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Poultry for Pest Management. Debbie Roos North Carolina Cooperative Extension Chatham County Center. Benefits of Integrating Crops and Livestock. Nutrient cycling and conservation Utilization of crop residues Economic diversification Reduced need for off-farm imports Weed management

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Poultry for pest management l.jpg

Poultry for Pest Management

Debbie Roos

North Carolina Cooperative Extension Chatham County Center


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Benefits of Integrating Crops and Livestock

  • Nutrient cycling and conservation

  • Utilization of crop residues

  • Economic diversification

  • Reduced need for off-farm imports

  • Weed management

  • Insect management


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Poultry as Biological Control Agents

  • Not as common as the use of arthropods and microbes for pest management

  • Lack of research

  • Large investment in labor and land

  • Requires skill and experience


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Poultry as Biological Control Agents

  • Most of the focus has been on geese for weed management

  • The use of poultry for insect pest management is poorly documented

  • Turkeys used in colonial times for insect control in tobacco


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Poultry Food Preferences

  • Chickens – omnivores

  • Turkeys - omnivores

  • Ducks - omnivores

  • Geese – herbivores


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Are Chickens Effective Biological Control Agents?

  • Studies in Michigan looked at apples intercropped with potatoes

  • 4 pests were studies: plum curculio, apple maggot, Japanese beetle, and Colorado potato beetle

  • Plots were ~3,000 ft2 stocked with 10-19 Barred Plymouth Rocks (density varied due to predation)

  • Chickens were allowed to free-range during the day and closed in coops at night; they were provided with feed twice a day


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Pastured Chicken Diet Analysis: Insects(these invertebrates represent a small portion of insects consumed)

  • Japanese beetles

  • Tarnished plant bugs

  • Flea beetles

  • Colorado potato beetle

  • Leaf beetles

  • Wireworms, click beetles

  • Caterpillars

  • Leafhoppers

  • Cicadas

  • Slugs

  • Ants

  • Flies


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Pastured Chicken Diet Analysis: Insects(these invertebrates represent a small portion of insects consumed)

  • Ground beetles

  • Hover flies

  • Soldier beetles

  • Rove beetles

  • Assassin bugs

  • Spiders

  • Parasitic wasps

  • Earthworms

  • Earwigs


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Are Chickens Effective Biological Control Agents?

  • Some insect pests were reduced in the chicken plots, especially Japanese beetles

  • However, chickens provided no clear crop protection benefits in either year – no differences in pest damage or crop yield

  • Perhaps higher stocking rates would translate into reduced pest damage


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Poultry Foraging Behavior

  • Missouri study examined Cornish Cross broilers in pastured day-range system

  • The amount of sun and the time of day had the most impact on foraging activity

  • Broilers spent more time outside foraging during the early morning (45% of birds) and late afternoon (29%), compared to 24% around noon.

  • The mean number of birds foraging during overcast conditions (20.1) was higher than during full sun (13.6).

  • To maximize foraging, provide shade and remove feeders in the morning when birds are most likely to forage


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Joel Salatin’s Observations

  • Chickens are great pasture sanitizers –they love cleaning up fly larvae from cow paddies!

  • He lets chickens range in the garden to “cream” the area – and removes them after 1-2 days before they run out of insects and start going after the crops


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Chickens and Fire Ants?

Anecdotal evidence:

  • Farmer has had success with using Rhode Island Reds to clean up fire ant mounds


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The Best Foragers(source: ALBC)

  • Dominique – eggs, meat

  • Holland – eggs, meat

  • Java - meat

  • Dorking – eggs, meat

  • Blue Andalusian - eggs

  • Minorca - eggs

  • Campine - eggs

  • La Fleche – eggs, meat

  • Welsumer – eggs, meat


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So, will chickens help control my insect pests?

  • Yes! But this may or may not translate into reduced pest damage; need more research on stocking rates

  • Turkeys are generally considered better foragers than chickens, but no research on their effectiveness as biological control agents

  • Adopt strategies to maximize foraging behavior (breed selection, shade, etc.)


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