How to Grow Chicken of the Woods Mushrooms on Live Trees

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Chicken of the woods is pale orange to yellow and grows in a shelf formation.
Chicken of the woods is pale orange to yellow and grows in a shelf formation. (Image: Jupiterimages/Photos.com/Getty Images)

Chicken of the woods, not to be confused with hen of the woods, is a polypore fungus that grows in a shelf formation on living trees. While the wood must still be alive both to have adequate moisture content and to eliminate the possibility that it is already infected by other mushroom spore, it is still recommended that cut logs be inoculated rather than standing timber. Chicken of the woods eventually kills its host tree, and this can be a hazard if a tree is inoculated too close to a dwelling or traveled area.

Things You'll Need

  • Axe or chainsaw
  • Drill with 5/16-inch drill bit
  • Ruler
  • Chicken of the woods mycelia plugs or inoculate
  • Skillet
  • Cheese-wax
  • Sponge brush
  • Shovel or post-hole diggers

Choose your wood. Hardwood is preferred, such as oak or maple. It is not advised to grow this mushroom on conifers or eucalyptus, since this may cause it to become toxic.

Cut a log 3 to 4 feet in length.

Drill holes that are 1 1/4 inches deep for plugs, or just 1 inch deep for inoculation. Leave a bit of sawdust in the holes, and for inoculations, pack the hole full of sawdust. Have the holes in the end of the log in the softer, darker sapwood, spaced roughly 2 inches apart in a hexagonal pattern. Do both ends of the log. You may also do rows through the bark, along the sides of the log, keeping to the 2 inch spacing. When drilling rows, off-set them to form the hexagonal pattern.

Inoculate the log by hammering in purchased plugs that contain the mycelia, or injecting a purchased liquid mycelia into the sawdust-packed holes.

Melt cheese-wax in a skillet at about 300 degrees Fahrenheit until it is smoking slightly.

Paint the cheese-wax over the holes with a sponge brush to seal them.

Bury the log in the ground to half its length. Choose a spot that is shaded and well protected from wind.

Keep the log moist with occasional waterings if you experience a dry season.

Wait 6 months to see chicken of the woods growth. Inoculation should take place after the last hard freeze in your area.

Tips & Warnings

  • It is not advised to inoculate standing timber since the fungus kills the host tree.

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