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Hazelnuts and poultry

 
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Hi everyone,
I got recently interested in growing hazelnuts but i've seen that it is almost impossible (at least west europe) to grow them organically because the nut weevil can cause up to 80% yield loss and there are no certified way to counter their population.
Basically the instect lays it eggs in young hazelnuts during spring, the larvae grows withing the nut which falls during fall. Then the larvae burry thelmselves under the soil and go out as adults next spring.
I was then thinking if anyone has experience with running poultry in a hazelnut orchard (especially turkeys that could probably swallow fallen hazelnuts).
 
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Great question.
We have hazelnut trees scattered about and at certain times of year, the chickens love scratching around their base.  Mostly winter and spring.  I often wondered why.

So far, the squirrels have gotten every single nut, so I don't know if we have the weevil.  
 
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I get a lot of info on growing Hazelnuts from this web site:   https://www.growveg.com/guides/a-guide-to-growing-your-own-hazelnuts/
You might try your question there also. There MAY be a different answer to the control of the insect there.
 
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I'm glad you brought up this topic.

I have many hazelnut bushes of different ages (many of them just a couple of years old), as well as several laying hens which I keep semi-free range.  Luckily so far, I haven't noticed any nut weevil issues - but in truth, I haven't yet harvested too many nuts either, because my bushes are still quite young.

I've been reluctant to let my hens near the hazelnut bushes, because I've noticed that these plants have superficial roots (especially as I've been mulching them heavily with compost, wood chip, and other organic matter), and the hens can very quickly expose the roots, and even damage (break / tear / shred) the thinner ones.

So I've been wondering: does the advantage of hens keeping the bugs under control outweigh the risks / potential harm of exposed / damaged roots?  Will the bushes suffer a setback if their roots are damaged in this way?  Will the larger, mature bushes be able to withstand the stress, as opposed to the very young ones?
 
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Levente Andras wrote:I'm glad you brought up this topic.

I have many hazelnut bushes of different ages (many of them just a couple of years old), as well as several laying hens which I keep semi-free range.  Luckily so far, I haven't noticed any nut weevil issues - but in truth, I haven't yet harvested too many nuts either, because my bushes are still quite young.

I've been reluctant to let my hens near the hazelnut bushes, because I've noticed that these plants have superficial roots (especially as I've been mulching them heavily with compost, wood chip, and other organic matter), and the hens can very quickly expose the roots, and even damage (break / tear / shred) the thinner ones.

So I've been wondering: does the advantage of hens keeping the bugs under control outweigh the risks / potential harm of exposed / damaged roots?  Will the bushes suffer a setback if their roots are damaged in this way?  Will the larger, mature bushes be able to withstand the stress, as opposed to the very young ones?



that's very interesting, I guess you should only let the chickens graze so far that they don't expose bare soil just like you wouldn't let cows overgraze with rotational grazing techniques. As well as moving them under the hazels at strategic times (when the first contaminated nuts start to fall on the ground ) as to break the weevil's cycle.
From what i've seen it would be beneficial to let chickens cut grass quite short at the beginning of winter so that frosts kill the larvae in the soil.
Some beetles are said to prey on the larvaes as well so it may be beneficial too to create habitats for those.
 
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Marceau Oppermann wrote: I guess you should only let the chickens graze so far that they don't expose bare soil



Ah, but that's very difficult if not impossible to control if the bush is mulched, because the hens are attracted by the mulch (compost, wood chip) like a magnet, they go straight for it, and they can dismantle the mulch layer within minutes - and guess what? Right under the first 2-3 cm of mulch are the roots...!
 
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What about ducks? I have read that ducks, if large enough, can eat acorns..

A hazelnut is not an acorn... but maybe..?
 
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Cross crossing small, twiggy branches around the base of trees will stop chickens from scratching up the roots.
 
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Sue Rine wrote:Cross crossing small, twiggy branches around the base of trees will stop chickens from scratching up the roots.



I placed large stones around the base of some of the bushes, but I can't do that with all of them - I have about 70 hazelnut bushes, some mature, some very young.  That would involve shifting a few tonnes of stones...
 
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How about placing chicken wire down over the roots?
Of course stopping the chickens from scratching might keep the larva safe.

What if you caught the falling nuts in window screen nets?
Collect them all,soak them,   crush them, heat them,feed them to the chooks.
No insects larva reaches the soil, the chooks stay out of the hazel roots , and you still break the reproduction cycle.

I would be inclined to let the chickens have at it.
I have heard that hazels are quite resilient.
If the hazels can't deal, maybe they aren't tough enough for permaculture?
Are there other plants can deal with chicken around their roots?
Are there pest resistant hazels?

 
Levente Andras
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William Bronson wrote:How about placing chicken wire down over the roots?
Of course stopping the chickens from scratching might keep the larva safe.

What if you caught the falling nuts in window screen nets?
Collect them all,soak them,   crush them, heat them,feed them to the chooks.
No insects larva reaches the soil, the chooks stay out of the hazel roots , and you still break the reproduction cycle.

I would be inclined to let the chickens have at it.
I have heard that hazels are quite resilient.
If the hazels can't deal, maybe they aren't tough enough for permaculture?
Are there other plants can deal with chicken around their roots?
Are there pest resistant hazels?


I have not noticed the weevil in my hazelnuts yet.  So we may be safe for a while.  But in case the weevil does show up some day, it would be good to be able to have the chickens take care of it.  Even before then, the area where I planted the hazels is also a good place for chicken grazing - so I'd like them to have access to it.

It may well be that the mature, robust hazels won't mind the chickens scratching around their base, even if they do expose a bit of the roots. So I will probably exclude/protect the small, vulnerable bushes (which haven't started to produce many nuts anyway) and allow access to the larger ones.
 
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I was fortunate enough to buy land in southern OR that is heavily populated with hazelnuts of many ages - from large mature ones to new-borns... scattered throughout my 5 acres.  In an area near my chicken house and garden is a tidy grove of large ones and I surrounded it with metal t-posts holding a double layer of deer netting with logs holding down the base. I set it up as a large "run" for my hens, who have a very safe covered run as well when they need it.  The hazelnuts have THRIVED with the hens (although I have never had more than 6 hens at a time).  They create dust baths at the bases. I cut long shoots every year to make wattle and trellises, etc. and leave the bits and pieces on the ground when I clean off the side branches. This discourages some digging - but I have to say that even where there aren't branches protecting the soil it hasn't mattered. The hazels are thriving and growing bigger and faster than any on the land. Granted they get a bit of water now and then that the others don't get - and of course - chicken poop! But they are NOT suffering - they are very happy!    

So - if you can get them to an age where they are well established - I can tell you from experience they will be fine with hens. They provide wonderful cover from hawks and lovely shade in the summer. In the fall I throw in masses of oak leaves for the hens to dig through all winter - getting worms and overwintering bugs.


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