Introduction: Grazing Frame for Backyard Chickens
I have been obsessed with the idea of doing a garden specifically for my chickens and ducks. I wanted something that would protect the plants from being totally ravaged AND allow for continuous growth. Putting in specific plants around your chicken run and has many benefits: attracts bugs that the birds love to snack on, is a snack itself, and is nutritious.
This Instructable is for a grazing frame that didn't 100% work out the way I had hoped, but ultimately I'm happy with the results.
Wood (I used 1x4x8 and cut it into 2' sections)
Hardware cloth (or chicken wire)
Garden or potting soil
Seeds (I used buckwheat because it grows fast, is healthy, and is great for composting)
Seedlings (chicken/duck friendly herbs, greens, etc.)
Garden soil (with no chemicals, fertilizer, etc.)
Step 1: Frame Build
For the chickens I made a 2x2 box using scavenged wood. I had an 8ft piece and cut it into quarters.
For my ducks I plan to make a more narrow box as they are not likely to be able to jump onto the frame as my chickens can.
After cutting the pieces I nailed each corner together with 2-3 thin nails, about 1.5- 2" long.
I considered painting the box to match the rest of our colorful coop/run, but decided against it.
Step 2: Hardware Cloth
This was the pain in the butt part. Hardware cloth is annoying to work with if you're on your own. I was going to use chicken wire (also annoying) but decided against it as I was concerned it wouldn't hold the weight of my chickens and they'd squash the plants. The chicken wire also has larger holes (1.5-2") than the hardware cloth (1/4") and would make it easier for the chickens to tear entire plants out.
I used a staple gun to staple the hardware cloth along the sides of the box and then hammered down the pointy ends. If you have help, you may want to staple from the inside of the box.
Step 3: Planting! --Attempt 1
I cleaned out a corner of my run that the chickens have started digging in and put down top soil and chemical-free compost. Then I put the box down, threw in a bunch of buckwheat seeds, lightly topped those with more soil and watered.
I picked buckwheat seeds because it is nutritious for birds, grows quickly, and is a great add-in to compost. Maybe I bought a dud pack because I seeded the grazing frame in early May and it's now June and the buckwheat never grew. I even added more seeds a couple weeks ago, still nothing.
Step 4: Planting!---Attempt 2
Accepting that the buckwheat wasn't going to grow, I went to my local garden shop and bought an oregano and a pineapple mint plant (I'm obsessed with pineapple mint even though it doesn't seem as hardy as other mints). I chose these two because 1) mint spreads like a mofo, 2) mint grows back every year, 3) repels mice (we have some nesting in the cinder blocks around the coop that I set up for more herbs for our flock) 4) supposedly has a calming affect on chickens, which is helpful with body temps in summer. Oregano because 1) grows back, 2) natural anti-biotic and anti-inflammatory properties, 3) builds stronger immune systems.
So the changes I made here was to add a lot more soil to the grazing frame and plant seedlings directly in, I do recommend buying seedlings that are a LOT smaller than frame sides. It took me about a week or so between buying the seedlings and actually sticking them in the ground and in that time the oregano came a little unruly so I had to pull strands of it up through the hardware cloth.
Here you can see Angela Martin-Lipton-Schrute checking out my work.
Step 5: Enjoy!
Here are Pamela Morgan Beesley-Halpert and Kelly Kapoor checking out the plants. Hopefully this will bring them hours of entertainment in addition to healthy snacks.
Participated in the
For the Birds Speed Challenge