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Is it OK to feed the grass along the side of the road to my chickens?

Ken Little

Q. Is it OK to cut the grass along the side of the road that the road crew has planted and feed it to my chickens?

A. Dr. Jessica Mack,of Hanover Regional Animal Hospital in Wilmington previously was in mixed animal practice, caring for all different types of farm species.

“There is mixed opinion regarding feeding grass clippings to chickens and all livestock. The positive aspect is they provide great, fresh nutrition as well as entertainment,” Mack said in an email response to the question.

“The negative aspects are molds and toxins forming in the grass as it decays – this generally happens when people stockpile the clippings to use later, which can lead to intoxications and crop (the out-pocket of the esophagus before the stomach) infections,” Mack said.

Clippings, “especially those of longer lengths, can cause impactions as they are not broken down enough with chewing, and again can lead to some problems like crop distension or intestinal impactions.”

“Some people find ‘mulched’ clippings do not cause this issue,” Mack said.

“Also, you would not want to feed any grass treated with pesticides or herbicides.”

Steve Abbott, spokesman for the N.C. Department of Transportation, said a private person could not mow the right-of-way areas on her own to create the clippings.

“You can mow your yard as it approaches the road, but you are not able to mow along the side of the road in our right of way for an extended area without proper equipment, insurance, and setting up traffic control.”

But is there any legal barrier to clippings produced by state-sanctioned mowing being used for the chickens?

“The answer is no,” Abbott responded.  “The biggest question is the safety issue when someone is trying to collect the clippings.”

Mack suggested another use for the clippings: creating a compost pile using the clippings, used chicken bedding and droppings “to make a very good mulch for vegetable gardens.”

“Chickens are also very content to help clear out vegetable gardens after low-growing crops have been harvested and with taller crops they can provide good bug control,” Mack said.

N.C. Cooperative Extension “has excellent resources for backyard poultry and mini-farms as well,” Mack said.

Cooperative Extension offers classes on care “and a great pdf resource online,” she said.

Go to http://www.ces.ncsu.edu/depts/poulsci/tech_manuals/Backyard_Chickens.pdf.

Also: https://lincoln.ces.ncsu.edu/2015/02/raising-backyard-chickens/

Hanover Regional Animal Hospital is located at 206 Treadwell St. Its website is http://www.hrahnet.com/.

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