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Soil tests in the chicken pasture

Soil sampling

I'm writing over on my homesteading blog last week and next about balancing soil nutrients, but I thought I'd crunch the numbers about our chicken pastures here.  Let's take a look at the results:

CP3 and CP4 CP5
TEC 9.88 6.52
pH 5.9 5.9
%OM 5.48 4.27
S 38 32
P 99 51.48
Ca 2076 1259
Mg 350 254
K 613 541
Na 51 38
Ca % sat 52.56 48.26
Mg % sat 14.77 16.23
K % sat 7.96 10.63
Na % sat 1.12 1.28
other % sat 5.6 5.6
H % sat 18 18
B 0.58 0.48
Fe 306 340
Mn 60 36
Cu 4.06 3.84
Zn 13.28 28.74
Al 804 644

Wooded chicken pastureI know this probably looks like gobbledy-gook if you're not used to soil analysis, but there are some interesting factors to pull out of the chart.  First of all, notice that the two pasture areas are quite a bit different.  CP3 and CP4 have been within our core homestead from the start, so they have several extra years of being mowed as lawn, compared to CP5 which was woods until recently and still hasn't developed a solid sod.  Perhaps that's why the organic matter and CEC are quite a bit higher in CP3 and CP4 than in CP5?

Grassy chicken pasture

The next thing to look at is the soil cations, especially the figures that say "% sat".  If you're following the lead of Steve Solomon, you'll want the ratios of Ca:Mg:K:Na to be 68:12:4:2, and it looks like CP3 and CP4 are closer to that ratio than CP5 is.  Perhaps if I just kept grazing and mowing, the soil would reach the optimal levels all by itself?

Instead of waiting, though, I'm going to follow Solomon's advice and calibrate a series of soil amendments to raise these pastures' pH, correct micronutrient deficiencies, increase calcium levels, and decrease magnesium and potassium levels:

Pounds of amendments to add to each set of pastures:

CP3 and CP4 CP5 and CP6
Gypsum 27.64 16.9336
Ag lime 63.85 71.553
Borax 0.71 1.07
Manganese sulfate 0 3.6
Copper sulfate 1.4 1.708
Zinc sulfate 2 0

If I had enough manure or compost on hand, it would also be handy to topdress both of these pastures to raise the organic matter levels, but I'll count on the chickens to improve both, while also increasing the phosphorus levels.  It will be interesting to see whether these amendments make a difference in pasture growth and chicken health this year.

Our chicken waterer is perfect for pastures since hydrated chickens hunt more bugs.

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