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Duckweed Lunch in a Chicken Coop

March 1, 2012

The young Guyanan boy was rinsing a pail of freshly harvested duckweed with a leaking garden hose when I first arrived.

He slipped a cloth over the top of the bucket and drained the water without losing a single green speck. A hopeful duck scurried at his feet looking for duckweed crumbs, but to no avail. Silently, the boy carried the bucket into the chicken house, hoping to reach the feeders before the chickens took notice.

I watched from a wall of wire netting as 500 chickens suddenly paused their scratching and clucking and gazed as one at the boy and his bucket. As if on cue, they made a noisy beeline for him, each fighting their way to the front to be the first to gobble theirs and their neighbor’s share of the offering.

The boy didn’t flinch. He moved slowly and carefully, filling one feeder, then another, and then another until all the birds had opportunity to dine.  He straightened to the musical din of feasting birds, his bucket empty and himself now unnoticed.

He feeds duckweed to this flock twice a day. He and his father grow the duckweed nearby in long, lightly shaded concrete ponds, fed by aged cattle manure tea. His father told me that this represents a feed savings of 25%. He also said that his laying hens began producing more eggs with better yolk color and better overall health since starting the duckweed program.

Lower feed costs, better health, sustainable feed production… Sounds like a win/win/win, doesn’t it?

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