Author Archives: Marcus Descant

Hatchery Progress

Moving Forward in the Hatchery

Because our main goal is sustainability, localization is a must, so to keep you from having to ship heirloom chickens across the country, we hatch them right here in town.  Individual coops must be built for each breed to insure purity, at the moment we have 1 breed availlable.  Recently I cleared an area in my tiny shed for hatching, brooding, and growing out a few.  With the exception of incubators, I’ve made all of my own equipment, out of lumber being thrown away along my daily route.  This gives me the freedom of design, I can’t buy a grow off cage with perches to allow the chicks to fly around, but I can make one.  This is a very small operation, so it may take a little time to fill your order, but our size allows us to concentrate on quality.

We’ve been spreading lots of little Brown Speckled Sussex through out South Louisiana this spring.  Showing folks just how great forgotten heirloom breeds can work in the backyard, both as pets, and providers.  This fall we’re adding a Belgium Bantam to our City Chick line-up, D’uccle(due-clay) Mille Fleur(color name).  We chose these for several reasons, this breed is known to be very docile, quiet, and tamable, making them a great match for kids and suburbs.  At first glance, these birds are striking, not your grandma’s chicken, don’t be fooled by the show, these little birds will grant you an egg every other day, and gobble down table scraps, garden debris, and juicy bugs.  Picture right are 3 weeks old.

The Polyculture Lawn

The Polyculture Lawn isn’t a new concept, it’s a law of nature.  As a country we use more nitrogen on lawn grass than we do on food, and we use alot on food!  When we use synthetic nitrates we rely on non-renewable resources to manufacture and transport fertilizer.  When we use legumes(clover) nitrogen is created on location by a plant, so why not let the lawn do the work?  By planting legumes that partner well with turf grass you could reduce water and nitrogen needs, saving you money.

If we put all those resources into such a coveted thing, why would we leave it open to damage/infestation all winter?  Applications are most effective in fall, so that the clover is occupying space that would be taken by weeds, like in this picture(right).  This won’t increase the need for maintenance, it doesn’t grow very much, however it’s the first thing on the ground in the spring, so weeds don’t stand a chance.  The great thing about this nitrogen is there’s no run off, it’s embedded into the soil.  A synthetic turf fertilizer typically has alot of nitrogen, however that doesn’t do you much good if most of it is going down the drain.  Synthetic fertilizers are water soluble which means they’re very mobile during rain, most of it ends up in the bayou.  In May the clover will die back, exposing a lush healthy lawn that’s been growing just fine with the clover.  St. Augustine especially benefits from clover, it’s shade tolerance keeps it happy below a clover canopy, as well as it loves the humidity provided by this lush ground cover.

Feed Crop 

There’s no other way to keep it that local, make your own fertilizer, did I mention you’re also making some great chicken feed? If you’re also raising chickens this helps complete the system.  My birds graze on clover every evening just before dark, this saves me the trouble of rounding them up.  While they’re eating the clover they also leave behind some more nitrogen.  Be careful not to allow them to over free range to the extent that they eat turf grass, these can be hard to replace.

So What’s It Look Like?

2 weeks growth in the spring, it’s full but not bushy.  Crimson cuts at 3 inches with no problem thanks to a fat center stalk that holds it in place instead of shimmering, this gives you a better cut. (below taken after cut)

Or you can keep your “monoculture”

 (this picture below taken the same day in another yard, the color is a cry for help)

(to right is  a grab bag of spring weeds provided by nature, these don’t cut or look as well in the lawn)


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City Chicks

The ultimate goal of The Urban Naturalist is to improve urban ecosystems.  A Great way to do that is with chickens.  All of our kitchen and garden waste go to our hungry chickens.  In return I receive an egg a day from each hen, some of the best garden soil you’ll ever grow in, and if your up for it, meat.