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chicken help and advice needed Please

 
faith alkire
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Hi we are in the middle of planing our homestead. it is only 1 acre and is in an old hard wood forest. I wanted to raise some chickens both for eggs and meat some goats for milk, and a few turkeys for meat. well ii am figuring a 3rd for the land would be walled and fenced for the animals I'm wanting to minimize the amount of feed i need so i was figuring on 2 nanny goats (hopefully something with a soft coat for spinning) like 4-6 turkeys 3-5 hens and 1 male and then maybe 6-10 chickens. I'm trying to figure out if i add in extra forage plant if the animals would do ok on a 3rd of an acre or am i overcrowding their area? The rest will be dedicated to the house and food forest and a small pool. We actually have 6 more acres that we can use as forage area for the goats if need be but we would prefer not to half to use my parents 6 if we can. so I'm just wondering if I am expecting to much out of a 3rd of an acre will i need to be providing a lot of feed. should i reduce the number of chickens and turkeys. I am not reducing the goats as I am not able to do cow so goat milk is the best alternative for our family of 6. oh Also since i will be slowly turning all 6 acres into a food forest is it a reasonable assumption that i should after a few years be able to stay out of the grocery stores for at least most of the harvest season? sorry so many questions but we will be building a house and getting a lot of the garden going next spring so i want all my chickens in a row before i make purchases. thank you all in advance for any info on all of my above questions.
 
John Elliott
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Welcome, Faith!

If you look at suggested stocking rates for good pastureland, one acre can support one cow-calf pair or ten goats or upwards of 100 chickens. Now there's a lot of variability in that number, and then ways to sequence the grazing, run the cattle first, let the chickens in after the cattle to eat all the insects in the cowpies and then send in the goats to eat the weeds the cattle found unpalatable, you get the picture. But in general, your plan doesn't sound overcrowded. I keep 3 chickens in a 32 sq ft tractor and the pasture they move around in is 40'x50' overall. This being Georgia, they get collards, sweet potatoes and peanuts from the garden in addition to what they can scratch out of the pasture.

Another thought is to look around for overgrown areas close by that you can cut and turn into silage. If you can't rent your goats out for kudzu control, then you can attack stands of thistle, bindweed, vetch, etc., with the lawnmower and put up the clippings into a Hefty bag to turn into silage.
 
John Polk
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Don't forget that chickens are omnivores. Scraps from the kitchen and garden can be a large portion of their diets.
Winter squash/pumpkins that are not keeping well enough for your family's use are a real treat for the hens.

Also, you can expand their forage area into your kitchen garden before you plant, and after you harvest.
This will drastically limit the number of pests in your garden.
They'll get most of them before wintering over, and most of what they missed next spring.
Plus, they'll deposit their fertilizer at times when it is most beneficial to the garden areas.

Black oil sunflower seeds scattered around will add color/beauty to the yard, and when the flowers begin to wilt, toss them to the hens.
Food and entertainment for winter.

As far as using your parent's land for the goats, I say "Go for it." Goats are browsers. They will help pave the way for establishing your food forest.
Both by clearing out heavy under brush, and fertilizing the soils. Your parents should thank you for this service!

Good luck.
 
faith alkire
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Thank you so much. my dad already has plans for my goats to help keep down his brush and he even talks about using them in his landscaping business lol . I just want to raise healthy happy animals in hopes that they will help feed a happy healthy family. ok 2 more questions how high of a wall or fence do i need to keep them from trying to fly away. mind you our outside wall is planed to be 10' tall to keep out the deer but i'd like to know how tall a fence i need to keep them out of the garden during the growing season. also what is a nice all around good chicken breed as i want it to lay some and be a roaster at some point. also do livestock gaurd dogs work well against hawks and other raptors. also do i need a heated coop for winter? the coldest temps are -2 F. sorry for asking you all but I love this forum for the rest of my garden designing and plans so i figured I'd bug you with all my chicken question lol.
 
John Elliott
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Heating the coop depends on what you want from your chickens. If you give them a warm place to go at night, you'll probably get more eggs. We had a zone 9 winter this year (no lows below 20F) and mine kept laying right through the winter with no break. A couple winters ago, it was significantly colder, with more chill hours, and they took a break from laying in December and January. If you don't get much in the way of sub-zero temperatures, you may be able to get by with passive solar heating for the chicken coop (i.e., black paint and thermal masses).

Chickens are not strong flyers and will usually stay inside a paddock with a 4' high fence. Then again, if they get spooked by a predator, they might be able to jump/fly up into a tree for cover. Chickens are content to stay in their paddock and see what they can scratch out of the ground. Goats are completely the opposite and some view any fence as an IQ test to see if they can beat it.
 
John Polk
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my dad already has plans for my goats to help keep down his brush and he even talks about using them in his landscaping business lol


Two caveats here:
* If chemicals are used on his customer's properties, you won't want the goat's milk or meat.
* How are you going to milk them daily if they're somewhere else?
Perhaps, a couple of Billy Goats for his use would be better. No milking to worry about, and they could provide you with both meat and kids. A Win/Win situation for you, your father, AND the goats!

how tall a fence i need to keep them out of the garden during the growing season


As long as there is plenty to forage outside the garden, they should be relatively happy. A 3-4 foot chicken wire fence will probably suffice. Put a stake in each corner, and nowhere else. They usually don't fly over a fence, but rather hop up on the edge, then hop down inside. If there are only stakes at the 4 corners, then the spans of chicken wire in between will be 'floppy'...chickens don't like that...they like to land on a firm, stable edge.

what is a nice all around good chicken breed as i want it to lay some and be a roaster at some point


Almost any breed labeled "dual purpose" will give you a steady supply of eggs, yet grow large enough for a 'final meal'.
Rhode Island, or New Hampshire reds, Plymouth are some of the most popular dual purpose breeds. Under decent conditions, any of these should give you 200+ eggs (each) per year, and put a 5-6 pound bird on the table come Sunday night.

do i need a heated coop for winter?


No. Their coop should be designed to keep the wind and rain off of them (yet still offer good ventilation). Once they get past their first season, they will molt each late/summer/early autumn (depending on your climate). This gives them a brand new winter coat. As the days grow colder, they acclimate to it. A big factor to consider with heating is that with heating, they will not harden themselves off. With a brown out lasting several days, they may die if they are reliant on heat. My grandmother raised chickens around Hudson's Bay (-40 degrees) in coops that were completely open on the south side (and no electricity there back then!).

do livestock gaurd dogs work well against hawks and other raptors


I wouldn't say "well", but they do help. Most predators try to avoid areas with activity (other than what they want). If it is a dog sleeping under the oak tree, they will pay him no mind. If he is actively patrolling the area, they will probably go look elsewhere.
 
drew grim
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Location: pleasant garden, nc (zone 7A)
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we are in our first year on a homestead. we have two areas that are fenced for chickens and goats. the goats are not milking at this point so i am making/letting them forage about 80% they are staying really happy and healthy. all cuttings and clearing branches go into the goat pen too. its like a pooping leaf chipper. I have two pygmies that can fit their tiny heads through the fence. which is the best thing in the world. by doing this i dont have to weed whack along the fence at all. they are worth their weight just for that.

for chickens a lot depends on what you have growing. if you can set aside areas to grow the chickens food it will keep the feed bill down. we have pumpkins, sunflowers, amaranth, and buckwheat growing now. hopefully that will help later on in the year. we have about 30 chickens in a mature forest plot that is about 300' of electric netting. I move it around when the ground gets bare and they do really well with that setup. they love all the snakes they find in the woods. we go through about 25 pounds of feed a week for them and the ducks. keeping the food in a spill proof feeder system helps eliminate waste too. we started out putting the feed on the ground but just by moving the feed to a "tube" feeder we cut the bill in half. i also plan to reduce my flock to about 10 birds come fall to cut down on the feed bill.

once last thing is the electric netting so far is well worth it. it works out being cheaper than traditional goat fence (unless you can find all your own posts for free) the big plus is you can just pick it up and move it.
 
faith alkire
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thank you all again. one question we were planning to use cob walls between the animal area and the garden I am guessing that it would be a bad idea to do this at 4' high like I originally planned if chickens like to hop that high. we are trying to avoid using thing not found on site. I will have a good supply of wood to use as post as we will need to remove some black locust from the building site but we wanted to avoid traditional fencing for a more organic feel. as for the goats I believe we will be needing a milking stall to house them at night so they are easy to find for milking and I will let my dad use a billy to help him. he has 20 clients all of whom have him do all their landscaping and lawn care needs and he is firmly against chemical weed killers and bug killers. he always said if it could hurt a pest or weed it can't be good for the useful bugs and plants. As a matter of fact when we explained permaculture and food forest to him. he laughed and said heck people all over WV had been doing it for as long as they have been there. I have to admit most of my friends grew up on farms that looked an awful like the new food forest ones I see on youtube.

now for a coop wood or cob? (we have practically perfect soil for cob as in just ad straw) also any plant I should make sure are not in the animale area as I don't want to poision my food supply by accident. the more I research the more questions I start to have.
 
John Elliott
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One poisonous plant to keep an eye out for is nightshade



The leaves can vary in shape from oval to heart-shaped, and the fruits can go from yellow to red to black, so the flowers are probably the most consistent way to identify it. Learn which variety is common in your area and keep a sharp eye out for it. I lost two chickens to it the first year I was here, and it wasn't until the third year that I managed to eradicate it completely from the property. Even now, I have a keen eye for those nasty blue flowers and dig it out wherever I find it.
 
Terri Matthews
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Location: Eastern Kansas
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The local ag extension office should be able to give you the stocking level for your state. I will say that in a small area the feet of the animals tend to kill off any vegetation: some people with not QUITE enough forage will pen their animals and turn them out for a few hours at a time to avoid overgrazing and reduce traffic. In this way they can get some of their feed without damaging the plants, and the feed bill is much reduced.

As for chickens, we live in zone 5 and they need shelter but not heat. OK, I run a space heater in the hen house where the chickens cannot knock it over, but only when it is around zero or below. I spoil my birds a little! What they MUST have on cold nights is a draft-free area and shelter from rain or snow! On cold nights they can puff up their feathers the way wild birds do, and this traps the heat like a down jacket. Wind will ruffle their feathers, and let the heat out, which chills them. The 2 most important things with a chicken shelter is lack of drafts and good ventilation.

My chickens live in a garden shed, and part of the shed has been screened off so that I can keep feed in it, and also set up the space heater. I do have to be careful about scattered litter and th space heater: I must sweep before it is set up! The chickens do fling about their bedding, and some of it ends up with the bag of feed.
 
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