Friday, October 31, 2008

More on Chicken n Frogs by Walker Sanders

Coqui Control by Walker Sanders
Coqui infestations are relatively easy to have. It just takes some plant material or construction supplies that carry coqui. Coqui will also hitch a ride on cars and trucks and jump off when the vehicle comes to rest.
The government approved method of control is to spray hydrated lime or citric acid on the affected area. Citric acid is a powerful contact defoliant and leaves a very low soil ph layer.
Both chemical control measures affect the plants they are sprayed on and both are expensive. Neither chemical measure kills all the frogs or eggs so the little critters usually come back within a few months. Many times the farmer or home owner does not want to kill their plants and so decline’s to spray at all, or does so ineffectively. This is particularly true in plant nurseries, where plant damage will wipe out sales.
A much more successful way to control coqui is with game chickens. By setting up some nest boxes and feeding a small amount of scratch once a day, game hens will stay put, lay eggs, hatch out clutches of chicks and spend all day hunting down bugs and frogs in every direction. The nests should be a few feet off the ground and covered from the sun, rain and wind. The first few eggs in the nest box can be identified with a magic marker and most subsequent eggs can be removed to eat. The eggs are white and as large as store bought. When a hen wants to set the clutch, let her set no more than about six eggs. She can set and hatch fifteen or more but six is about all she can raise and protect from mongoose. Hens that are raised in the same area where they were hatched are much more stable, secure and successful with their own brood.
You will initially have high chick mortality due to mongoose predation. Mongoose are relentless chick killers and it is prudent to reduce mongoose population.
The hens need only one rooster to ten or more hens to accomplish this work and the extra young roosters are good eating. One rooster and hen harem can cover an acre of orchard or more. The chickens will spend a considerable amount of time up in and around trees and will roost there every night. Although frogs predominately chirp at night, they also chirp in the morning and before dusk. Males will generally stay put and chirp in an attempt to lure females. It is this female migration that is exploited by the hens. Chickens don’t perform magic, they work hard.
Chickens are virtually cost free, self sustaining and non toxic to our crops and nursery plants. They will dig, scratch and ruin beds of leafy greens so keep them out of the garden. Chickens do not do well if chased by loose dogs.
As you identify where frogs are, throw scratch there, the hens will work the area. Complete coqui eradication is possible after a year or more with a high population of chickens.
At this point you should notice the return of crickets. Perhaps their population is decreased or perhaps they simply cannot be heard over the frogs, but after a year or so, they will be singing loud. Crickets somehow seem to thrive in spite of the onslaught of chickens. You will find that chickens eating frogs, bugs and scratch will have good health, tasty eggs and high flavor. Bon appetite!

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