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In the journey to being more sustainable–both, financially and environmentally– we must try new things and embark where others have told us not to.
Though there are many relatively affordable options for duck coop and chicken coop bedding that are also sustainable (pine straw, pine shavings, saw dust, mulch), there are always new materials to try that, in doing so, reduce the amount of labor and financial output needed to keep our duck and chicken friends happy and well-cared for.
By including our feathered friends in our permaculture systems, we can still stick to the permaculture methods that aim to close the loop while building more fertility to grow more food and plants in a sustainable and affordable way.
Which Plants Make Good Bedding For Ducks & Chickens?
Fast-growing, thick-leaved, easily-propagated, and edible roots, horseradish is a robust plant that is easy to fit into any corner. It grows back quickly once cut and is ready for harvest once the fall has truly set in. Horseradish also does well in low-light, shaded spots where other plants might not thrive.
Elephant ears are very popular, fast-growing, easy to propagate plants. In fact, depending on the type of elephant ear you are growing, you can split this plant by simply pulling a small elephant ear off the main plant and transplanting it elsewhere.
Elephant ears also grow well in boggy situations so it makes a perfect plant for poorly drained areas like…around a duck pond, where it will receive plenty of nutrition from the pond water and from the ducks as they go back and forth from the pond and also when they rest in the shade around the pond.
Equally as fast-growing as the other plants in this list, banana plants grow tall. Making them perfect for growing a shady shelter around ponds and also for chopping and dropping for mulch. The leaves are robust yet break down easily and can grow to be 3 or more feet long, depending on the type of banana plant you are growing.
While these are all great choices for the spring-fall seasons, these plants have a good rest during the winter and will not be producing leaves during that time, unless they are grown in containers and brought in for the winter. This would allow you to continue using these plants’ leaves for bedding throughout the winter, but also add the additional labor of having to drag the leaves outdoors instead of growing them right outside near where they are needed for your duck or chicken coop.
Some options for compostable chicken and duck bedding that can be grown for winter use include:
Tea plants are evergreen and keep their leaves throughout the year. Of course, the leaves can be harvested and dried for the making of tea, but if you do your bush trimming in the fall/winter, those prunings can be used to insulate and keep your duck and chicken coops’ floors covered for the winter.
You’ll probably only need just one, but collecting the straw dropped from pine trees will make for a highly absorbent, compostable bedding for your chickens or ducks.
Got trees in your yard? Those fall leaves make an excellent bedding for chickens and ducks and have the added attraction of making a great place for worms and other grubs to collect. Giving your flock some added protein as they flip and search through those leaves for the worms and bugs hiding there.
Where Should I Grow These Plants?
If your duck or chicken coop is on the ground, you can actually grow them right in place, given there is adequate sunlight available for the plants you have chosen.
Horseradish and comfrey do well in low light, but may also be eaten by the chickens or ducks before you have a chance to harvest their leaves. Fortunately, they’re nearly impossible to kill and both will grow back quickly.
Banana plants will make an excellent addition to a chicken or duck run since they grow tall, they will also provide shade during the hottest parts of the year. They also are heavy feeders, so planting them directly in a chicken or duck run means they’ll get plenty of chicken and duck poop to keep them going.