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paddock sizes

                                            


Joined: Oct 13, 2011
Posts: 4
wanting to know how big each paddock should be...i am looking at 4-6 egg layers and possible 6 meat birds...the meat birds develop quicker and would only be a few times a year...i have plenty of land, i just want to use as little as possible, yet get the biggest bang for the buck
Leila Rich
steward

Joined: May 24, 2010
Posts: 3626
Location: Wellington, New Zealand. Temperate, coastal, sandy, windy,
    
  72
Do you already have permanent fencing and aim to keep the chickens in lightweight moveable fencing or...?
The standard advice is to give each chicken at least 10 square ft outdoors.
If you haven't read Paul Wheaton's aticle, it has lots of info: http://www.richsoil.com/raising-chickens.jsp
Tyler Ludens
pollinator

Joined: Jun 25, 2010
Posts: 5326
Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
    
  20
I'm pretty sure Joel Salatin packs them in a lot tighter than that, but he raises Cornish Cross meat birds, which mostly sit around.  They don't forage to speak of.


Idle dreamer

Leila Rich
steward

Joined: May 24, 2010
Posts: 3626
Location: Wellington, New Zealand. Temperate, coastal, sandy, windy,
    
  72
Yeah, I should put a caveat on my info: I'm not into packing animals in and that figure is based on domestic, not commercial poultry keeeping
                                            


Joined: Oct 13, 2011
Posts: 4
what i am looking at is permanent fencing. i live on 40 acres and want to dedicate space for the animals. I was thinking a 40'x40' divided into four sections. So each of the four sections would end up 20'x20' or 400 sq. feet. i am looking at building one central coop for the birds in the center with access to to each of the paddocks.

Paul Cereghino
volunteer

Joined: Jan 11, 2010
Posts: 844
Location: South Puget Sound, Salish Sea, Cascadia, North America
    
  13
I am working towards a similar system.  I have 7 layers, and they beat up a 20x20 area in a month with supplemental feed... but I wonder if the best food (legumes and insects) aren't depleted much sooner?  My ladies always prefer mulched areas for foraging.  I suspect that a 20x20 pasture might have much less value than a 20x20 shrubland with berries above and wood and mulch everywhere, undersown with clover and mustard.

I was planning on going a little larger 30x30 feet -- but the cost is uncomfortable for chickens.

I think I am planning on creating a deep litter straw yard that is long and skinny, and will let me expand beyond 4 paddocks if I feel like I should, or I want to expand our flock. 


Paul Cereghino- Stewardship Institute
Maritime Temperate Coniferous Rainforest - Mild Wet Winter, Dry Summer
                                            


Joined: Oct 13, 2011
Posts: 4
so how big of a paddock if i only run 4 layers and no meat chicks?
Brad Davies
volunteer

Joined: Sep 22, 2011
Posts: 212
Location: Clarkston, MI
    
    8
rangerprepper wrote:
so how big of a paddock if i only run 4 layers and no meat chicks?



I am searching for the same answer as you, but I feel you are missing a key part of the question. It's not how much land do X# of animals need, but how long can I keep x# of animals on "Y"sq before it is trashed.

Also you must consider how often you want to move the animals; everyday, twice a week, once a week, and so on. I think asking the question, "How many X's can I have, or how much land for X amount of animals," isn't going to be something that anyone will have a definite answer for.

Instead I would ask "How many animals do you keep in your paddock, what size, how old, and how often are the rotated?"

In my situation I am designing my yard to have the maximum amount of paddocks possible, giving me as much flexibility as possible when it is time to introduce my livestock.

Just a though.


SE, MI, Zone 5b "Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work."
~Thomas Edison
Brad Davies
volunteer

Joined: Sep 22, 2011
Posts: 212
Location: Clarkston, MI
    
    8
Paul Cereghino wrote:
  I suspect that a 20x20 pasture might have much less value than a 20x20 shrubland with berries above and wood and mulch everywhere, undersown with clover and mustard


Another excellent point, what type of forage or ground cover is in the paddock, so many variables....
John Polk
steward

Joined: Feb 20, 2011
Posts: 6455
Location: Moving to: NE Washington USDA zone 5 Western steppes to the Rockies
    
133
The figures I have seen indicate 40-50 chickens per acre for sustainable use.
(I "round it off" to 43 chickens...equal to 1,000 square feet per bird...all year, every year.)
Anything above that, and they will begin to deteriorate the land...eventually it would be useless for anything.  Besides them eating the foliage, their manure could make the land too rich for seeding/sprouting if they are kept too long on any given piece of land in higher concentrations.

I have seen backyard operations where the birds had turned the entire yard into a mud pit within a few months,  Several years later, (after the chicks were gone) not even the weeds would regrow there.
Brad Davies
volunteer

Joined: Sep 22, 2011
Posts: 212
Location: Clarkston, MI
    
    8
John Polk wrote:
The figures I have seen indicate 40-50 chickens per acre for sustainable use.
(I "round it off" to 43 chickens...equal to 1,000 square feet per bird...all year, every year.)
Anything above that, and they will begin to deteriorate the land...eventually it would be useless for anything.  Besides them eating the foliage, their manure could make the land too rich for seeding/sprouting if they are kept too long on any given piece of land in higher concentrations.

I have seen backyard operations where the birds had turned the entire yard into a mud pit within a few months,  Several years later, (after the chicks were gone) not even the weeds would regrow there.



Good information, thanks for sharing. So if I understand correctly it's 1,000 sq ft per bird for the whole year. Is that broken up into whatever paddock size you want?

So for example if I wanted 6 birds, that I rotated once a week, I would need (52) 115sq ft paddocks?

6*1000sq ft = 6000sq ft

6000sq ft / 52 weeks(rotations) = 115 sq ft/week

or rotated biweekly, would need (26) 230sq ft paddocks.

6*1000sq ft = 6000sq ft
6000sq ft / 26 (rotations) = 230 sq ft

It seems to me, based on.... well nothing in the experience department, that Paddock 1 might be ready for animals again in less time than a year. Maybe 8 weeks, 10 weeks, 20 weeks based on conditions, or would this over running them cause long term problems such as N build up that you mentioned?

John Polk
steward

Joined: Feb 20, 2011
Posts: 6455
Location: Moving to: NE Washington USDA zone 5 Western steppes to the Rockies
    
133
I believe that if you can keep them off of a paddock for 3-4 months it serves several purposes.  First, it gives the vegetation a chance to grow back strongly, able to withstand the next onslaught.  It allows the nitrogen to be absorbed into the root systems and deeper soils.  And, just as important, it helps break the cycle of diseases and pests.  The mites, lice, worms, etc can only survive so long without a host.  By keeping your birds off of the land for a complete life cycle, you have effectively reduced chances of future infestations.
Brad Davies
volunteer

Joined: Sep 22, 2011
Posts: 212
Location: Clarkston, MI
    
    8
John Polk wrote:
I believe that if you can keep them off of a paddock for 3-4 months it serves several purposes.  First, it gives the vegetation a chance to grow back strongly, able to withstand the next onslaught.  It allows the nitrogen to be absorbed into the root systems and deeper soils.  And, just as important, it helps break the cycle of diseases and pests.  The mites, lice, worms, etc can only survive so long without a host.  By keeping your birds off of the land for a complete life cycle, you have effectively reduced chances of future infestations.



Awesome, thank you so much for the info. That makes a lot of sense about allowing the Nitrogen to be absorbed and the pest disease cycle is something that didn't even cross my mind.

I think I am going to go the route of making as many 50-100sq ft paddocks as possible, and figuring out the stocking density / rotation from there. My thought being that it will be easier to set the fences up while I am getting everthing established rather than trying to  create more paddocks once things get going.

Would the pest / disease cycle effect different species? so if I followed chickens with ducks or rabbits would it still be ~3-4 months? I would think that the longer you could leave it the better, but just curious if rotating different species would have any other effects.

Thanks!
kent smith


Joined: Sep 05, 2010
Posts: 211
Location: Pennsylvania
I have had very good results from a scaled down Joel Salitan moveable pen and chicken tractor approach. The calves are behind portable electric fencing and are moved every 2-3 days to help improve the pasture. the meat birds were in a 8'x10' pen moved daily and the turkeys are now in the same pen now that the chickens are in the freezer. the laying hens are in a moveable tractor and moved daily. 2 pigs are behind electric fence to till up the sod where the garden expansion will be next year and then they have the job of tilling where the grape, raspberries, and blackberries with be. It takes me from 1/2 -1 hour each morning to feed, water and move the animals and I do an evening walk through. Even if I was not moving animals daily it would still take 1/2 an hour to feed and water. I like the use of the pens and electric fencing because it is very flexible, cheap and non -perminent. We moved here this year and are working to restore pasture and property what was not grazed or used for garden for several decades. In just one summer I can see the improvement of the pasture where the animals have been placed. I had place the broilers on an area that was very shaded and the ground was mostly moss and weeds. They did scratch it up to about 70% dirt each day, but after a week or two you could see that the new growth was the native grasses. With only 2 calves I can not concentrate them hard enough to move daily and for them to have the space to move around, so they get moved every 2-3 days. In areas where there is a heavy stemmed woody weeds that they wont eat I take a cheap weed whip out and cut the weed down after they are moved. My biggest regret is that I keep them off of a large part of the pasture to get a cutting of hay and that half of the pasture does not look as good. Even though we will not need all of the chickens for meat I am tempted to  graze several pens adn multiple patches next year get the benifit of what they do for the pasture.
kent


Kent
Brad Davies
volunteer

Joined: Sep 22, 2011
Posts: 212
Location: Clarkston, MI
    
    8
machinemaker wrote:
the meat birds were in a 8'x10' pen moved daily and the turkeys are now in the same pen now that the chickens are in the freezer. the laying hens are in a moveable tractor and moved daily.


Great info! About how many chickens / turkeys can you keep in the 8'x10' pen? Also how many in the tractor, and what's the approx Sq ft of the tractor area?

Thank you!
kent smith


Joined: Sep 05, 2010
Posts: 211
Location: Pennsylvania
Good question, I know what I have read, but have some concerns. From what I have read the square footage should hold 50-75 broiler, but I do batches of 50 and by the time they are 6-8 weeks old they are looking crowded and the ground is pretty torn up. The ground being torn up and covered with poop has been a good thing for the bad pasture but may not be great if it was great pasture. I split the turkeys up into groups of 6-7. they do not tear up the ground as much but they are amazing grazers. When I first move the pens in the morning they only want to graze and don't care for their feed. right now they are in an area where there is healthy 8" tall grass and by the next day it is grazed down to2-3". I think if they had more area they would graze more. The hens are in a tractor that is only housing, roosts, and nest boxes on wheels. I have a old length of feild fencing that forms a circle of fence about 10' in diameter that I prop up against the door of the tractor that is their run for the day. We only keep 7-12 hens, with just the two of us that is plenty of eggs except in the winter. I find that this loose chunk of fence is easy to drag to the next area rather than having it built into the tractor. the tractor is built on a sheet of 4x8 plywood and has a couple of wheels under it. the biggest improvement I need to make is with watering. The other thing is that 50 broilers will go through a lot of feed in a day and need 2 large feeders that are filled twice a day. the turkeys and layers only need fed once a day.
Phil Hawkins
volunteer

Joined: Sep 13, 2011
Posts: 227
Location: Gippsland, Victoria, Australia
    
    8
Having lost my four "free range" chickens to a fox, I am now planning to pasture raise the new chickens when I get them. We have a broken down old coop/run, but it's very close to the house on on the corner of the block so we can't really form a paddock rotation around it.

My plan going forward is to build a movable hen house (on wheels) with a door on each corner, so I can get four paddock rotations per 'shift' of the house. I am planning on using some sort of movable fencing (not sure what type yet - can you use a series of closely spaced hot wires to keep chickens in?) to form the paddock. Water and supplementary feed could be attached to the side of the house and refilled periodically.

I'm guessing paddock size is going to depend on the season, location, and other factors, but my thinking is that one could move the paddock each week, and then move the 'house' once per month to a new site (and four new 'paddock' quarters).

Do you folks see any issues with this approach?


I have a sporadic blog at http://philarly.com/
I twitter via @philarly
Clifford Reinke


Joined: Nov 26, 2010
Posts: 122
Location: Puget Sound
    
    4
Here is what my current setup looks like.



I have 11 hens, and two roosters (don't ask). I let the chickens out through a trap door in the bottom of the coop. On the lower right is my compost pile that the chickens get to play in one week out of four. the bottom sides of the coop have chicken wire, and I have one side open at a time. This gives the chickens their dusting spot, and something to hide under when they spot an eagle (although my eagles seem a lot more interested in fish than chickens). The solar powered poultry fence is 160ft long and I rotate it around the coup once a week. My fence rays out off the corners. The whole moving operation takes about 45 minutes, or an hour and a half if I have help.

I have only been using this system since May, but so far the vegetation seems to be holding very nicely. This winter well give me a better idea if it will work or not. I have toyed with the idea of doubling the fence length, but I will wait and see if it is needed.

Ideas, questions, comments?


Cliff (Start a rEVOLution, grow a garden)
Lolly Knowles


Joined: Aug 22, 2011
Posts: 159
I am assuming there is a ramp door leading through the floor into the coop? The posts are stationary and the fence is attached with wire-ties or such? Is there any problem with getting the fencing close enough to the ground to keep the birds in on the hillside?

Your photo has given me more encouragement to at least try to raise birds in the woods rather than pasturing them in chicken tractors on flat ground.
Clifford Reinke


Joined: Nov 26, 2010
Posts: 122
Location: Puget Sound
    
    4
Lolly K wrote:I am assuming there is a ramp door leading through the floor into the coop? The posts are stationary and the fence is attached with wire-ties or such? Is there any problem with getting the fencing close enough to the ground to keep the birds in on the hillside?

Your photo has given me more encouragement to at least try to raise birds in the woods rather than pasturing them in chicken tractors on flat ground.


The poultry fence is an integrated fence (The poles are built into the fence). I have hooks at the corners of the coop than hold the ends of the fence to the coop. The rest of your assumptions are correct. Here is a closer look:



and another view from the front:



The fencing has a plastic wire on the bottom, then the other wires are hot. I add another fence post between the attached ones to close any gaps. They go in easily by just pressing them in with your foot.

I started raising chickens using a chicken tractor. That was a lot of work, especially since the property is, shall we say, flat challenged. One night, weasels came in and took out the entire flock.

So, not wanting to go through that again, I built the coop in the picture. It is based on a 1910 open air design. I built it on the other side of the house by my raised beds. I put a fixed fence around it, and included my compost pile inside the fence. The birds quickly killed off everything inside the fence (over 3,000 sq ft!). On the positive side the compost pile worked great! The pile was on a slope (Like everything else here). By the time the stuff made it to the bottom of the hill, I had some AWESOME compost. I was not happy with the chicken dead zone, plus the coop was a long ways from the kitchen.

Then I came upon this site and read about using a paddock system. So I towed the coop around to the other side of the house (it was built with that in mind) and put it in amongst my fruit trees. So far I'm happy with it, and more importantly, so is my wife.
Lolly Knowles


Joined: Aug 22, 2011
Posts: 159
Integrated fence, hmmmn? I'll look around at Rural King and BigR to see what sort of thing I can find. We plan to remain off grid, relying on solar or wind power at point of use, as needed. The forest canopy isn't going to be friendly to either one, so an electric fence will probably need a battery power source that is recharged on occasion.

Thanks for the additional photos, careinke. Do you have plans to move the coop again in the future to increase the amount of paddock space you have? I'm sure the patio pyramids made leveling the building much easier.
 
 
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