Chickens and Groves, stacking enterprises

All around the farm in Homestead and the Redland area it is full of groves, primarily Avocado groves, but also Mango and a few other tropical fruit. 99% of them are not organic and use herbicides to keep the weeds down under the trees and in the pathways. As you drive around the area you can see block after block of fenced in groves with brown deadness underneath them. All I can think is what a waste of space and what a shame that they are regularly putting down hundreds of pounds of chemicals into the ground and into the aquifer that all of our farms depend on.

chicken tractors in between avocado trees at Bee Heaven Farm

chicken tractors in between avocado trees at Bee Heaven Farm

Chickens and groves are like peas and carrots. There is plenty of research, experience and literature supporting the many facets of the symbiotic relationship between these two enterprises. At Bee Heaven Farm we have 10 chicken tractors fertilizing and mowing our 2 acres of Avocado groves while simultaneously laying eggs for us to sell. Inside each tractor, which is basically a bottomless metal chicken coop with wheels, live 7 to 10 chickens. They get moved to a fresh patch of grass twice a week making their way down the pathways between rows of Avocado trees (and in

mowed and fertilized path left behind as the tractor is moved

mowed and fertilized path left behind as the tractor is moved

some sections Mango, Longan and Lychee trees). This system works very well for many reasons. It is very easy and quick to maintain; it takes only a few minutes to refill feed and water as well as move each one. The chickens are laying delicious/nutritious eggs with bright and firm yolks because they get a daily diet of grass and bugs along with their organic feed. As the tractors are moved along they leave behind a weed free path and the chicken manure that is also left behind serves as a balanced fertilizer for the fruit trees. Using this system a farmer can produce two different products to sell on the same acreage.

In my opinion, all of the conventional groves in the area could be raising eggs or chicken meat using this system and instead of spending money on chemicals they could be making twice as much money on the same amount of land.

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9 Responses to “Chickens and Groves, stacking enterprises”


  1. 1 tracy 30 September 09 at 7:05 am

    Nicely done, Margie!

  2. 2 Angelo 3 December 09 at 1:45 pm

    I just planted a couple of avocado trees in the chicken run, along with our other fruit trees, but then I read that all parts of the avocado tree are toxic to birds. Have you had any problems with that or do you clear leaf litter and stuff before you move your chicken tractor ahead? I was thinking that the chickens might not be interested in avocado tree parts anyway, but I want to be safe.

    • 3 Farmer Margie 3 December 09 at 3:26 pm

      Well, I never heard of such a thing, and we don’t take any particular precautions. When the trees were small, the tractors sat between the trees themselves. Now that they’re bearing and much larger, they travel down the ailes between the rows of trees, rather than right in there. Either way, though, they get into the leaves, downed branches, and definitely the overripe avocados themselves! We have plenty of birds that nest in the trees, too, like doves, cardinals, bluejays, and I sure don’t see any toxicity.

      • 4 Angelo 4 December 09 at 2:01 pm

        Hi Farmer Margie,

        Thanks for the reply. What kind of avocado trees are you growing? A rare fruit person has informed me that they have varying levels of toxicity. I have mexicola avocados.

        take care,

        Angelo

  3. 5 arosenzweig 15 May 14 at 7:20 pm

    Could you tell me about any predator incidents you might have had? I like many things about chicken tractors but most of them have no skirt / apron to deter digging predators. Do you move yours every day? Have you had any incidents with foxes etc? This tractor has a lot to get excited about but I don’t want to lose our girls.

  4. 6 pikappalambdaeta 18 April 17 at 2:05 pm

    I am fascinated by this combination of enterprises, because it combines two of my passions: avocados and chickens! Are you still farming this way? Do you have to apply any additional fertilizers? Thanks for sharing!

    • 7 pikappalambdaeta 18 April 17 at 2:05 pm

      Also, can predators dig under the tractors?

      • 8 Farmer Margie 25 April 17 at 8:16 am

        They can. However, we’re in what is euphemistically dubbed as “Krome gravelly soils”. We have a pretty solid base of limestone rock right under a light covering of soil. There are deeper pockets, and we have had predators, particularly stray dogs (and a coyote), “dig” in. Once they get their snouts under the edge of the lightweight end, it’s simple for them to muscle their way in.
        Our low-tech solution was to simply put a CBS block on top of the lid on that end of the tractor. We’ve seen evidence of attempts to dig in since then, without success….except for the python, but that’s for another post.

    • 9 Farmer Margie 25 April 17 at 8:11 am

      Yes, we do. We generally rotate the chickens in the open walkways, and out of the harvesting area when it’s time to harvest or trim the trees. We apply a fertilizer approved for organic production. Fruit trees generally need lower nitrogen (N) and higher potassium (K) to promote proper fruiting, so you want a formulation that provides a lower N:K ratio.


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