Weltwärts volunteer, Pirmin Störh has been leading the charge in the maintenance and planning of our chickens and chicken yard. In his second blog about the work he is doing here at Kusamala, he outlines his plans for the chickens in the coming month.

Last week the chickens moved from yard #2 to yard #3, where they are going to stay for 4 weeks. Yard 3 still has good vegetation from the rainy season and a deciduous tree loosing huge leaves that are acting as mulch for most of the yard- so I am confident that this yard will provide a good environment for the chickens for the next few weeks.

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Chickens in yard 3

Yard 4, presents a little more of a problem as there is no vegetation (except for a few thorny shrubs) and the ground is hard as rock. For that reason I decided against replanting greens in this yard. Instead I mulched the whole area thickly, added a compost pile and a manure covered pile of old trunks, with the hope for all this to decompose and create a rich insect life which the chickens can feed on later. Furthermore they will loosen the soil by scratching the whole yard on their search for insects and add their manure, so that when it is time to move them, the soil will be improved and ready for planting. During this transitional period, I am going to plant pumpkin, comfrey and mustard in the residential garden to help supplement the chicken’s main diet of gaga or ground maize stover.

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Mulch in yard 4

Additionally, I am working to maintain the outer fence of the chicken yard. In December 2015, we planted succulents around the border of the yards, using Pedilanthus tithymaloides, or Devil’s Backbone, which is a succulent shrub with thick stems that grow in a zigzag pattern and Prickly Pear, using cuttings from plants growing around at the centre. Using these two plants together, we hoped to create a live fence. Unfortunately, only a handful of plants survived the rains, so I have planted more, and been more careful with their care. To prevent rotting I kept the cuttings in the office for a few days to dry the ends. Given that succulents don’t grow really fast, I used tall cuttings as we want to have a dense hedge in decent time. For growth improvement, I worked manure in to the soil. I also learned that the trick with watering these succulents is to keep the soil dry but the climate humid, so from now in I spray the soil around the cuttings every morning with water until they have rooted and then I will give more water to accelerate their growth.

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Devil’s Backbone as a mature shrub

In the next few weeks, I will also be planting yard 1 with buckwheat, pumpkin, arrowroot, amaranth and sorghum to provide greens for the chickens when they move to this yard.