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chicken coops/runs/tractors/paddocks/pens/etc.

paul wheaton
steward

Joined: Apr 01, 2005
Posts: 14850
Location: missoula, montana (zone 4)
    ∞
Another chicken podcast

This is a presentation I gave at the Missoula public library.  The recording contraption craps out about 65% of the way through.


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paul wheaton
steward

Joined: Apr 01, 2005
Posts: 14850
Location: missoula, montana (zone 4)
    ∞
Chris Wolf of Inspiration Farm in Bellingham, Washington tells us about a chicken paddock that is past due to be moved.  So we move it a little just to see if the chickens care.  And they do!  they jump on the dandelions.



http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=48HNY4f88Co

Jami McBride
volunteer

Joined: Aug 29, 2009
Posts: 1777
    
    9
Paul - do you know if they supplement their chicken's diet with grains or other purchased feeds?
And if they do - did you get a feel for how much and how often they do this?

Great video.... keep 'em coming!
milkwood. kirsten


Joined: May 05, 2011
Posts: 13
Location: Milkwood Farm, Mudgee NSW Australia
Hey folks, thought you might like to see and possibly have feedback on our new chicken house design:

RawBale Chicken House
http://milkwood.net/2011/06/07/rawbale-chicken-house-design

seems like a good thing so far... best, k


[Thumbnail for IMG_0481.jpg]

[Thumbnail for North wall of the chicken house under construction. Simple scaffolding with a couple of extra bits welded on for laying boxes and window and door fram.jpg]



artist, farmer, crisp-apple biter,
mammal, mother, lover, fighter.
http://www.milkwood.net
Suzy Bean
steward

Joined: Apr 05, 2011
Posts: 940
Location: Stevensville, MT
    
    8
Wow, this looks really interesting. Am curious to hear how it works for you.


www.thehappypermaculturalist.wordpress.com
John Polk
steward

Joined: Feb 20, 2011
Posts: 6445
Location: Moving to: NE Washington USDA zone 5 Western steppes to the Rockies
    
133
The straw bales should give good insulation year round.  I don't see where there is going to be enough ventilation though.  Ventilation is more important than warmth.
milkwood. kirsten


Joined: May 05, 2011
Posts: 13
Location: Milkwood Farm, Mudgee NSW Australia
hi John, there's ventilation on each side at the top of the north wall (as the strawbales lie flat but the roof is angled, if you know what i mean. Ventilation at the bottom is thru the door cavity and in summer, thru the whole floor. cheers,
                        


Joined: Apr 25, 2010
Posts: 64
I think the red mite will love it ... nicely done though!

Cheers

John Polk
steward

Joined: Feb 20, 2011
Posts: 6445
Location: Moving to: NE Washington USDA zone 5 Western steppes to the Rockies
    
133
I don't know what your climate is, but it still doesn't seem enough ventilation.  If that floor will be covered in winter, I think your chicken coop could quickly become a chicken coffin.  If the human nose can detect ammonia in/around the coop, then the birds are suffering.
milkwood. kirsten


Joined: May 05, 2011
Posts: 13
Location: Milkwood Farm, Mudgee NSW Australia
hmm. thanks for the heads-up. smells fine so far and chickens are very much alive and happy -
Jami McBride
volunteer

Joined: Aug 29, 2009
Posts: 1777
    
    9
It looks great, as you live with it you'll know any adjustments you need to make.

But I do wonder about the metal covering over the nest box - I picture unbearable heat if it's in direct sun during warmer months.  But you can easily ad some kind of awing to cast shade over that metal area should that prove to be a problem.

Thanks for sharing your pictures 
                                          


Joined: Jun 05, 2011
Posts: 19
read your article. lots of info. I especially agree with your views on stationary pens. Scourge! I've got one and its on its way out. One comment about aging free range eggs.  Put them in a pan of water.  If it sinks means very fresh all the way to a "floater" means very old. Used this myself in past and is dependable method.
                            


Joined: Mar 30, 2011
Posts: 2
Here is my new paddock shift, feather net, open bottom, manure containment, egg mobile. It took two weekends of constant bickering, but the husband and I got 'er done-almost.

My requirements after much reading and head scratching:

portable (in this case movable with my tractor)

not ugly- my neighbors are not farmers and I wanted this thing to be nice looking and fit in with my garden.

inexpensive -well this turned out to be not a true as I hoped. But lots is scrounged and nothing terribly costly-the hardware cloth was by far the most money.

Totally predator proof - This is what took so long. I know of people in my area that have lost a whole flock to some weasel species that got in through the chicken wire holes. This meant no opening bigger than .5 inches ugh!

Chickens COULD be confined 24hrs - Although the plan, in general, was to let them out in the day to range, I wanted a coop that COULD contain them happily on grass without opening the door for at least a day.

Manure containment System- I didn't want to give all the manure to the grass-I wanted at least some for myself. So I added a "shelf" under the roosting area to collect all that nice poop and give them bedding to play in.

So here she is:


[/img]
Mariah Wallener


Joined: Feb 02, 2011
Posts: 144
Location: Cowichan Valley, Vancouver Island, Canada
that is really lovely. i just built one mysefl but the hardware cloth was so expensive - $25 for 5 feet!! i used 1x1 chicken wire. it was $17 for 25 feet. i don't think we have weasels here. hope not!


Permie Newbie. ruralaspirations.wordpress.com
                      


Joined: Jul 27, 2011
Posts: 1
hello,

I´m sold on 3 or 4 paddocks and mini-coop...and not having a floor/bottom on mini-coop sounds great re: cleaning ...

Will mini-coop be on the ground...otherwise the ¨no floor¨ aspect would allow predators?

                              


Joined: Aug 18, 2011
Posts: 6
Location: Southern Arizona
OOOh! I just love this forum! I feel enthused about trying these projects again after years of problems like the ones you all are facing.

Back to the drawing board, the homemade one that holds the 17"x22" graph paper... I will be plotting rotation paddocks and designing a moveable coop. Does someone have a ballpark figure for paddock size per bird (or per dozen)?

A few helpful numbers from "Raising Poultry the Modern Way": Chickens need 8-10" of roost space per bird, with roosts 12-15" apart; 1 nest for every 4 laying hens, and 2 to 2 1/2 sq. ft. of coop floor space per bird.

Thank you so much!
Gene GeRue


Joined: Oct 09, 2011
Posts: 2
Paul, I am crushed. You make no mention of my chicken moat invention. Please see
http://www.motherearthnews.com/Sustainable-Farming/1988-05-01/Garden-Pest-Control.aspx

Permaculture to me is designing my place so that everything is interrelated and does more than one thing. Paddocks are a nice idea but too labor intensive for my old body's tastes and they seem to have only the chickens in mind. The chicken moat is primarily for the purpose of feeding the chickens a varied diet including all those pesky grasshoppers and other bugs that seem obsessed with getting into a garden, but it also protects the garden from rabbits, armadillos, deer, etc. The moat surrounding the garden gives the hens maximal opportunity to have a fair shot at getting the bugs before the bugs get the veggies. As it surrounds the garden it also makes it very easy to toss weeds and veggie rejects into it. Fruit trees planted around the garden perimeter also make it easy to toss in rotten fruit.

The moat should be designed for a certain size flock. Should one wish to increase flock size it is easy to expand the moat in any direction. Your paddock idea can be easily accommodated by building extra attached sections, each with its own gate that opens from a small yard outside the henhouse. Or the moat can be partitioned.

As for chicken poop, you seem to see it as nasty, odiferous yucky stuff. That leads to waste. I see it as garden gold. In our henhouse, which we call the Taj Mahen, I long ago abandoned using sawdust or straw. The litter consists entirely of old, dry chicken poop. With low-back and high-front ventilation, the coop stays dry. Hens cannot resist scratching and they keep their litter nicely aired out. All I ever do is shovel out what I need to feed the garden beds. The fresh poop lands on dry poop, so it dries quickly. Minimal smell, maximal fertilizer.

Keep up the good work. You have many good ideas and I feel certain you are helping a lot of people who are new to the world of permaculture.

Gene GeRue
Author: How To Find Your Ideal Country Home
Inventor: The Chicken Moat
Jami McBride
volunteer

Joined: Aug 29, 2009
Posts: 1777
    
    9
Gene, question for ya.  My problem with the moat idea is that my chickens love digging the edges along fence lines.
It's a pain to undo their digging, block or otherwise wire off these edges.  How do you deal with all that fence-edge-line?
My ground isn't hard packed it can be moved.

I'd like to hear how people deal with digging fence lines..... I wish I could free range, but I still live in the city.
Gene GeRue


Joined: Oct 09, 2011
Posts: 2
Jami, as with cows and horses, the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence. Does your run area get eaten down to dirt? If so, enlarge it, provide more feed or keep fewer chickens. If it is small, you can lay old boards down on the ground just inside the fence. From time to time flip one over with a hoe or rake; there might be slugs or worms there, yummers!

One of the things I learned about the moat that is applicable to any chicken run is to use heavier wire than poultry mesh. What here in Southern Missouri is called dog run fencing works great. I put it down on the ground but do not bury it or fold it at the bottom. Grass grows up into the bottom of the fence, making it tight down there.

Gene GeRue
Jack Shawburn


Joined: Jan 18, 2011
Posts: 230
Found an interesting take on Chickens rotated in an enclosed garden.
By Aussie Chris Francis.


Brian Bales


Joined: Jan 13, 2011
Posts: 90
Thanks for the link! That enclosed garden/rotating chicken paddock is beautiful. I'm already thinking about where I could fit one into my gardens. 
Casey Halone


Joined: Feb 09, 2011
Posts: 192
    
    1
Gene GeRue wrote:
Paul, I am crushed. You make no mention of my chicken moat invention. Please see
http://www.motherearthnews.com/Sustainable-Farming/1988-05-01/Garden-Pest-Control.aspx

Permaculture to me is designing my place so that everything is interrelated and does more than one thing. Paddocks are a nice idea but too labor intensive for my old body's tastes and they seem to have only the chickens in mind. The chicken moat is primarily for the purpose of feeding the chickens a varied diet including all those pesky grasshoppers and other bugs that seem obsessed with getting into a garden, but it also protects the garden from rabbits, armadillos, deer, etc. The moat surrounding the garden gives the hens maximal opportunity to have a fair shot at getting the bugs before the bugs get the veggies. As it surrounds the garden it also makes it very easy to toss weeds and veggie rejects into it. Fruit trees planted around the garden perimeter also make it easy to toss in rotten fruit.

The moat should be designed for a certain size flock. Should one wish to increase flock size it is easy to expand the moat in any direction. Your paddock idea can be easily accommodated by building extra attached sections, each with its own gate that opens from a small yard outside the henhouse. Or the moat can be partitioned.

As for chicken poop, you seem to see it as nasty, odiferous yucky stuff. That leads to waste. I see it as garden gold. In our henhouse, which we call the Taj Mahen, I long ago abandoned using sawdust or straw. The litter consists entirely of old, dry chicken poop. With low-back and high-front ventilation, the coop stays dry. Hens cannot resist scratching and they keep their litter nicely aired out. All I ever do is shovel out what I need to feed the garden beds. The fresh poop lands on dry poop, so it dries quickly. Minimal smell, maximal fertilizer.

Keep up the good work. You have many good ideas and I feel certain you are helping a lot of people who are new to the world of permaculture.

Gene GeRue
Author: How To Find Your Ideal Country Home
Inventor: The Chicken Moat


I looked at your article. I like that concept!


Mike Guillory


Joined: Oct 16, 2011
Posts: 26
Heres a few pics of my chicken tractor and chicken house.  I have bantams in the chicken tractor and they seem to love it in there.  I am getting more eggs from them since I moved them to the tractor.  It is a 4X10 ft tractor.  The other pic is of my chicken house.  It is designed to allow for rotation of the chickens between different areas. 





Nomad Dave


Joined: Nov 05, 2011
Posts: 1
Hello everybody, what a lot of interesting information gathered here. I first found Paul's article Raising Chickens 2.0. We are in the process of moving to TX just south of San Antonio. Been thinking of trying out chicken raising etc. The place we're buying if all continues to go well has a little over 2 acres.

I was initially thinking of getting 10 - 12 chickens... but after reading through here, it sounds like starting out with 3 -6 might be a better start to make sure we're all compatible.

I really like the idea of having the coop as maintenance free a possible and minimal extra costs for feed etc if we can keep them moving around the property. Clearing so of the bugs and grasses and things they like. Then also giving off the whitish gold? to fertilize the lawn.

I've looked at a lot of designs online... or pictures and some instructions etc. Of various coops / tractors / paddocks and thinking of some sort of combination of the various ideas sounds the most appealing. Still not in a hurry, don't close till end of month and not top priority in getting settled. Hoping by Jan or so. But doing the research I can ahead of time.

I was thinking after reading through all the sites that maybe try a rescue breed... like the Dorking? I was thinking of a combo egg and meat type chicken. Was wondering if I should try something else first to see how we do. I think I've seen them listed in the $3 each range vs. a lot less for the more common bird.

Looking for thoughts. I've never done this before. We also have a cat and a dog... And hope neither will like to scare the chickens at the least...

Thanks in advance!

Dave
                              


Joined: Nov 05, 2011
Posts: 9
Location: SW Mo working in Kabul Afg
I have a friend who owns a 300 acre rotational goat / sheep farm in SWMO. He got his hands on a old wagen frame. On this he built a chicken house. 6x14 ft. Nesting boxes and a 55 gal watering system. Trick is, they have to go inside to drink. So what he does is pulls this trailer around behind the herd and let them set on a pasture for a week or so. They have their own Achbach  for security and about dusk each night you can watch them all head for the house. My buddy will then do his evening checks and will close up the trailer. In just over 2 years, have only lost 2 out of  20 some odd birds.


The true sign of a leader is not measured in the number of people you have led but in the number of people you have turned into leaders
Nicholas Green


Joined: Nov 06, 2011
Posts: 29
I've been trying to work out a paddock system that works best with the resources I have and also accomplishes the goals I have in mind.
Please critique.

Central Gate: I toyed with the idea of having a central coop but feared the 'wagon wheel' effects stated earlier. I like the concept of a single central gate and mobile coop instead.

Delay Feed Mechanisms: a couple of ideas I had to produce food for chickens to self-harvest over time

Hedgerow: leave these areas alone and they will grow into a small habitat in an attempt to attract insects, small mammals, and more wild seeds.

Brick Block: a method that lets chickens eat the tasty parts of any vine plant while not destroying the entire plant. This may allow the plant to recover quicker and easier.

Common Larvae Habitat: bucket moves from paddock to paddock attaching to a post in the ground
(Maggot Farm concept explained here paulwheaton12 )

Hanging Planters: simple method of having the plants follow the chickens to each paddock to drop edibles or attract insects.

Chop-and-Drop: I would also suggest planting outside the paddock certain plants that chickens normally do not self-harvest such as corn or grains which you could 'chop' off as much as you wanted and 'drop' into the occupied paddock. ( I would have drawn these near the four corners, but only because I like symmetry. )

Additional:
This system is scalable to any shape or size area. Simply divide area into 4 equal parts.
It should be easy to build around existing trees.
The spacing and layout of items in the illustration is to allow easy moving of the mobile coop in and out, but is flexible.
Of course, the gate to enter the system would be on the side most practical.


[Thumbnail for cloversystem.jpg]

[Thumbnail for delayfeed.jpg]

Jami McBride
volunteer

Joined: Aug 29, 2009
Posts: 1777
    
    9
@Dave


I was initially thinking of getting 10 - 12 chickens... but after reading through here, it sounds like starting out with 3 -6 might be a better start to make sure we're all compatible.


I have found (living in the city) that there is a break even point, and I have to do about the same amount of work for 3 as 12.  So I would say consider how many chickens are worth your efforts, what do you need to get from them and how many chickens will make that happen for you (break even point).

I was thinking after reading through all the sites that maybe try a rescue breed... like the Dorking? I was thinking of a combo egg and meat type chicken. Was wondering if I should try something else first to see how we do.


Can you butcher them?  If you are prepared to butcher then having some combo birds is great, but I would still have some straight egg layers because of the small numbers you are talking about.  I start with 18 or so in the spring, but by next spring we will be down to about 6 egg layers (2 @ 3yrs, 2 @ 2yrs, and 2 new this spring).  Each year we cull those egg layers over 3yrs old, and replace each spring.  The rest are meant and combo birds for eating during the year.


Looking for thoughts. I've never done this before. We also have a cat and a dog... And hope neither will like to scare the chickens at the least...


Fill a large spray bottle with half 'n half of vinegar and water, set the nozzle to stream and watch your D & C closely.  A few sprays to the noise will give them the message that the birds are off limits.  This training is a pain, isn't all training, but so worth it in farm-yard peace among the members. 

John Polk
steward

Joined: Feb 20, 2011
Posts: 6445
Location: Moving to: NE Washington USDA zone 5 Western steppes to the Rockies
    
133
Cats are much more likely to go for chicks than full grown birds.  A good, mean rooster will help keep your cats 'honest'.

Dogs are an entirely different story:  some have zero interest, and others can only be taught with a bullet to the head.
Jack Shawburn


Joined: Jan 18, 2011
Posts: 230
Nick, I like your Brick-block idea.!
Do we have a thread on innovative Chicken feeding methods?
Jami McBride
volunteer

Joined: Aug 29, 2009
Posts: 1777
    
    9
I like Nick's drawings too, and there is a thread on things to feed chickens, but not the feeders per say.
Brian Bales


Joined: Jan 13, 2011
Posts: 90
Great paddock setup. I'd include a black soldier fly larva composter as a feeding system but other than that its a great system and one I may well barrow some ideas from. 
Ivan Weiss


Joined: Dec 19, 2009
Posts: 156
Location: Vashon WA, near Seattle and Tacoma
It's easy for me, because I'm on five acres, but I use Robert Plamondon's method:

http://www.plamondon.com/hoop-coop.html

Robert is my go-to guy for all things poultry-related, and everyone who reads this should bookmark his pages.

My design is essentially his, with modifications:

I used small corner brackets on the inside corners, and larger corner brackets on the outside corners, and through-bolted all of them, with lock washers inside and outside.

I used three cattle panels for each coop, overlapping them. This was necessary because I can get only the 4'6" panels. The overlap closes the gap and strengthens the stucture considerably. Inside dimensions at ground level are 10' by 8', which houses up to 30 hens comfortably.

I use tied horse fencing, or 1/4" hardware cloth, where Plamondon uses chicken wire. Raccoons can tear chicken wire apart, and chickens over time will learn to solve it.

My end walls and the door are all tied horse fencing, and the door frame, its hinges, and the rear-wall nest frame are all through-bolted together (Plamondon advises against hinges; I won't do without them). Where those frames meet the end-wall horse fencing, holes are drilled through them and they are zip-tied to the horse fencing.

Nest boxes are the easiest part. I use four milk cartons, through-bolted (use large washers) to the rear-wall frame, with chicken wire across the front, about 4" high from the bottom, to keep the nest bedding in.

The roost is any 10'6" straight tree limb or sapling trunk.I just stick it through the horse fencing of each end wall. That's all the support it needs. I have a holly coppice for exactly this purpose.

This coop is heavy enough to withstand any wind or rain W. Washington has to offer, and light enough for me to muscle it onto fresh grass at least once a day.

The waterer is a 5-gallon bucket hung from the inside frame, with holes drilled in the bottom for poultry watering nipples, available from Farmtek. I fastened a chicken wire "dunce cap" over the top to keep the hens from perching on the bucket and pooping in their water.

I don't bother with straw. I use dead grass for nesting boxes. I don't shovel or handle poop. I just move the coop, and the poop never gets to pile up. Over time this will improve the pastures incredibly. Starting in February, every time I move the coop, I broadcast seed (clover, chicory, perennial rye, and assorted brassicas) where the chickens have been.

If I see signs of predators, up goes the electrified poultry netting. I bought a solar-powered charger from Premier, and two rechargeable batteries, one of which is always on a trickle charger. The charger comes with its own grounding rod, built into the unit.

I hope all this is helpful. It's certainly not the final word on the subject. Cheers.







Pastured poultry, pork, and beef on Vashon Island, WA.
Jami McBride
volunteer

Joined: Aug 29, 2009
Posts: 1777
    
    9
Nice information Ivan.  So you use plastic tarps for coverage then in Washington?

I almost have the same set up for covering my haul-about-trailer in the winter, never thought of using it for a coop.

Great ideas to keep in mind for when I get out on land.

Ivan Weiss


Joined: Dec 19, 2009
Posts: 156
Location: Vashon WA, near Seattle and Tacoma
@ Jamie: Yes. Preferably green tarps and not blue ones. :0)
tim huntington


Joined: Dec 02, 2011
Posts: 4
with a chicken tractor it could be neat to use a set up like the picture bellow, with chicken nipples getting fed from a rain collection set up. This set up is only stationary but could be easily used for tractors that you dont have to go inside.



[Thumbnail for whole setupyellownips.jpg]

Peter Fishlock


Joined: Dec 25, 2011
Posts: 70
Hi Guys, I recently got my allotment and am currently planning to have area between my hugelkuture beds to move a chicken/ Duck tractor.

Firstly can I have chickens and ducks in one tractor? I figured my tractor would be around 5 feet wide by 10 feetish long, How many chickens and ducks could I get in this and how often would I need to move the tractor, would once a day be enough?

I plan to have the living area for the chickens and ducks as part of the tractor so they are in it Full term, would ths be ok? I figured than on my alootment with those dimensions If I move the tractor once a day, I would around a 7 day rotation, would this be long enough for the plans to come back?

ALso what plants would be good to plant along these channels that are great for the birds and will help to supplement there diet?

I would prefer less birds to keep this idea sustainable, IM not about bunging loads in I understand there has to be balance, I guess im asking for help to uinderstand what this balance may be.

also please add any extra plants I can plant outside the tracotr channels to forfill there diets. cheers

Pete
paul wheaton
steward

Joined: Apr 01, 2005
Posts: 14850
Location: missoula, montana (zone 4)
    ∞
Two winter chicken coop designs. Both are designed to warm the chickens so that the chickens won't need as much food.

One is an earth berm design. The other is a portable design that is parked for the winter and surrounded by straw bales.




paul wheaton
steward

Joined: Apr 01, 2005
Posts: 14850
Location: missoula, montana (zone 4)
    ∞
Just stumbled onto this. From 2004 - before these forums were created.

http://www.coderanch.com/t/41027/md/portable-chicken-pen





Yone' Ward


Joined: Feb 14, 2012
Posts: 135
Location: Springdale, WA USA - Cold Mediterranean Climate
I'm responsible for coming up with this Chicken Tractor.

It was 100% successful at keeping predators out even though my sisters chickens were nearly wiped out. The trouble is, I had trouble moving it without breaking something because it was so heavy. We are moving to a rotating chicken run option with irrigation this spring. I am raising Jersey Black giants and plan to selectively breed the ones that do best in the cold weather.


Just call me Uncle Rice.
17 years in a straw bale house.
Freddi Dunleavey


Joined: Feb 19, 2012
Posts: 1
I am brand new to this fabulous site! We live in the Catskills of NYS, USA and this link was sent to me by my dear Facebook friend, Kathy H. of Alaska! Initially she sent the rocket stove info, but I am checking out your chicken info as I've been debating raising 4-6 birds just "because" and maybe give some of the eggs to friends. We have a great pyr who was our livestock guardian when we used to raise alpacas...I love your suggestions for the paddocks...which I could do during the warmer months...not sure about the winter months though.

I hope you add more info (which is why I am writing to you!) in the near future. Thanks for all of these suggestions...I find them very well thought out and logical. Freddi
 
 
subject: chicken coops/runs/tractors/paddocks/pens/etc.
 
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