Thursday, February 24, 2011

Feeding the Chooks

Ian Simons from Helidon has spent some years doing interesting research on perennial plants as food sources for free-range chickens.
He has tested the popularity among his flock, of the seeds and fruits of various plants, both native and exotic, and his results might interest those of you who would like to plant local natives where your chooks roam.
Ian’s birds “ate avidly” the seeds of our local wattle species the “Brisbane” wattle Acacia fimbriata, and the Queensland Silver wattle A. podalyriifolia.

They were equally enthusiastic about the fruits of our local trees, the soap ash Alphitonia excelsa, (left), scrub tuckeroo Cupaniopsis parvifolia (below), and the shrub native indigo Indigofera australis.

The spring fruits of the ruby saltbush Enchylaena tomentosa (below) were very popular with “the girls”,

as were the summer ones of kangaroo apple Solanum aviculare, and the autumn ones of sweet Jasmine jasminum suavissimum.

They also loved the summer fruits of the large, thorny scrambler, cockspur thorn Maclura cochinchinensis (at left).

This is not a plant that many would choose to put in their gardens, but if you already have some, especially those heavily fruiting plants which can climb high into a tree canopy, you might consider retaining them for the sake of the poultry. Don’t forget that you will need at least one male plant to keep the females fruiting.
Ian's work is ongoing, so we may hear of other interesting results in the future. You might like to read his research
Meanwhile, other friends report that their chooks love the fruits of their little whalebone trees Streblus brunonianus so much that they will stretch their necks and jump to reach them. This is another plant that needs a male to keep the females producing fruits.
Do any readers have other reports of native plants that are poultry favourites?

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