growing principles.
These practices help to create a richness of plant and animal life which is providing a feeding source for chickens. Allowing birds to express all their natural behaviours represents a higher welfare system.
There are a number of seasonal opportunities with various greens and fruit at different times of the year. Chickens eat Huckleberries and the berries from Holly and Rowan trees. Tree leaves in autumn can be used for outside bedding in the chicken run.
Aim to provide an abundant and continuous supply of vegetables, fruit, berries and invertebrates. This provides a method of chicken keeping that is moving towards naturalisation and birds in a wild state. Biodiversity is a beneficial part of chicken life on allotments. Happy hens lay delicious eggs more often.