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So you’ve hatched or otherwise adopted some chickens and ducks and they don’t seem to be finding nearly as many bugs as you would like. Perhaps you’ve dug through the soil yourself and there doesn’t seem to be all that much for them to eat.
This is certainly an issue if your goal is to run the most sustainable homestead, edible landscape, food garden, or food forest you can possibly manage and close the loop for your plant-growing project.
Give Your Chickens and Ducks Table Scraps
Your feathered friends love a lot of foods. For a comprehensive list that mostly focuses on perennial foods you can grow in your edible landscape to feed your flock, check out this article.
For building up the grubs and bugs in your edible landscape, you’ll want to add something that will become downright nasty within the next few days. Ducks and chickens love boiled eggs, melons, strawberries, blackberries, just about any berry you can imagine. These sugary fruits are useful because of the speed with which they attract ants, which ducks and chickens also love to eat.
How to Improve the Foraging Environment As Quickly As Possible
You want something that breaks down FAST. Like grass clippings. Freshly mown grass when layered thickly attracts bugs within a few days. If the bags of grass you add have already been sitting for a day or two, they might already have some interesting bugs in them that ducks and chickens can immediately pounce on.
I’ve also found that thickly layered leaves are still a light enough mulch that ducks can easily sift through it and leaves still maintain plenty of moisture for pill bugs and slugs to comfortably live in.
Creating a “Worm Bin/Composting In Place” Environment
This requires having a thick layer of compostable materials on the surface of your edible landscape, food forest, or food garden. I’ve found leaves to be the most suitable mulch for creating an excellent environment that maintains moisture well, while also being easy for ducks to search through with their beaks, and also easy for chickens to scratch up and turn over with their kicking.
Leaves also break down a lot faster than wood chips but not as fast as grass clippings, meaning that you won’t have to go looking for bags of leaves every couple of weeks to keep your edible landscape well-mulched, and, if you are growing a lot of perennials and trees, in a few years, you may not need to bring in bags of leaves at all as chopping and dropping your plants and prunings will eventually become a sufficient mulch for keeping an organic layer that bugs and worms can live in.
Add Water To Your Edible Landscape or Food Forest To Speed Up The Break Down Of Your Mulch
Worms and bugs often need to be kept moist in order to stay alive. This is evidenced by flipping a forgotten planter and finding the earth-side covered in slugs and rollie pollies, also known as pill bugs.
Mulching The Edible Landscape May Also Attract Mice & Other Small Pests
Congrats! You’re successfully creating an entire ecosystem where cute, little rodents want to live. You may be wondering why you would want to attract rodents. It’s because ducks and chickens also eat mice and rats… you’re therefore increasing the amount of meat your birds can find and catch within your edible landscape system.
Adding More Plants That Attract Delicious Bugs For Your Ducks & Chickens
Throughout time, ducks and chickens have acted as an organic pest-control method in many gardens, farms, and vineyards. Right now, you might not have a particularly strong pest problem, especially if you’ve been practicing the principles of permaculture which include lots of companion planting, lots of different plants, and using these methods to choose plants that help hide the scent of would-be pest attractors.
That is all well and good but may not be beneficial in increasing the amount of grubs for your ducks and chickens to help increase their protein intake.
I’ve found that by adding more tomato plants…you attract more tomato pests, which include the tomato hornworm and lots of different caterpillars. When I started adding more bamboo to my edible landscape, I suddenly started seeing grasshoppers everywhere, everyday.
The Tomato Hornworm
At the time of recording this video, I did not know that this was a tomato hornworm or that, a year later, I would decide to adopt a crew of Indian Runner Ducks and take to my duties as a mother duck with glee and dedication. After coming across another one of these suspicious, and quite frankly, dangerous-looking bugs, I decided to collect him and give him to the Indian Runner Ducks to see if they would eat him, and they did. This led to me looking up tomato pests and I quickly came across the the actual name of this vicious-looking caterpillar.
Anyways, the point is, when you start adding more plants that have these monster pests, you attract more grubs for your birds to eat, while also, possibly, growing more food to harvest, assuming you’ve properly protected your plants from your greedy birds.
Currently in the process of adding Inland Oats to increase foraging for the ducks, which may also have the added benefit of attracting more grasshoppers. Will update this post as things progress!