get art of fire free*
Permies likes chickens and the farmer likes chicken coops/runs/tractors/paddocks/pens/etc. permies
  Search | Permaculture Wiki | Recent Topics | Flagged Topics | Hot Topics | Zero Replies | World Domination!
Register / Login


permies » forums » critters » chickens
Bookmark "chicken coops/runs/tractors/paddocks/pens/etc." Watch "chicken coops/runs/tractors/paddocks/pens/etc." New topic
Author

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

Daniel Morse


Joined: Feb 13, 2012
Posts: 223
Location: SW Michigan
    
    4
Dear Paul,

Love the site.

Now my feeling son the chickens and the animals in general. Just bear with me on this. The way we ran the farm back in the day. Chickens ran all over the barnyard and the pasture. However, when the chicks were small in the spring we liked to limit them to the barnyard for many reasons. Chicks get lost, foxs and hawks. Yes, chicken hawks are not a guy at the end of the bar. Not to mention stray dogs. Our dogs knew NOT to eat a chicken.

The Barnyard is just that. The barnyard. When in the barnyard area you had poop shoes as we would call them or boots. For us the barn yard was about 2ac, then the pastures and fields. The chickens knew that if they sticked to the larger animals there would be a lot of insects and stuff to eat. I have watched a bunch of chickens walk right over a pile of cow and whatever dung, stripping it clean of all flies and insects. THIS is what they do. This is the balance of the barnyard. Especially if you long term animals over seasons. They will help each other. Example, The chickens will start to cluck if they see a fox or coyote. The cow will hear it, soon the chickens are heading in or crowding the cows a bit. The cows will be watching that fox. She is not going to let any strange canine near her calf. About this time one of us would hear her calling. Or the dogs would come hearing the call.

The driveway always had a lot of dust. All sorts of animals would roll around in that dust. We really never had problems of to many pests. But, we had limits to our populations.

To have the chickens in the human yard was ok for brief periods. We felt it was fine for a few hours here and there. But us old farmers felt that humans need our own pen. Free of poop. Where we can run around and not worry about droppings when we chose. They are amazing fertilizer makers. If you want a green lawn, let the chickens roam around the yard here and there. The grass will love you for it. I know its not pc to like my lawn. But I feel in the middle of the farm. It is a nice oasis for man to have.

Chicken feed today is a lot of strangeness. We often made our own.

Most chickens do well with the free range. In fact excellent. But they are stupid, tasty to many and need some bounds. There needs to be a balance on your farm. They will lay eggs here and there. Mystery eggs become dog food or I will let them lay them. It can be surprising what happens. If they are not too far away from the flock. My dogs always did a great job of guarding the barnyard. My Aussi Shepard, Ms Honey the head bitch, had a keen sense about everything of her farm. Her and her pack.

In the end, because I have to go split some wood for tonight, find what is right for you? There is no one situation or solution to it all. Start small, work your way into big pants, so to say, and enjoy what you are doing. It is quality of life for ALL creatures. This way you will get the best of your efforts.


P.S. Guinea Hens are great compliment to the barnyard and pasture. They eat the ticks and need little feed. Can often run the farm with no problems. They like to nest in the fence rows. great early warning.





I have never met a stranger, I have met some strange ones.
John Polk
steward

Joined: Feb 20, 2011
Posts: 6677
Location: Currently in Seattle. Probably moving 1 hour north by end of the year.
    
139

Daniel, I disagree with this:

I know its not pc to like my lawn.


I think is is perfectly PC to have a lawn area for the humans. We build pens, corrals, runs etc for our animals. Why shouldn't the humans have their own area also, after all, we are the reason they are there. At the end of the day's work (or heaven forbid...a day of rest), when we kick off our boots, it can be a pleasure to wiggle your toes in green grass. If we have children, they need a safe, comfortable place to play or they will be in mamma's hair all day, keeping her from her chores.

I think the PC problem with lawns comes into play when somebody moves to their 3 acre plot in the country and converts the entire thing into a lawn that would make the Country Club's groundskeeper jealous.

God knows we get stuck indoors enough in the winter time. With all of the sacrifices a typical homesteader makes, they deserve a clean, comfortable place outdoors to relax, and appreciate their homestead. Perhaps, a cold beer and a BBQ.
Seren Manda


Joined: May 09, 2011
Posts: 62
Location: Northern Cali, USA -zone 9-
I'm getting chickens this year. After much debate of what will work for a residential backyard, I've decided to go with a south-facing hoop coop. I'd like feedback from the experts before I start construction

2 16'x5' stock panels mounted to a 6'x10' base frame, covered in hardware cloth. A tarp on the back half (roosting area) for shade and protection from sun/rain. We don't have larger wild critters around here (no raccoons, possums or coyotes) but do have hawks, neighborhood dogs, cats and mice (not so much mice since we got the cats, but still... maybe enough for the chickens to go all velociraptor on them...) I plan on using scavenged 5 gal buckets as nesting boxes (ala http://backyardpoultrymag.com/issues/6/6-4/a_nest_box_with_a_21st_century_design.html) ... I'm aiming for 5-6 chickens for laying and maybe an equal amount for meat processing (since they'll be ready to harvest before the main "flock"... Question 1- is it detrimental to raise a mixed flock like that? Or would it be better to raise them separately, so that any established pecking order wouldn't be disrupted? Or does it not matter since the laying flock would still be juveniles?

Inside the coop, the back wall would be plywood (to help give strength/support to the coop, and would have a detachable ladder roost for easy cleaning. There would be an L-shaped shelf about 36" off the ground, with the feeders on the long side of the shelf and the roost at the short side (back wall). Beneath the feeders (and sheltered by the shelf from falling feces), two nesting bucket boxes, mounted on a H-shaped frame about 18" off the ground, with the back half of the buckets on the outside of the coop. The buckets will have a little covered ports for easy access to the eggs. Under the roost part of the shelf, a cat-litter pan of DE for dust baths.

I plan on doing trays of greens that I can grow in a sheltered place and then put in the run for chicken nummies. They'll also get access outside the coop daily to dig round the compost piles and hunt bugs.

... I am no artist, and these are just rough sketches of my little hoopdie coop. If you see anything that out of experience has taught you better, please share! At this point, it's just an idea.

not to scale!




Thank you!


Adventures in Gardening! http://backyardgirlie.weebly.com/index.html | Live Happy and Prosper |
Deborah Harr


Joined: Mar 10, 2012
Posts: 16
Paul, I loved your article on no coop or run. I have no run, but do have a coop where they freely enter and exit. At first I didn't have the coop because there are plenty of sheltered areas for all the girls to hide out from the weather. However, they became masters at hiding their eggs. So we built a coop to house their laying baskets in. They were not interested. So I put some golf balls where I wanted them to lay around the yard. I selected places they layed eggs in that were easy for me to access, removed the eggs and replaced with the golf ball. It took a few weeks but now all the ladies only lay where I placed those silly golf balls
            


Joined: Dec 03, 2010
Posts: 58
Seren

I am building some of these for meat birds right now. I would try to hang your feeder/water because the platform will collect lots of poo. It has been my experience that higher is better with nesting boxes. They will stay cleaner elevated a bit off the ground. In winter this would enable you to do deep litter if you keep them in it, stationary. No problem keeping them together. Put dirt with the DE. Use DE sparingly as it will have an impact on the good buggies too. I have been sprouting alfalfa for them which they love. Try to use 1x as much as possible to make it lightweight. I have also heard that some predators can tear through cheap chicken wire.
Seren Manda


Joined: May 09, 2011
Posts: 62
Location: Northern Cali, USA -zone 9-

Ryan, thank you for your input! It's much appreciated.



Ed Johnson


Joined: Jan 10, 2011
Posts: 78
Location: Durham region - Ontario, Canada - Zone 5
A tractor is most suitable to my scenario and I am trying to find out roughly how many sqft/bird you need? ie Your avg broiler/layer/turkey will exhaust Xsqft of field every day.

I expect to only have meat birds this year as I don't want to deal with over-wintering at this point.

I figure I will build a 10x12or16ft tractor and I want to have to move it every 3rd day at the most.

Thanks
Darren Couch


Joined: Apr 16, 2012
Posts: 2
Location: Oregon - on the cusp of zone 8a and 8b
Dunno what all the fuss is about - that is a great researched take on chicken raising!

If I had more back yard I'd paddock it up just as you suggested. People need to take a breather.

I can support your poop claims - we recently had a cold rainy spell here and all the girls decided (wisely) that the covered patio was the place to be with resulting poo. A few minutes with a hose each day gets the offending particles back out into the yard.

Life is compromise, and you do a great job of discussing the various ones we make raising our chickens.
Jon Paddy


Joined: Feb 14, 2012
Posts: 52
    
    2
I use the coop/run system with the deep layer method for inside the coop. I end up having to clean the not-overcrowded coop once or twice a year, and all that manure goes right onto my comfrey patch. Works great!

The chickens do better when allowed to browse the yard for bugs (slugs, spiders, etc.) and eat clover, but my urban setting doesn't allow that.

Kelly Scroggins


Joined: May 31, 2012
Posts: 1


I really like this idea of Pastured
Poultry Paddocks.

I agree with your assessments of the
other methods of raising Chickens too.

I'm don't have any Chickens yet but, now
that I know about the Pastured Poultry
Paddocks method, I'm trying to figure
how to apply it in my Suburban
environment. I can't use the front yard
or one side of my yard. Only the back
and one side.

My Grandmother had over 400 Chickens.
She supplemented her income with them.
I remember back then (1960s and 70s) her
"Chicken/Hen Houses" and the "Chicken
yards" were all dirt. Even the Orchard.
I wish she new about and used this
system back then.

At the bottom of the article I read ...

raising chickens 2.0: no more coop and run!
http://www.richsoil.com/raising-chickens.jsp

You say ...


"I plan on writing lots more here. If
this line is still here in september
2009 and you want to see more, drop
me a line to remind me."


I'm really interested in these "TODO" topics.

(TODO) fencing options

- burying fence is stupid


Why is burying the fence stupid? I was
planning to do that to help keep out
predators.


(TODO) controlling bugs in the garden with chickens


I hope these topics are updated soon.

Thanks for the information!

kelly
--





Kristen Hohlfeld


Joined: Jul 15, 2012
Posts: 7
Thank you for this great information, I am making some changes on how we are keeping our 48 meat chickens. This has been such an eye opener for me, really!

Also, I was reading in Psalms 65, and in verse 13: The pastures are clothed with flocks; the valleys also are covered over with corn; they shout for joy, they also sing.

I surely want our birds to be singing and shouting for joy! This verse really describes the time of year we are at in Wisconsin!

Our chickens say thank you so much! I am sure I will be back with an update, I would like to try out Paul's favorite way to keep chickens, we have a perfect spot(s).
Seren Manda


Joined: May 09, 2011
Posts: 62
Location: Northern Cali, USA -zone 9-
In my neck of the woods, California State University, Chico has their farm. As I drove past the cattle pastures, I noticed a red gypsy wagon in the middle of an empty paddock. Portable electric fencing. And a nice flock of chickens.

That made my day, that an educational institute is using rotational paddocks. Next time I find myself on that side of the valley, I'll pull over and take pictures.
Cj Verde
pollinator

Joined: Oct 18, 2011
Posts: 3238
Location: Vermont, off grid for 22 years!
    
  54
I've read this whole thread and seem to have missed the part where the chickens are prevented from flying out of the paddocks. Are people quietly clipping wings?

Maybe Cornish crosses wont fly but I got half Cornish X and half male Leg horns which will fly.

My laying hens are truly free range and I'm willing, for now, to loose some eggs do to hiding. I just have too many roosters now do to last years hidden eggs hatching. I'll harvest them when I harvest my broilers.


My project thread
Agriculture collects solar energy two-dimensionally; but silviculture collects it three dimensionally.
Daniel Morse


Joined: Feb 13, 2012
Posts: 223
Location: SW Michigan
    
    4
It is a six and one half dozen type of thing. If you are truly free range, keep the feathers. But just yard chickens, clip the feathers. If they are free range the feathers help them get out of danger.
Walter Jeffries


Joined: Nov 21, 2010
Posts: 907
    
  18
paul wheaton wrote:What have I left out? 


Free-ranged following managed rotationally grazed livestock. This way we get the advantages of managed rotational grazing paddocks without the harder work of tight chicken fencing and we get the benefits of co-grazing. This is how we've done it for years. Works great.
Christopher Knight


Joined: Aug 30, 2012
Posts: 8
Very interesting and informative article. I would be interested in seeing some examples of creative and appealing permanent paddocks, particularly those incorporating permaculture principles such as edge effect, etc.
Alison Kouzmanoff


Joined: Aug 30, 2012
Posts: 4
I would like to make a permanently fenced food forest for chickens that would also include berry bushes and nut trees for my consumption. I've read all the posts in this forum and whenever the paddock method is discussed, it is assumed that the chickens are shifted every 20 - 30 days. I understand the reasoning and it make sense. You don't want areas over grazed. But what if my food forest measured 50 x 100 feet and were planted throughout with everything on Paul's list of good forage for chickens, from grasses through shrubs on up to trees. If I let the chickens (say 10-15) roam freely will they over-graze areas or will they just move on to something better when whatever they are eating gets low?
Christopher Knight


Joined: Aug 30, 2012
Posts: 8
Good point Alison. I think one reason to move the chickens around is so you can control where they go, like if you mulch a tree and don't want them to eat the mulch, then you would move them to a paddock without a mulched tree.
John Polk
steward

Joined: Feb 20, 2011
Posts: 6677
Location: Currently in Seattle. Probably moving 1 hour north by end of the year.
    
139
That forest (50' x 100') would be totally destroyed with 10-15 chickens living there year round.
Besides eating the bad bugs, they would decimate the good ones as well.
Your forest would jump way out of balance. You would also need to remove a lot of their manure if you wanted things to continue growing.

For sustainability, think along the lines of 1 chicken per 1,000 sq ft.

Alison Kouzmanoff


Joined: Aug 30, 2012
Posts: 4
John, Thank you for your help. I think I'm going to have to revise my plan.
John Polk
steward

Joined: Feb 20, 2011
Posts: 6677
Location: Currently in Seattle. Probably moving 1 hour north by end of the year.
    
139
Basically, you want to move them out of an area while there is still at least 2/3 of the forage left. That leaves enough plants there to reseed the area for their next visit. Time, labor and $$ is saved if you do not need to reseed every few months. If the chicks are left there, the new seedlings don't have much of a chance of surviving beyond the sprouting stage.

Another important function of rotating them off is that it helps to break the cycle of diseases and parasites. If the chicks are there for one month, and gone for three months before they return, new parasites that have hatched will be dead and gone by the time the chicks return. This rotation can be critical for flock health.

Devon Olsen


Joined: Nov 28, 2011
Posts: 1003
Location: SE Wyoming -zone 4
    
    6
Leah Sattler wrote:right now. I have four hens in a 5x10 dog run. it is a pain to move but I  had to have something with a top because the laying hens were flying out and the wild chickens were flying in. I don't want to clip their wings so they at least have a chance at escape from a predator (like my dogs )as they do escape sometimes. I prefer the healthier eggs I felt I got when they free ranged and the greatly reduced feed bill! but I feel I have made the best of it for now.

here are some pics. as a stay at home mom on a very limited budget I only get to do this "homesteading thing" if I can do it on a shoestring.....like many other people. the dog run was aquired in trade for a stock tank. the gates that serve as a top were picked up off freecycle. the house is an old wheel barrow on 2x12's from an old waterbed with old sawed off broomsticks for perches inside. the laying box is a flower pot that I can't remember how I got or how long I've had it!





i LOVE your chicken "home"!!

with wild chickens im assuming you're in a warmer area but i bet one could successfully try one of these or do some mods to get things proper for a colder climate...


Current Cheyenne, WY project
"Do you Hugel?" T-shirts and other products
Ruth Gregory


Joined: Sep 27, 2012
Posts: 1




Hi Paul.

I like your idea of a rotating paddock for the chickens. We have chickens and guineas and a fairly large back yard in which we use half of it for gardening veggies and the other half for flowers, gourds, ect. I am wanting to keep the chickens free range but out of my garden and I want to paddock the garden for the guineas. At the moment, we are having problems with the chickens finding our winter squash and pecking holes in them or just outright eating them! We have scrapped wire covers over some of them to protect them from the chickens. We are hoping to get the garden set up in 4 paddocks so we can keep the chickens to the rest of the yard and the guineas in the garden. Wish me luck.

Sherry Jansen


Joined: Dec 19, 2012
Posts: 59
Location: Southern MN
    
    1
I love this forum!

I've had birds for over 15 years and fell in love with them with my first Aracanas. I think I have tried every system out there and am learning new ones all the time.

Last summer I did my first sprouting system on shelving for the I side hens. I also fed the tractored birds sprouts and they got even bigger faster. I am working on getting parts designed for a stationary automated Sprouter made from barrels and I'll post here when they get finished. Time was my biggest issue with sprouting.

Then last summer, I met a farmer who did something completely different- he planted oats, peas, brassicas and clover in a field, then let loose the chickens and feeder pigs. He had about 10 baby pigs and 50 chickens on an acre and they were thriving. His recipe was 50lbs oats, 50lb peas and some of the other seeds to keep them interested well into the fall. The brassicas turn sweet after a frost, so they are the last to be eaten. That was pretty much all he fed them and it was all free range from June-Oct.


MyBackAchers.com -The Post Carbon Farmer
Jay Major


Joined: Feb 06, 2013
Posts: 1
First post here, and please excuse me if this has been posted here already but I thought this design for a black soldier fly larvae composter, which is essentially a backyard BioPod, would be worth adding to the document for a constant flow of perfect grubs for chickens. You probably wouldn't need to have a harvesting catcher, instead just let the larvae drop into your chicken pen.

Simple, cheap, and effective. Thoughts?
Brandy Higgins


Joined: Feb 06, 2013
Posts: 9
Just wanted to say Loved the article! This excerpt had me falling over myself laughing "Even if you don't have a coop, you will find that the chickens will want to hang out in the same place day after day and make a hygiene issue. Usually right on your porch. They like you." That is exactly what chickens are like & why my grandparents didn't let them run free (coop &run system). However, I think the paddock system is the best system for any animal. Maybe even my dog who is a hunter breed and likes to dig holes going after gophers to no end - she does keep gophers away. I will have to add her to my cycle as well. I had some involvement in raising my grandparents' chickens and also a bit with the pigs (I was not allowed in by them during feedings because they could crush me)when I was a kid (they retired when I was a teenager) but never in butchering. I have always had a hard time with butchering. Everyone hunts up here and I have helped butcher deer and clean fish (My gma always said if you catch em you clean em.) But I still struggle with it. What do you think about using a tazer or something to put them out?
Susan McGuinness


Joined: Oct 21, 2012
Posts: 8
Location: Creuse, France Like zone 5 in the States Rain:43inches per year
    
  13
Paul’s ‘pastured poultry in paddocks’ is obviously the way to go. So, one has floorless, moveable coops for them to shelter and lay eggs in, narrow enough to get through gates. Am for that, but…don’t you people have proper winter in Montana? Am in France in the foothills of the Massif Central, just about parallel with y’all. At least 3 months of the year there is either snow on the ground or it’s real wet. So one moves the floorless coops to a new paddock but there’s no place that isn’t covered with hard snow or v. wet pasture. Not warm/dry enough. Back to replacing the floors and cleaning out the coops in winter and/or wet periods unless I’ve missed something……? Haven’t added wood rot (coops treated with linseed oil on exterior) but that’s implied as well if they are to rest directly on the snow-covered, wet, ground….
Would really appreciate any ideas ‘cause do note happy, healthy hens are marvellously productive and eventually, tasty.
Cj Verde
pollinator

Joined: Oct 18, 2011
Posts: 3238
Location: Vermont, off grid for 22 years!
    
  54
Brandy Higgins wrote:What do you think about using a tazer or something to put them out?

I think a tazer might kill them outright. That would make it take longer to bleed out.
Daniel Morse


Joined: Feb 13, 2012
Posts: 223
Location: SW Michigan
    
    4
Mom and Dad have weighed in on this. I agree. We are more traditional.

We feel a small shed devoted to them is the best and just let them run the property. They will only go so far from the coop. Especially if you have a fenced in area. They know where they roost.

We have the traditional nest boxes on the wall. Make sure no drafts come from behind the boxes.. The rest flock he flock will be on graduated polls that are above a shelf. This shelf is just wood. The poo will fall there. Usuall we put the door to the outside under this shelf. The poo will dry on this shelf and makes it easy to shovel it out. The poo dries from the air flow under and above. This makes a better way. light to move and it can build up a bit without no issues. Like during the fall harvest or planting. The poles are on a hinge and can lock in the upright position to make cleaning easy. We found that the dirt floor of the coop was very easy to care for and usually the chickens pooped outside in the lawns or hedge rows or on the shelf.

We are all about easy and clean.

We always painted our coop and made it look tidy. Windows mandatory. Tried to keep the coop part shaded. Leafy bushes to the south side to help with heat in the summer. It is their home. A home a tasty and happy chickens. Plus the dogs often would follow the chicken flock to keep an eye out. Dogs like to protect what is theirs. Seldom has issues with vermin. Cats too. You just have to train them all that they are part of the family.
mick mclaughlin


Joined: Aug 18, 2010
Posts: 197
Location: Augusta,Ks
    
    3
Brandy, i have owned chickens all my life, butchered everything imaginable and yes, i also hunt.

With that said, i do not enjoy killing.

I honestly believe you owe it to the animal to do it as humanely as possible. Not nockin your idea, and i hear where you are coming from, but i think the conventional methods are humane compared to a tazer, if it would work.

Very informative article, and thread! Every person has a unique situation. I personally use a tractor with a coop for meat birds. Mainly because of neighbors dogs.

Nothing worse then paying to feed other's critters, while you go hungry!
Brandy Higgins


Joined: Feb 06, 2013
Posts: 9
Thanks for responding. Ya, I need to think on the most humane ways to kill animal, but perhaps the conventional ways are more humane then I thought. Thanks again.
Kevin MacBearach


Joined: May 04, 2012
Posts: 166
Location: Beavercreek, Oregon
    
    2
Yes, I'm so done with the "free-range" chicken set-up, or more correctly, no set-up. It's really taken a toll on my pasture.

So was there any consensus of whether having a wire mesh bottom was bad for their feet? I was think about laying some light Douglas Fir branches over the mesh so as to catch some poop, protect their feet, and keep down any harmful orders. Is anyone using fir needles for mulching the bottom of their coops?

I want to build a new coop with wheels, surrounded by poultry netting that moves along with it. I don't see any downside to this system if moving it every 5 -7 days isn't too rough. I do the same thing with my two cows in their paddock, so I'm used to it.

I'm searching for netting now and assume I can just use my old plastic electric fence posts for it. On another thread someone pointed out that I'll be needing to clip their wings a bit so they can't just hop out. Kinda sad about that cause they have been very good at quick getaways from hawks.




Highland Creamery, micro-dairy & family farm.

https://www.facebook.com/home.php#!/highlandcreamery
Jay Green


Joined: Feb 03, 2012
Posts: 587
    
    8
I don't think I'll ever be done with free ranging....to me it's the most efficient and natural way to keep chickens and saves me money on feed, work, and time and keeps the flock healthier than other methods of husbandry. Gives my dog something to do and helps him earn his feed. Been free ranging for over 10 years now and haven't seen any other method that can equal it yet...even for meaties. Especially for meaties.

I tried electric paddock for meaties this past spring but found it to be a pain in the backside and moved the paddock 3 times before I was through with that endeavor for the rest of the season...sold the electric fencing after that and won't be doing that again for poultry.
Kevin MacBearach


Joined: May 04, 2012
Posts: 166
Location: Beavercreek, Oregon
    
    2
Jay Green wrote:I don't think I'll ever be done with free ranging....to me it's the most efficient and natural way to keep chickens and saves me money on feed, work, and time and keeps the flock healthier than other methods of husbandry. Gives my dog something to do and helps him earn his feed. Been free ranging for over 10 years now and haven't seen any other method that can equal it yet...even for meaties. Especially for meaties.

I tried electric paddock for meaties this past spring but found it to be a pain in the backside and moved the paddock 3 times before I was through with that endeavor for the rest of the season...sold the electric fencing after that and won't be doing that again for poultry.


Sorry to hear you had a bad experience with the paddock system. My feelings are that the plants in the pasture, or yard just can't develop to their full potentials, nutritionally as well as for size. Grasses, if continually nipped at all day, year round, their root development is critically hampered and stunted. This means far less minerals that the plant can take up, and in turn, less minerals for you and your birds. The grasses, and herbs need that downtime to be strong and healthy. Anyway, that's how I see the reasons for doing it.
Jay Green


Joined: Feb 03, 2012
Posts: 587
    
    8
Kevin MacBearach wrote:
Jay Green wrote:I don't think I'll ever be done with free ranging....to me it's the most efficient and natural way to keep chickens and saves me money on feed, work, and time and keeps the flock healthier than other methods of husbandry. Gives my dog something to do and helps him earn his feed. Been free ranging for over 10 years now and haven't seen any other method that can equal it yet...even for meaties. Especially for meaties.

I tried electric paddock for meaties this past spring but found it to be a pain in the backside and moved the paddock 3 times before I was through with that endeavor for the rest of the season...sold the electric fencing after that and won't be doing that again for poultry.


Sorry to hear you had a bad experience with the paddock system. My feelings are that the plants in the pasture, or yard just can't develop to their full potentials, nutritionally as well as for size. Grasses, if continually nipped at all day, year round, their root development is critically hampered and stunted. This means far less minerals that the plant can take up, and in turn, less minerals for you and your birds. The grasses, and herbs need that downtime to be strong and healthy. Anyway, that's how I see the reasons for doing it.


Oh, I never had a bad experience, per se, I just saw that the chickens could deplete the more nutritious plants and glean all the insect life so quickly from a paddock~dependent upon the stocking rate~that I was moving the paddock too often to achieve what I wanted for them. I found that, when allowed to free range, they did so in a very large area and never really depleted any one area enough that it needed "recovery time". These were CX chickens and they ranged so far out and so actively that they never depleted any smaller areas and so the overall use of the pasture was less intensive, provided more of a balance diet and didn't concentrate their high nitrogen manure onto the soils in one place.

I think the electric paddocks are great for intensive grazing of paddocks by sheep, cattle or horses but not so good for chickens...chickens are dependent on the protein that area holds and bugs do not "replenish" or regrow as quickly as do plants.

As the chickens deplete the grasses and leave some areas of soil more exposed, the bugs desert these areas in favor of soils more protected by good cover~they migrate outside of the area of predation and into the pasture that is not being disturbed and foraged. In order for this level of balance to be achieved, wherein the grasses nor the bugs are too overused, I found that the paddock had to be moved too often. I also found that the heavily foraged areas took much, much longer to recover than one would expect.

Chickens are not like herbivorous animals...they don't just clip the grass and move along, come back and clip off more grass, etc. They clip some of the grass~only the tender tips as they cannot digest properly the stems~ and scratch up the rest, they eat all bug and worm life they can dig up or catch and they have to consume quite a bit of these proteins to balance their diets. By allowing them to range all over the 3 acres here, they don't deplete any one area and by feeding just once a day in the evening, it forces them to range out further than the coop and yard area to obtain their dietary needs. Providing protection from predators by the use of dogs that free range in the same area and providing cover for ducking into, they are not as prone to staying close to the coop for protection~thus widening their total area of forage.

I think many people have not fully explored or experimented with the capabilities of free ranging to give it a good go...they buy breeds that do not range out, they feed continuous feeds so that the birds are more likely to just dip into the feeder when hungry and forage mainly out of instinct instead of for survival, they don't provide good cover or protection and so the birds are fearful of ranging out from the coop and they don't keep the predators at bay with the use of dogs...most people's dogs are on the couch and only come out to do their business or follow the owners around the yard. The continual presence of large predators in the range area both night and day are a deterrent to even aerial predators.

All of theses factors create a situation wherein the free ranged birds are tied to the coop in various ways and therefore deplete the grasses and insects/worms in the areas right around the coop and I can see where one could get the idea that those areas deserve a rest....if my birds foraged in such a manner, I'd feel the same way. I too would be limiting their time on any one area to prevent the foot wear and forage depletion from a flock that doesn't actually range within their total range area.

I've posted video of what true free ranging looks like on this thread and anyone can view it to see that the birds range so far and wide that no one area could ever become depleted by their foraging, thus the whole range is continually on a renewal and regrowth, aided by their scattered droppings that are not overloading any one area of soil. Those particular CX were such avid foragers that the paddock system I had tried was virtually useless, as they had consumed and hunted all available nutrients within days from 1,681 sq ft of paddock.

.
John Polk
steward

Joined: Feb 20, 2011
Posts: 6677
Location: Currently in Seattle. Probably moving 1 hour north by end of the year.
    
139
Even in true free ranging, I think there is still a good use for temporary fencing. It doesn't even need to be electric.
A roll of chicken wire, and a handful of rebar stakes works fine.

The fencing is not to confine the birds, but rather to exclude the birds.
You do not want them in the annual kitchen garden during the growing season. Fence it off.

As the season warms in spring, the areas nearest the coop are probably looking rather barren.
Fence it off. Force the ladies to wander further away while those areas recover.
That area will better serve them next autumn/winter if it is allowed to recover while they forage distant.
If you can protect/recover a large area nearest the coop, they will fare much better in the months they can't range farther.

Jay Green


Joined: Feb 03, 2012
Posts: 587
    
    8
Agreed! Like you, I have found that keeping them out of an area is so much easier and less work than it is to confine them to an area. Added to this is the fact that they can evade predators so much more easily when they are not like fish in a barrel.

We've found that it's cheaper to use deer netting and push in stakes for keeping birds out of areas such as the garden. I used to erect elaborate and permanent fencing to exclude the chickens from these kinds of areas until I found how easy it was to use push in stakes and light netting to achieve even better results.

It seems every year is a new experience in learning with these birds and I never get tired of learning new and better ways to feed them healthier, cheaper foods and also use them to benefit the land. Every new thing learned seems to make keeping them easier and safer, making the whole experience a fun and enriching time.

dave collett


Joined: Jan 24, 2013
Posts: 16
Seren Manda wrote:I'm getting chickens this year. After much debate of what will work for a residential backyard, I've decided to go with a south-facing hoop coop. I'd like feedback from the experts before I start construction

Thank you!


not an expert, but I built a chicken tractor a few years ago and started another recently. I was rushed into my first build and it was consequently quite poor- main advice: spend ages on the design and get it right, design the details and the experience of using it- how will you get the food in and out? how exactly will you design any doors- e.g. egg collection, acces for cleaning(especially if you are doing a sort of covered wagon design- can you take a side panel off there? if doors slide will the channels get clogged with bedding and chicken poo? will they expand and contract from summer to winter leaving drafty gaps in cold weather?
for my next tractor I will aim for lightness and wheels(basically a giant wheelbarrow)- for a stationary coop you should aim for cheapness and durability, the reason my first failed is that I saw southern US designs using chipboard and plywood and I took the form but used wood because ply wouldn't cope with our wet climate in the UK. The result is much too heavy- but has lasted about 3.5 years, has plenty of life left in it and was very cheap- this would make sense as a coop.
 
 
subject: chicken coops/runs/tractors/paddocks/pens/etc.
 
cast iron skillet 49er

more from paul wheaton's glorious empire of web junk: cast iron skillet diatomaceous earth sepp holzer raised garden beds raising chickens lawn care flea control missoula electric heaters permaculture videos permaculture books