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.
If cheap is what you need, then howzabout this ....
I think we are talking about less than 10 chickens, right?
Build a coop that is about 3 feet wide and five feet long. Complete with two layer boxes and some roosts. Something that you can easily drag around.
Then get some field fence - the kind with the 2 inch by 4 inch mesh. Two rolls. 100 feet.
Make a roundish paddock somewhere and put the coop and chickens inside it. Along with food and water.
Take the second roll of fence and make a new paddock right next to the opening of the first paddock.
When the chickens have consumed about a third of the growies in the first paddock, let them into the second and move the micro coop in with them. Then set up the first paddock in a new, fresh spot.
Presto! Paddock shift!
In a talk I saw, Salatin mentions using a synthetic rope and electric fencing on posts to do the same thing. It seems like it would be lighter and easier to move post by post.
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 consider the section up to "(more goes here)" to be complete, with the exception of needing some pictures.
Have I left anything out? Typos?
When you make your raised beds, can you get lots of woody stuff in there? Over the years, the woody stuff should break down and make air pockets.
Also, if you have good, rich soil and you take good care of it, then I would think that as the years pass, millions of earthworms will do optimal tillage.
I have lots more to put into it. I think this is going to be one of my evolving articles - kinda like the cast iron article.
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!!!
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.
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!)
Friendly Haven Rise Farm www.FriendlyHaven.com
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.
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.
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?
Many, many thanks!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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...........................