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Questions about paddocks for chickens (with the possibility to add in other livestock someday)

 
hannah ransom
Posts: 81
Location: Los Angeles, CA
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Ok, so far I started with a tractor, realized I wanted more chickens than a tractor could hold, went to a (stationary) coop where I throw in greens and bugs for them and let them out while I'm working in that area, but would really love to switch to paddocks. I want my chickens mostly to be foraging because it's important to me to have the natural feeding element. I also want them to be happy chickens. Here are my questions and problems with paddocks:

1.) I am slightly worried about the chickens getting out, especially because they would not be watched all day and not even always have someone home. Do they usually go back in if they go out? If I built something better than betting would it be a constant problem?
2.) Is the only way to effectively keep them in the ugly mesh stuff (so that they don't have something to fly onto and then over)? I don't care too much about looks, but it would be better accepted by others living on this property to have something that looks nice.
3.) If I did four paddocks, each being 1/4 of the part of the yard that is about 110'x55'x150'x75' (nothing is square here) how often would I have to move them? right now I have 13 chickens but would like to hover around 20. This is essentially my orchard area, though all of the trees are still young, I would like to put in more fun berries, figs, and persimmons for the chickens. I would like to add in something like sheep or pigs eventually, once I have the chicken thing down. I assume I would rotate the chickens after the other animal to get increased buggage?
4.) PREDATORS: this is the big one. I can not afford a dog, it would be way too expensive to feed. The only thing I can think of is some kind of netting over the top during the day (to keep hawks at bay) and then a good portable coop for night (coyotes, racoons, owls). I'm super worried about predators getting my chickens! The netting presents the ugly problem, but also solves the chickens getting out. In terms of the coop, I work fro 3pm-11pm and wouldn't be able to close the (small?) door until 11.. would that be ok? I'm thinking no. Also, if I were to net over it I would think that existing trees would get in the way like crazy.

I would particularly love answers from anyone experienced with paddocks, as I just don't know if ti can work out for me at the moment.
 
hannah ransom
Posts: 81
Location: Los Angeles, CA
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no one?
 
Julie Helms
Posts: 110
Location: SC Pennsylvania, Zone 6b
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Have you watched Joel Salatin's videos on pastured poultry? Maybe it would have some tidbits of info you could use.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nOpAjKE0cLk
 
kent smith
Posts: 211
Location: Pennsylvania
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We have had great success with raising meat bird in a Salatin style moveable pen, but the few layers we have want to wander and roost else where at night. If I remember Salatin's advice on his layers is that they need to be a long way away from the house and garden or they would wander back. I have seen our few layers wander a couple hundred feet during the day and my biggest concern was that they do wander close to the road if they were withing 200' of it. The other thing was that they would find places to roost in the evenings at times and not return to the tractor. If someone has advice it would be helpful. as of now I have a moveable tractor or coop and then have a circle of 4' tall fencing that is about 8' in diameter that I move with them daily. I just don't trust the group without the fencing. the other option for the future will be a permenant coop combined compost area like in the back to eden film: backtoedenfilm.com
kent
 
Walter Jeffries
Posts: 1085
Location: Mountains of Vermont, USDA Zone 3
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hannah ransom wrote:1.) I am slightly worried about the chickens getting out, especially because they would not be watched all day and not even always have someone home. Do they usually go back in if they go out? If I built something better than betting would it be a constant problem?


We free range our chickens. They go as far as about 700' from their roosts. If you want them to stay closer than that then clip one wing and put up a perimeter of poultry netting. At night ours mostly return to their intended roosts although some will make roosts in small trees. If you care, move them in the evening. They're easy to move. Locking them in nightly tends to train them to the roost. They do not need anything fancy.

hannah ransom wrote:2.) Is the only way to effectively keep them in the ugly mesh stuff (so that they don't have something to fly onto and then over)? I don't care too much about looks, but it would be better accepted by others living on this property to have something that looks nice.


I'm not sure what you're asking. Is the ugly mesh stuff chicken wire, poultry netting or something else? Clipping one wing solves the flying issue. Then a 3' or so high fence is plenty effective.

hannah ransom wrote:3.) If I did four paddocks, each being 1/4 of the part of the yard that is about 110'x55'x150'x75' (nothing is square here) how often would I have to move them?


If you want to use managed intensive rotational grazing (as opposed to free ranging) then move them by forage growth and return no sooner than 21 days, preferably a month later. How fast they'll eat an area then determines the number of chickens you can have and how many areas you'll need. We did this for a few years. It was too much work.

Instead we free range the poultry. They naturally follow the larger grazers - not grazing after them but grazing with them. We then do managed intensive grazing of the larger grazers (sheep & pigs). This defines the schedules. We have chickens, ducks and geese for poultry. Works for all of them.

hannah ransom wrote:4.) PREDATORS: this is the big one. I can not afford a dog, it would be way too expensive to feed.


If you don't have a good dog and you aren't locking the birds in at night and you aren't there to protect them yourself then you're going to be feeding the local predator population. Even with locking in at night you are likely going to lose birds to hawks and the like. Dogs stop predators dead.

Dogs aren't expensive to keep. We have a large pack of big dogs. Our dogs eat the local predators and pests. The occasional new to the area or young coyote that is foolish enough to enter our fields ends up as dog meat. We buy a small amount of commercial dog food but it really isn't much. We mostly feed our dogs meat from our farm - we are slaughtering pigs every week plus other animals. I budget into the number of animals I raise the needs of the dogs. That is each dog needs to eat a certain number of pounds a year. If a dog needs five pounds of meat a day then that's 1,800 lbs of meat a year.

A ton of meat sounds like a lot but it isn't. The reason is simple - The good thing is the dogs will eat things you don't want to eat and love them. In fact, we silly people don't eat the guts of the chickens - dogs know that those are one of the best parts, it's where the vitamins and minerals are! Feeding the dog from your flock dramatically decreases the cost of the dog. And no, feeding dogs from your livestock does not make them livestock killers - they know the difference. Ours are trained to bring me deadstock, or bring me to it. Then they get to eat it if it isn't a disease issue.

Dogs work for food and a little love. I wouldn't want to farm without them.

Cheers

-Walter
Sugar Mountain Farm
Pastured Pigs, Sheep & Kids
in the mountains of Vermont
Read about our on-farm butcher shop project:
http://SugarMtnFarm.com/butchershop
http://SugarMtnFarm.com/csa
 
Jordan Lowery
pollinator
Posts: 1528
Location: zone 7
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1- dont buy small chicken breeds, buy ones that get fat. they wont fly over your fence.

2- we started with fencing, and planted a living hedge on the outside. once its thick and established we will get rid of the fence. but this takes time.

3-how often you move them depends on how many chickens and how big the space vs. time. pretty much just go out and look with your eyes, if the grass is 1/3-2/3 gone, switch.

4-expect predator loses. and expect the birds that get away to breed chickens that are better against predators. again this takes time. dont be sad when you loose a chicken to a hawk. just think that hawk had to eat too and thats how the game works.

my opinion is that if your rotational system is lush enough, there is no way they would want to leave. specailly with lots of small shrubs for them to hide from predators in.
 
Walter Jeffries
Posts: 1085
Location: Mountains of Vermont, USDA Zone 3
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hubert cumberdale wrote:dont be sad when you loose a chicken to a hawk. just think that hawk had to eat too and thats how the game works.


My dog disagrees:

http://flashweb.com/blog/2006/02/raven-baiting.html

Kita also hunted hawks.
 
hannah ransom
Posts: 81
Location: Los Angeles, CA
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My main concern at this point is still predators. I do get what your saying about survival of the fittest, but I don't want my money going down the tube .

Regarding dogs, I don't believe in feeding un-natural diets to animals, so I would want to feed them raw organic meat. I will look into whether I can get cheap offal from a butcher or something. I would love to have it from my own butchering, but I'm not there yet.. I live on 3/4 an acre!

I would range them, but I want to make sure they have access to greens always, and I have seen plenty of places like mine that range their chickens and they have every weed wiped out.
 
Kahty Chen
Posts: 26
Location: Southern Oregon
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Walter Jeffries wrote:In fact, we silly people don't eat the guts of the chickens - dogs know that those are one of the best parts, it's where the vitamins and minerals are! Feeding the dog from your flock dramatically decreases the cost of the dog.


Do you feed all the guts, even the lungs, gall bladder, and cojones ... and the head? Also, thanks for sharing the Kita hunting story, spectacular!
 
Walter Jeffries
Posts: 1085
Location: Mountains of Vermont, USDA Zone 3
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Kahty Chen wrote:Do you feed all the guts, even the lungs, gall bladder, and cojones ... and the head? Also, thanks for sharing the Kita hunting story, spectacular!


Yes. I've even seen one of our dogs swallow an entire adult Rhode Island Red chicken whole. About an hour later she threw it up for her pups and they devoured it. A real National Geographic moment.

Realize that the meat is limited in its nutrient values. The guts, liver and other things have a lot more stuff that the carnivores don't get. Whole animal diets are better than just bones and meat for this reason. A vet I once spoke with about this said that the BARF diet where people just do meat is a problem for this reason. She recommended that the dogs get whole animals too as part of their diet so they get minerals and vitamins from the guts and organs. Our dogs eat a lot of mice, squirrels, etc. These small mammals make up a large part of wild canine diets - e.g., coyotes, wolves, foxes, etc. People think of them as taking down moose but actually that is rare. Little animals are plentiful.

Kita was very spectacular. I miss her. I have many of her relatives living here with us and enjoy their help on our farm and their company.
 
Yone' Ward
Posts: 135
Location: Springdale, WA USA - Cold Mediterranean Climate
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Dogs are scavengers as well as hunters. That means they naturally eat lots of unnatural stuff. That being said, I understand, a few strings of wire with visually flashy dangly stuff that blows in the wind over the pen will keep birds out of the pen. I wrap hog wire around the out side of my pen to keep predators out (dogs are my #1 predator). Food is a big motivator for chickens. If you feed them a bit every day, then catching them when the get out is as easy as scattering grain.
 
The permaculture playing cards make great stocking stuffers: http://richsoil.com/cards
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