Can I graze chickens in my orchard without compromising food safety in the fruit?
Answer: Grazing chickens in orchards is mutually beneficial to the birds and for fruit production. Orchards provide shade and food, while chickens control pests, insects, and weeds; eat dropped fruit, which prevents fungus and insect infestations; and also provide fertilizer. The USDA National Organic Program regulations require 90 days between fresh manure applications and harvest to be in compliance with USDA organic certification, so grazing should be complete 90 days prior to harvest.For more information on food safety on the farm, see the ATTRA publication An Illustrated Guide to Growing Safe Produce on Your Farm at https://attra.ncat.org/attra-pub/summaries/summary.php?pub=350. This publication discusses ways farmers can reduce produce contamination risk, which creates a safer food system and increases consumer confidence in their own products and farm at the same time.For more information on pastured poultry, see the ATTRA publication Alternative Poultry Systems and Outdoor Access at https://attra.ncat.org/attra-pub/summaries/summary.php?pub=222. This publication discusses differences between alternative and conventional production systems. Various aspects of free-range systems in the U.S. and abroad are presented. Common poultry housing approaches are also discussed, as well as integrating poultry production with vegetable production or livestock grazing. Considerations related to organic poultry production are presented. Production topics such as outdoor access, pasture management, and predator control are also addressed.