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Los Angeles Urban Chicken Enthusiasts Message Board › Fruit trees and chicken poop

Fruit trees and chicken poop

Laura B.
Group Organizer
Norco, CA
Post #: 419
ok, I have a question for you, the fruit tree expert people :)

I made the huge mistake when I setup my run area (completely enclosed including top - 40x40, 7ft tall) to plant a few fruit trees, including avocado, guava, apricot and apple...

is there any hope for them? I can't control the poop that goes in all that area all day long and I've heard that is way too much acidity for the trees.

I've never trimmed them either... should I trim them now? is this the time? and with all that poop, what do you guys feed the trees to compensate? anyone has this problem?

Any hints on how to easily take care of these poor trees would be appreciated!
Laura B.
Los Angeles, CA
Post #: 81
Laura, you may have to move the trees or the chickens. Living in So Cal where most areas have strongly alkaline soil, it would take a lot of chicken poop to significantly change your soil's pH, so the problem will probably not be acidity. What I would worry about is that most fruit trees do not want the level of nitrogen that your trees may be getting. Some of it is going to depend on your soil. If you have sandy soil, then the excess nutrients may wash away and not harm the trees, but if you have dense clay then the nutrients that the chickens are depositing are going to hang around and may cause trouble.

Nitrogen encourages a lot of leafy green growth, which is not healthy for fruit trees that produce big, heavy fruits. The weaker growth spurred by excess nitrogen will break under the weight. Also, excess nitrogen can inhibit flower and fruit production because it causes the tree to focus energy on the leafy growth and away from reproductive growth.

Now is the time to prune most deciduous fruit trees. Prune no more than 20 - 30% of the growth. Remove crossing branches and growth that is touching other trees or structures. Most fruit trees benefit from a vase-shaped structure where three to four strong upright branches are encouraged to form a hollow center with the growth directed up and out. The hollow center encourages good air flow, which increases resistance to fungal infections (very important for apricots and apricot hybrids because you cannot use copper-based sprays on those trees, which is the most common treatment for fungus). When you are looking at the tree it may seem crazy, but most fruit trees bear better if you keep them short and compact. Short, sturdy limbs can bear the weight of a bumper crop far better than long limbs, which tend to bend and break.

The guava has to be treated a little different. I prune my pineapple guavas in fall immediately after they have finished bearing fruit. If you prune them now you will be cutting off all the buds that will become guavas.

I have not done avocado trees, so I cannot advise you on when to prune those.

I hope this helps.
Los Angeles, CA
Post #: 268
Hi Laura -
I'm curious about your comment re: copper and apricots. I've used copper spray on all my stone-fruit trees including my apricot for years. Apricots are listed on the label of the Liquicop that I use . . . I wonder what would a reason against using it? I haven't actually had any problems with my cots, I just spray it because I'm using copper on my nectarine and peach, so I figure I might as well do them all . . .
A former member
Post #: 161
Laura---A few things occur to me. First, your note does not actually say where the trees are planted---inside the run, next to the run, a few feet away?? It would seem the trees are not confined to the 7 ft headroom of your pen. What I would NOT want is the heavy scratching, and digging of holes that chickens like to do, around the surface feeder roots of fruit trees. Most of my big hens are confined to their own run.
Second, there is a wealth of information at the Dave Wilson tree nursery site http://www.davewilson...­
Years ago, I went to a talk entitled "Backyard Orchard Culture---how to grow fruit trees in minimal space" given by Tom Spellman from the Dave Wilson Tree company and I have been a fan ever since! He is the guy you see in the photo on the site and a wonderful, engaging speaker. The point is, left to their own inclinations, most fruit trees will reach 20 or more feet and spread and that is not managable for picking the fruit, spraying dormant sprays, pruning or fitting into the typical suburban back yard. Backyard Orchard Culture is just a method of training the trees to be miniaturized, by pinching, pruning and guiding from the very beginning. You can plant the trees several to a hole, in a row on 3 ft center spacing, or all sorts of other patterns. All this is explained in videos, photos and text on the Dave Wilson site. When my family let me take out our gargantuan swimming pool 4 years ago, I planted a row of seven fruit trees, 3.5 ft apart---- nectarine, plum, apricot, peach--- and followed the guidance I had learned from Tom Spellman. My first really fine crop was last year, on trees I had to net because of rats chewing the fruit--- but because I won't let them go higher than 8 ft, I can manage their production and health much easier.
Don't despair if your trees are already older and have not had much training (pruning, shaping) The website will help you with re-training older trees, too!! I also have 2 avocados, Hass and Zutano, and am training them as they are planted just a 2 ft apart (as if in the same hole---which the site talks about) With avocados and some other fruits, it is important to have a cross-pollinator, as they are not self-fertile. So, the 2 avocados I have are paired for that relationship. A really GOOD BOOK that you should have, published by Univ of CA Agriculture and Natural Resources (ANR) is the "Home Orchard---Growing your own deciduous fruit and nut trees" (ANR has a bunch of good titles for food growing) It is my 'Bible' and has helpful charts for the individual trees by calendar for management treatments. It is IPM (integrated pest management) slanted---you can do A LOT by spraying with dormant oils in the winter after all leaf drop. I use one sold at Home Depot which is formulated with lecithin and fish oils and seseme oil. This preventative gets the overwintering eggs of pest insects and spores of bad fungi and is very benign towards beneficial insects.
I think Laura got mixed up---it is SULPHUR products which should not be used on Apricots. Copper formulations work well to prevent shot-hole and brown rot fungus and must be applied preventativly before leaf-out---on the bare branches, in other words. The spores overwinter in the buds and attack later.
So, I know this is long-winded, but I hope helpful, and if you need to talk on the phone I am at 310-374-4779 Good luck!
Laura B.
Los Angeles, CA
Post #: 82
Sorry. Susan is correct, it is sulfur based sprays that should not be used on apricots and apricot hybrids. That is what I get for writing when I am sleep deprived. I was thinking copper is okay, so I wrote it.

my father used to say that his math professors would say 5, mean 6 and write 7. I suffer from that sometimes. wink
Kathleen T.
user 47725232
Los Angeles, CA
Post #: 3
I'm no fruit tree expert, but we built our chicken run beneath two mature orange trees and an avocado tree. They all bear so abundantly that we can't keep up with the fruit. The poop doesn't harm them at all. Perhaps this is because the trees are mature, and because I only have six chickens. Sometimes we scoop the poop up and put it in a separate compost bin to age, then mix it with other ingredients to make a killer organic fertilizer for our vegetable beds.
A former member
Post #: 12
I just want to say thank you to all of you for this fantastic advice! I'm getting a book and going to a lecture now, thanks to these posts.
A former member
Post #: 162
Kathleen---I agree, a large, mature tree is not going to decline from the effects of 6 hens at the base of the tree. Their roots are wide and well established, so even the digging and scratching is not detrimental. My friend Paul, in San Pedro has 10 Rhoad Island Reds and Amerucanas under his two huge orange trees and they are thriving. Only a young tree trying to get going would have problems with the digging if really pressed by lots of birds.
Laura B.
Group Organizer
Norco, CA
Post #: 421
I knew some of you were tree experts! WOW THanks so much Laura and Susan... lots of amazing information...

The trees I'm referring to are planted inside the run area... again, it's a fairly large area BUT I have 40 chickens! I do scoop the poop everyday, so I'm sure it's not THAT much poop that goes in...

What I have is decomposed granite mostly under the ground... my trees were planted a little over a year ago as very young trees, starting the give fruits...

I am such ignorant on how to care for them, AND with so many chickens, don't have much time --- i've never fed the trees with anything... because I'm afraid the chickens are going to eat it and it's not going to be good for them... I can't keep the flock away from the chickens without major work, so don't know what to do for the trees...

I wish I knew what their ph/ nitrogen/ levels are!

Susan, I will take the time to go over the links you provided... looks like that approach will work for me... I need easy ways to care for them... They are trapped in my run area and it's chain link over the top as well at 7 feet high.

When I planted them I was told to just prune them at 7 feet and that would be ok, but I didn't know I had 3 roosters at the time... when it became apparent they were boys and later I had to divide up the whole area and bring more hens for each of them, that is when my problems with my area began...

Last year I saw hundreds of flowers and bitty fruit coming in my avocado trees (two) and my guava fruit even became as big as two inch wide... they I LOST each single fruit from the avocados and guavas... the other didn't produce any fruit (apple, apricot)...

thanks so much guiding me - in my book, trees have Souls and it's cruel to not take care of them properly... :(
A former member
Post #: 164
OK---I was hoping the 7 foot headroom was NOT where the trees were confined, but there you are. You will need to keep them as "fruit bushes" which is dealt with on the Dave Wilson site. It is pretty radical at first---you have to do several pinching/pruning operations a year to avoid shocking them with so-called dormant season, once a year pruning. Backyard orchard culture is different than the standard texts advise for pruning and training fruit trees---pruning cuts can be made by small amounts all the time. If you do not know or remember the names of your avocados, you may have two of the same A or B fruiting types which will cause poor fruiting. If you still have the plant tags and can look up the types, figure out the situation like that by consulting the Internet or Dave Wilson's tree list. I would not worry about fertilizing your trees at all. There will be more than enough fertilizer from the birds. Once your trees are established with a far ranging root system they are really self sufficient. You don't need to know the soil profile on N or pH either. It can't really be changed anyway, but managing fungal/pest issues with dormant spraying, proper pruning/training, and even moisture levels are more fundamental in building strong trees. My trees are on Netafim or Toro drip tubing, with emitters built into the tubing at one-foot intervals, delivering a gallon per hour. The tubing is virtually indestructible (except to shovels and cutting tools!!) and laid down as one long run encircling each tree in the row. You can get the Toro brand at Home Depot and the system is really easy to set up with a timer clock run on a battery to irrigate on a schedule. DIG makes the lil timer clock, also at HD
I do not fertilize my trees, per se, but scatter the bedding from the chicken coop that I clean out daily with the soiled shavings. I am surprised you got no blooms on the apple---they are usually pretty prolific.
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