The best organic farming always is when you know how to use nature as it is.

As our knowledge of the harmful effects of agricultural chemicals grows, more and more farmers and consumers are rediscovering their organic history, returning to the methods of old, such as plucking insect pests and weeds by hand and hoe, and amending soil with natural fertilizers—compost. The joy in growing your own food is the joy in savoring its delicious flavor and in providing good food for others to enjoy. Discover how to rebuild your garden with an organic foundation and produce the vegetables, fruits and herbs that will nourish your family and the families of those who purchase your produce.
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Millipedes, Centipedes, compost Bugs and Chickens

Some folks confuse millipedes with centipedes. These two groups of many-legged, creepy-crawlies belong to different arthropod classes. Millipedes are round bodied and have two pairs of legs per body segment. They are vegetarian and help with the decomposition process. Millipedes are not the same as centipedes. Centipedes are flat-bodied and have only one pair of legs per body segment. Centipedes kill worms. Millipedes do not. None of these pests transmit diseases to plants, animals, or humans. Millipedes are vegetarians while centipedes are carnivores. They don’t damage furnishings, homes, or food—but they can frighten people.

Centipedes are fast moving predators found mostly in the top few inches of the compost heap. They have formidable claws behind their head which possess poison glands that paralyze small red worms, insect larvae, newly hatched earthworms, and arthropods - mainly insects and spiders. Millipedes are slower and more cylindrical than centipedes and have two pairs of appendages on each body segment. They feed mainly on decaying plant tissue but will eat insect carcasses and excrement. All of her creatures, big and small, serve a very specific purpose. Therefore, if you see these bugs in your compost pile, rest assured it's for a very good reason.

 Millipedes and centipedes

Active composting generates a lot of heat during the initial breakdown phases and most bugs are not attracted to such conditions. On the other hand, since passive composting methods don't tend to generate as much heat, bugs are more prone to be found in these systems. That is not to say, you'll never find these bugs in an active compost system, you'll just tend to see less of them...at least until the pile cools down. These specific compost critters have the ability to break down larger ingredients in your compost. That's why they're sometimes referred to as "shredders". This shredding of larger parts into smaller parts allows smaller organisms, such as the bacteria, to finish the process.

At night they venture out and feed on decomposing organic material. They will feed on the tender foliage, stems and roots of young garden vegetable transplants, seedlings, and bedding plants. They also rasp the outer skin of cucumbers lying on the ground in gardens, causing fruit to be deformed and blemished. Most gardeners do not categorize them as pests, but think of them as beneficials for converting decayed vegetation into humus. They help to break down the contents, they also feed on vegetables and can destroy seedlings, small benefits they confer are far outweighed by the harm they can cause, particularly when their numbers are high.

 Compost bugs

To exclude millipedes from entering your home, walk around the outside of your house with some sealant and a caulking gun. Seal up any cracks in the foundation and around any cables, wires, and plumbing that enter the house. Take your time with this, as they can get through the tiniest openings imaginable. Inside moisture control is a very important step in getting rid of millipedes because they require high humidity to live. The more you can dry out your home, the better. Install a few dehumidifiers and set up some fans in rooms that don’t get a lot of air flow. Make sure you don’t have any leaky plumbing in the walls, ceilings, or under sinks. If the faucets are dripping, fix it. Move furniture around to find their nice, damp little hidey-holes.

So how does chicken get into this story?

Well, it so happen that when chickens started to free-range some time ago, it was noticed that the millipede infestation problem was diminishing. At first it was thought it must be the cooler wet season that had discouraged the bugs, but now that the sun is out, there are still no problem as did previous year, thanks to the chickens! So if anyone has the problem with millipede migration, you can attest to an easy solution: chickens. They love those critters and enjoy the free meals.

Chickens and bugs

Free range chickens are chickens which are raised on pasture and allowed to feed themselves on a normal diet of grass and bugs. They are free to range over the ground, out in the sunshine and fresh air, eating what they choose. They may eat some commercial grain based food, but they are not confined in cages. Chickens are scavengers and omnivores, and they need protein in addition to plant foods. Bugs, grubs and worms provide this protein and contribute to the chicken’s optimal state of health. If allowed, they will spend a great deal of their time scratching and scavenging over wide areas, looking for food. Chickens and compost are “a match made in heaven”, because of their love of digging and scratching.

You know all that labor-intensive, back-breaking work of having to turn your compost pile? Chickens will gladly do it for you! If you don’t bother to turn your compost, it will take six months to a year to fully decompose. But, now with the chickens doing the work, you can have usable compost available any time of the year. Not only do you derive benefit from it, but the chickens find great pleasure in digging through the compost in search of “goodies”. The high protein bugs and beneficial microbes are a favorite “snack”, as well as, the weed seeds, food scraps, and any edible green plant tossed into the compost pile. This free food not only improves the quality of the eggs, but it also reduces the amount of feed you have to buy. Because of their constant scratching, the raw compost materials break down a lot faster.

 Free range chicken gardens

Pacu Jaya

Pacu Jaya

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