And now for the bashing of the first four, thus leaving #5 ....
1) coop and run
a) I don't wanna clean the coop. it's gross. It stinks. I don't like the idea of chickens living in a coop that needs periodic cleaning. Even if the farmer swears to clean it every day, not only is that not enough, but there will be times that a week or a month or a year will pass without proper cleaning and then the chickens are the wallowing in their own poop. Each time it is properly cleaned, all that ick is at least temporarily airborne which is icky for the chickens and icky for the unfortunate slob doing the cleaning. Now something has to be done with all of that waste.
b) the area under the coop cannot grow anything, whereas the coop in several of the other solutions can.
c) the run is often too small and ends up baren of any vegetative life. Especially near the coop.
d) the chickens in the same area day after day harbors diseases.
e) the area is almost free of bug protein because nearly the entire bug population was wiped out when the chickens first moved in.
f) Since there is loads of chicken poop in the area and a lack of plant growth to take in the manure, the poop is headed for the groundwater supply.
2) chicken tractor
a) the area the chickens are in is too small. I think it is wrong to confine chickens this much. How would you feel about being confined to a bedroom with five other people?
b) A few people will move a chicken tractor once or twice per day, such that the chickens will consume about 30% of what is growing in a spot before moving on. This is an improvement over what most people will do which is to leave the chicken tractor in one spot until all vegetation is gone. Or worse, beyond that point.
Consider that in general, 40% of what grows on the ground is probably good for chickens to eat. 30% is slightly toxic and the rest is very toxic.
c) If left in one spot for more than a few hours, the chickens end up eating their own poop that has fallen on their "food".
d) It is too hard for chickens to get adequate protein in the form of bugs.
3) truly free range
This is where you let your chickens have full access to everything. No fences of any kind.
a) chicken poop on my porch
b) chickens eating the dog food or cat food
c) chickens wiping out my garden
d) the soils and pastures just do better when given a chance to rest between visits from the chickens
e) chicken scratches all over my car
f) harder to protect from predators
g) eggs with a mystery age
h) chicken poop in my shop and on my tools and on my workbench
4) pastured poultry: pens
Granted, this is a huge step up from many other systems. But after a few years, I've developed concerns
a) the pens are way bigger than chicken tractors, but ... I am still concerned that they are too small. Way too small.
b) A chicken is a forest animal and this denies the chicken access to a forest.
c) I have to move the pen twice a day. That's a lot of work I would like to get rid of.
d) most people still move the pens (as opposed to setting up a new pen next to the old pen and allowing the chickens to wander into the new pen). When the pen is moved, the chickens tend to bunch up at the opposite end of the pen - thus risking getting caught under the pen.
5) pastured poultry: paddocks
Ahhhhh .... the right stuff ....
Each paddock can contain plants that are good chicken feed that the chickens can harvest themselves. Each paddock can contain lots of trees and shrubs. Each paddock can be big enough so that the chickens can hang out there for a full week.
It think you pretty much have the pros and cons pegged. I am a free ranger generally. unfortunatly the "mystery egg age" and the problem with them eating things I don't want has left me no choice but to put a few laying hens in confinement for now. the alternative would be to buy eggs and then what would be the point? which brings me to a point I don't think was listed. cost. for instance I want to have a pen with dividers around the fruit trees forming a chicken moat around the garden. it would be a large area for just a few hens and they would be far enough from the goats that I could let them out and they probably wouldn't wander to the goats and eat the creep feed as long as they had a feeder nearby. it would be great to be able to let them have evening access to the garden when warranted and to eat the fallen fruit. but. it will cost me hundreds of dollars that can't be allocated to improving the life of a few chickens or fulfilling my utopian notion at this point. like myself, I think few people choose to use tractors coops etc....because they think it is better for the chickens. they use them because , for whatever reason, they have to make compromises. lack of space. lack of funding. local ordinances or breeding goals etc.... I think it is important to toss around ideas about how to make coops and tractors better too as well as discuss free range and rotation grazing ideas because the reality is that coops and tractors must be used in some situations if people are going to have poultry. and the improvement of the food health and independance for the humans is more important than the chickens.
OK, our chooks - 5 in number - are mostly #3, save at night when they take themselves off into a shed to roost, and for the first half hour of the day when they are in pen to stop them eating all the goose grain (the geese are only 10 weeks old at the mo and scared of the hens). But you're right, option 3 means poop everywhere so please can you elaborate on option 5. Like do they have a safe house from predators at night and for egg laying? Plus, we have a large veg patch (like 250m2) and I had been hoping that they'd go in there as a hen-tractor, sorting out bugs and leaving their precious fertiliser but after your post I feel mean.
Joined: Jul 22, 2009
Sorry, you have already posted about the paddock shift. I had my reply under construction overnight (due to having very little uninterrupted time as we have a young baby) and just pressed 'submit' as soon as I finished it this am without checking the thread. I'll be interested to see what ideas get 'tossed around' about hen tractors as Leah wrote.
Joined: Jun 26, 2008
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 have lots of pictures and drawings, but I would really like three more pictures,
1) I would like pictures of a non portable chicken coop and a non portable chicken run. I need the picture to be of a time of year when there is vegetation. I would like the pictures to show that the greenery inside the run is different than the greenery outside the run. Or that there is no greenery inside the run. I would also like a picture to show how there there is not greenery near the coop.
2) I would like pictures of a portable chicken tractor showing the tractor results: a patch of soil ready for a garden.
3) I would like pictures of a paddock system or what salatin calls an egg-mobile system.
I have a design question regarding the rotational paddock system. In the drawing of a city lot almost the whole space is used for the chickens. I am designing a 5 acre farm with alley cropping and want to do permanent raised mounds to grow veggies between the rows of trees. this presents an interesting design opportunity. The permanent raised beds cant be compacted because we will never till them and i imagine that chickens will compact the soil. I am drawing a blank on how to integrate these two features and i need ideas.
Joined: Feb 13, 2009
Location: E Washington steppe
Attached is a pic of my old immobile, fully enclosed chicken run. As you can see, there is no vegetation inside the run, but plenty outside! The coop was made with a handsaw and hammer. The run is fully enclosed, complete with makeshift rain fly over the chicken wire roof and the "walls" are buried about 18", with the chicken wire rolled around metal "T" posts then placed in the trench. Each section of chicken wire was "stitched" together at the seam with monel wire. It was a labor of love!
Only had one casualty in the 2+ years I was there, most likely involving a weasel. Did have a hawk come down and perch in the tree limbs immediately behind the run one day. There were lots of raccoons and coyotes in the area, so the fortress seemed to work ok. This was during a period I lived near Carnation (I'm in e. WA now and won't have any chooks till next spring).
Don't know if it fits the bill, but feel free to use it (or not) as you deem fit.
Great work on your article!!!
Permaculture is a gestalt ... a study of the whole. Not just how to produce more and better food, but how human life on the planet affects and is affected by the surrounding environment.
Joined: Jul 01, 2009
Location: Oakland, CA
paul wheaton wrote:
Evidence that hawaii has the perfect chicken habitat?
Evidence that there was an as-yet-underexploited niche for chickens to fill, which isn't too surprising given the distance to the nearest continent.
I'm hopeful they'll compete effectively against rats!
I was just there, and they sell shirts saying "Kuai'i's favorite bird!"
If you can obtain some, they might be the best free-range bird of all, though I bet they've developed a taste for papaya and mango. No feed for generations, but not far removed from domestic birds, and still extremely personable as feral animals go.
"the qualities of these bacteria, like the heat of the sun, electricity, or the qualities of metals, are part of the storehouse of knowledge of all men. They are manifestations of the laws of nature, free to all men and reserved exclusively to none." SCOTUS, Funk Bros. Seed Co. v. Kale Inoculant Co.
My husband Joseph built our coop on a trailer bed that we picked up on Craigslist for $100. Other materials cost $200 and we scrounged the rest. Recycled the shingles from another building, second hand linoleum on the floor inside from the ReBuilding Center in Portland, etc.
Works really well. We've got 38 chickens in it right now and they all fit. They sort of free range the rest of the time. We have 4-5 pens that are about 1/8 acre each and we rotate them with about a month in each pen till we move them to the next one.
I've been trying to post the images but can't quite figure out how to get the image from my computer up onto this note. (What the heck does "You may need to reattach any files you attached" mean? Help!)
what an incredible idea jaqueline! a trailer frame would be a super way to put together a large movable pen! gee thanks all I need is one more project will you guys quit giving me all these good ideas?
quote a) I don't wanna clean the coop. it's gross. It stinks. I don't like the idea of chickens living in a coop that needs periodic cleaning. Even if the farmer swears to clean it every day, not only is that not enough, but there will be times that a week or a month or a year will pass without proper cleaning and then the chickens are the wallowing in their own poop. Each time it is properly cleaned, all that ick is at least temporarily airborne which is icky for the chickens and icky for the unfortunate slob doing the cleaning. Now something has to be done with all of that waste
oh, chicken manure, granny used to say she can grow a head of cabbage with a spoonful of chicken manure anywhere. Seriously, I don't like mucking out the coop either. I get cardboard sheets that appliances are shipped in at Lowes or Home Depot and line the coop floor. EVery so often, take out the roost and nests, fold up the cardboard like an omelette and drag it out and over to the compost pile. put down a new cardboard, put back the roost. we have seven hens and one Buff Orpington rooster. this season two hens hatched 28 chicks among themselves. Our poultry has free run in the orchard, in the hope that they will make a dent on the critters that make the apples wormy. At the end is a little gate in the fence so they can get out to the cows pasture and have fun with the cow patties and go over in the woods. we let them out around noon and they come home by themselves by evening. When we let them out sooner they took liberties with laying their eggs where we could not find them. Okay, back to reading more of the posts.
Has everyone heard of a chicken moat?
It sounds like a reasonable way to block the spread of invasive species, and might be an elegant way to give access to several paddocks.
I think the chicken moat can be a good idea, but most implementations I have seen are not so good.
One of the primary functions is to keep deer out. But the moat only works when there is low deer pressure.
Joined: Jun 26, 2008
here is my chicken moat (er..pipe dream) idea for my place. I would like to encourage them to eat the fallen fruit and bugs, keep bugs out of the garden and I have found now most importantly to create a bunny barrier. it would allow two large areas to be alternated and allow access to the garden if desired. all gates are to be large enough to fit our tractor and mower in. this would be for around 5 hens year round. cleaning the chicken house isn't a big deal for me. I actually tend to enjoy that sort of work and I want to compost the poo for the garden which I can't do unless their is some centralized area.
I have thought about pauls concern about poo build up (which is valid) and it occured to me that one difference might as often is the case be the climate. my chickens are very rarely forced to stay in a coop due to weather. they go in there to sleep and aside from a few other times that is it. it just doesn't get that cold and nasty around here for long. they would hang in the barn during the icestorms and bitter winds but that kind of weather is relatively short lived around here. also no amount of cool rotation plans and movable paddocks is going to change a lazy persons tendancy to not use it or use it correctly. coops need cleaned. so does dog poo from yards, horse poo from shelters, kitty poo from kitty boxes, even wild bird poo on patios and outdoor furniture. cleaning poo is part of being a responsible owner.
it is definitly not to scale and it appears to have been squished in the transfer process but you get the idea.
Ok, I'm convinced that pastured pens are best, but I live on a city lot. I was thinking about rotating weekly between four fixed pens, each about 60 square feet. How many chickens could I have, so they're happy and the grass/vegetation is happy?
edit: I'm saying pen instead of paddock, because I have to enclose the top and bottom of the pen because of all the raccoons we have.
For people who have tried this system, how large a pen are you using, how many chickens do you have, and how often do you move them?
The thing is that a "pen" can be confused with the salatin style pens which are enclosed, but are portable.
With four paddocks, I would say you need to do at least nine days in each paddock. That way, each paddock gets 27 days of rest.
I would think you could start off with three chickens per paddock, but once these areas got to be lush, you could go to more. Maybe more than six.
Joined: Jul 01, 2009
Location: Oakland, CA
How many chickens could I have, so they're happy and the grass/vegetation is happy?
I'm reading Farm City, and Novella Carpenter says her fowl all love to eat a red-stemmed plant she calls pellitory (presumably http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Parietaria_judaica , although there are at least 6 species with that common name). She doesn't recommend planting it because it's so difficult to eradicate the root system: she just harvests it from her neighborhood.
Planted in paddocks, I bet it wouldn't be hard to get rid of.
Joined: Jun 26, 2008
how many chickens in a 60 sq' area could depend alot on whats already growing there and what kind of recovery the vegetation could make depending on the growing conditions. I think 3 is a good starting place also though.
Wanna Be City Egg
Joined: Sep 06, 2009
I like the idea of starting with 3 chickens, and planting stuff they can self-harvest, and then seeing if I can add more chickens later. One thing I am confused about: some people seem to letting their chickens into the vege garden, don't the chickens eat the veges? If not, we have 4'x8' raised vege beds which we could put inside the chicken paddocks.
Also, in talking to some neighbours, they are paranoid about rats. I figure my options are: 1) to use 1"x2" fencing (for the raccoons) and a self-closing automatic feeder (for the rats), or 2) 1/2"x1/2" hardware cloth for the paddocks (on all sides and top and bottom). It looks like 14-gauge 1x2 is priced about the same as 19-gauge 1/2x1/2, which I hope is strong enough.
Finally, how high should the paddocks be? Remember that I am enclosing the top, so I could make it only 1 or 2 feet high, but is this enough height for the chickens to happily carouse around The lower the height, the more places in my yard I can put the paddock (low hanging branches on fruit trees), and the cheaper it is.
About your rat issue.... I welcome them, set traps and feed 'em to the chickens. They are not rats so much as field mice. This works so well for us I have lots of time off now with no rodents to catch. And now that our cat sleeps in the garage where I keep the feed no rats/mice in there either - darn~
Only a couple of feet high is what I've read for head space.
My fence around the chicken's is only a couple of feet high on one side with no top. We step over this to go into their area. And I don't have any problems with them flying out because I used deer netting on that side and the birds feel it is to unstable. The rest of the fence is 3' chicken wire. If you secure their house/roost you may not need to do so much for their run/area.
Funny about animals and their fear-factor.... I used wooden stakes turned pointy side up and stuck in my 4' chain link fence every 3 feet to stop the deer from jumping over. Seems preying on animals insecurities works.
For ranging our 8 chickens - I covered the kids trampoline legs all the way around with chicken wire using zip-ties, and would heard the girls inside. I left one end open and zipped the wire to a wooden stake for opening and closing. We move the trampoline around the yard in the summer, works great just like a play pen. And yes, the chickens grew up in this pen with the kids playing on top and took it all in stride.
Joined: Jun 26, 2008
trampoline Idea is cool! as far as rats and a self closing auto feeder....i'm afraid your rats are going to be about 100 times as smart as your chickens (if you weren't already aware of that) if a chicken can figure out how to work it a rat will be in it in no time. the best solution to that is to make sure that no food is left out over night. chickens will eat smaller rats and mice. day time probably won't be a problem.
my chickens do not have free range of the garden. they will scratch up seedlings and eat many of your vegies. some people seem to think that they would prefer bugs to vegies but at my old house they free ranged and if they got in the garden they went straight for the tomatoes not the bugs.
Well, my chickens are home, have been a few weeks now. It is working. We did lose the chicks I bought to replace the eggs the neighbors dog got, but that was before my flock got here...
Anyway I have them in the horse barn and the pomeranians keep them from the house. These are 4th generation, moved from farm to farm to finally home. I started with americanas and cochens. Yes we have feathered legged blue egged birds. They range and feed themselves with the help of whole grains fed to horses.
I plan to impliment the board turning if I can get them interested in what I am doing. In Alabama they wanted all their "treats" on a plate. I would hate to attract bugs and have them go unnoticed...might have to start clicker training my chickens...oh great another project...........................
Joined: Jun 26, 2008
...might have to start clicker training my chickens...oh great another project...........................
the idea of that cracks me up! I wonder what sort of tricks you could teach a chicken
Hey I have been raising these chickens within the city limits. Though recently they've been kicked out due to a health hazard concern from a distant neighbor. I like this method because it worked to take my chickens away on the highway in their coop, then set up at a new location as if nothing much had happened.