Getting ready for winter

straw.jpgHere’s something new at CLUCK this year: organic barley straw. We plan to use it in our nest boxes and maybe throw some into the run to give the girls something to scratch around in when the winter gets long and cold. Kind of an organic boredom buster.

Most people who only have a few chickens don’t want a whole bale of straw. We’ve learned that once the binder twine is off, a single bale makes a surprisingly large and messy pile. If it sits around too long, it can attract mice. If it gets damp it will get moldy. So we probably will break up the bales and sell straw in smaller packages that should be more practical for people to keep in the garage or in a garden shed. We’ll also be happy to sell whole bales to folks who want them.

Barley straw doesn’t have the characteristic pretty gold color of oat straw but it’s a little softer with what we think will be finer pieces. We think it will be a good nest box liner, and it should loft up well for something chickens can dig through and play with during those long, dark days of winter. Ask us about it next time you’re in the store.

We got this load of straw from a friend who is an organic farmer in the Viroqua area, which is a real hotbed for organic farming, not just locally, but nationally. A lot of farmers in the SW part of the state have been organic for many years, but the concentration of organic farms also has grown thanks to companies like Organic Valley and to local restaurants that have created a reliable market for organic products. We all benefit from having that great resource close at hand.

The idea of organic straw raises a question we hear often at CLUCK: what makes organic better? In this case, we certainly aren’t eating the straw ourselves so there can’t be any nutritional difference. We can be assured, however, that the straw doesn’t contain any harmful chemical residues that might end up in the eggs we eat. But the main reason we choose organic is that organic farming practices are better for the air, water and soil. Every time we choose organic, we make a choice for the long-term welfare of the Earth we all depend on.