Kumu Aina learns about keeping chickens the Korean Natural Farming way. I was so proud of my free range hens because they were natural and free roaming. They were every where on the farm; walking, running, scratching, pecking, mating, and eating bugs. But when it came time to reap the rewards, i.e., eggs, it was like Easter Sunday, running at the sound of cackling hens in an effort to retrieve the prize. We’d stumble upon a nest and excitingly collect them in our arms and walk to the kitchen to announce our find. At times, eggs were hard to come by and we often didn’t find any. I started to buy them from neighboring farms at six dollars a dozen for organic grain fed and four dollars a dozen for GMO corn and grass fed. Even though the organic eggs were fed organic grain, they lacked flavor with pale yellow yokes and the GMO eggs, well, contained genetically modified feed, but, were also fed grass so they tasted better from the carotene and had a more orange tint to the yolks. So, I had no eggs on my farm with 20 hens, or I could buy organic tasteless eggs or GMO carotene enriched eggs. Something had to change.
I had seen and heard of a few neighbors keeping chickens using a method called Natural Korean Farming (NKF). Essentially, you can coop up a large number of hens in a hen house and it doesn’t smell from chicken manure because it contains a living floor that absorbs the poop and smell. The floor consists of about 6 to 12 inches of mulch inoculated with IMOs or indigenous microrganisms. These microrganisms eat the bird droppings. Chickens have one vent, and out from it comes poop and urea (a whitish material of solid urine) and eggs. In my opinion, the worst smelling manure on the farm comes from chickens and pigs. If this method is going to give me eggs and not smell, well, I’m on board!
I visited two farms using the NKF way, a commercial operation with over a hundred hens and a sustainable homesteader with only three hens, both getting plenty of eggs in a most sanitary and pleasing-to-the-nose way. I explained to my husband, Bob, how I would like to have this type of coop on the farm and not even a week later the coop and run were built. We had an old coop that the free range chickens never used anymore, so $100 in material (2 x 4s and chicken wire) for the run and the task was accomplished. Bob lined the run with cinder blocks and placed the wood frame on top after we filled it with about 6-8″ of mulch. Next making IMOs and catching all the chickens on the 9-acre farm.
You can make your own IMOs and it’s not too difficult but it takes about 3-4 weeks. There are plenty of sites to google to learn about how it is done exactly so I’m not about to duplicate it here. Farms are making living floors in their covered barns, housing animals, including pigs, with no smell or visible waste. In addition, what is nice is that when it comes time to replace the mulch, you can use it to feed your trees, plants etc. and start again with fresh mulch and IMOs. We also spread out a large bag of Hawaii Biochar a local product which will become more valuable as a fertilizer as it absorbs nitrogen and other nutrients from the chicken manure. Pictured are the IMOs and rice being strained. Afterward, we placed them in fermented fruit juice and using a water can sprinkled them inside the coop.
Most of my free range chickens preferred to roost in trees. Some chose the rambutan fruit tree (which is known for its dislike of nitrogen) and the others in a rolinia fruit tree. So at dusk, we attempted to pluck them from their nightly resting spots and place them in the coop. It took about three days to get them all and it was fun in a fall-down-and-land-in-the-mud kind of way. Humans chasing farm animals is a fun farm sport which must be done in a way that minimizes injuries and trauma to the animals being chased and to the humans who are doing the chasing. In this case, my border collies also contributed to the confusion, chasing, and catching. But, alas, not too terribly bad injuries, and just a lot of, well, plain fun.
Sit back and collect eggs? Well, not exactly, but in my next segment, I will tell you how I went from 1-2 eggs a day to at least a dozen.
If you have any questions, leave a comment and we’ll be happy to answer them. Mahalo.
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