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Running Chickens in forest garden - how to collect eggs?

 
Ryan Mitchell
Posts: 38
Location: Charlotte, NC
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I was curious, when setting up a forest garden and having a few chickens running through them how do people handle the below. I was thinking of having a few sections that were fenced in so I could just let them be, then rotate in a paddock shift like system:

  • How to find/collect eggs
  • protect from predators
  • how to move chickens to another section
  • make sure they find water
  •  
    Renate Howard
    pollinator
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    Location: zone 6b
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    If you had a central henhouse they could always have access to, you could shut them in at night, thus avoiding 90% of predator problems, they could lay eggs in there, and you could put a water dish nearby. Moving them to another section might be the trickiest part - chickens seem to get a home turf in their heads and want to spend most of their time there. Tho they'll often roam a half acre or more, so it could work for you.
     
    John Polk
    steward
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    By instinct, chickens do not like to sleep, nor lay their eggs on the ground.
    Having a proper hen house, which they will return to around dusk, is important (for them, and you).

    A suitable hen house does not need to be fancy.
    It should provide decent nest boxes (elevated above the ground) where they will feel it is safe to store their eggs. (Handy for you too.)
    It should provide them protection - from predators and harsh weather.
    And it should have tiered roosts that they will sleep on.
    Their pecking order will show you the value of multi-level roosts. The hens at the top of the pecking order will occupy the top tier, while those at the bottom of the pecking order get the lowest ones - the most vulnerable spot. If you do loose one to predators occasionally, consider it Mother Nature's natural culling system. The strongest will survive. If you ever want to know their pecking order rankings, just go in there after dark and observe where they are roosting. Top to bottom.

    Always make certain that they have fresh water - in the house or field.
    Something that they cannot sit/stand in (you know what they do on the ground they stand on!)
    In hot weather, the water should be in the shade. If the water gets too warm, they will quit drinking it - when they need it the most.

    Chickens are pretty adept at taking care of themselves - if you give them a fighting chance.

     
    Ryan Mitchell
    Posts: 38
    Location: Charlotte, NC
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    I was hoping to not have to shut them in every night, I'd design the food forest to have plenty for them to eat and have an auto waterer so if I had to go out of town for a few nights I could. Right now I run chicken tractors that I can leave them be for a week or so. I'd want to design it to be equally as little work.
     
    Renate Howard
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    If it was up on stilts with a way they can hop/fly up without a good ladder that would invite raccoons and opossums then it might work. I'd still shut them in when you're home, tho. Many chickens will roost in trees or the beams in a barn, but once a large owl finds them they'll disappear one after another. Not the best way to find out you've got great horned owls!
     
    John Polk
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    I was hoping to not have to shut them in every night


    What is the predator situation in your area?
    Anything the hens can get in & out of without your help...well, so can a predator.
    Electric fencing can keep most of the predators on the outside.
    The step-in nets are easy to move when paddocks get changed.

    If they do not have a secure place to lay their eggs, they will still lay. But they will attempt to hide them as well as possible.
    Like under a bush in the middle of a briar patch. Not where they can easily be found.

    Without a coop with roosts, they will probably sleep on tree branches.
    They prefer to be off of the ground, and with a canopy over their heads.

     
    Sean Banks
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    •How to find/collect eggs- set up ideal situation where they feel secure...add a fake eggs in nesting area to fool chickens into thinking area is perfect for nesting
    •protect from predators- electric fence or trap local predators....raccoons are pretty tasty
    •how to move chickens to an
    other section- gates as mentioned work great
    •make sure they find water-small pond...earth bottom or liner....or collect rainwater from chicken coop roof
     
    David Hartley
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    Also; don't get caught up thinking the roosts and nest boxes need to ne under the same roof
     
    Philip Green
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    Location: Southern Ohio (zone 6a)
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    Renate Haeckler wrote:If you had a central henhouse they could always have access to, you could shut them in at night, thus avoiding 90% of predator problems, they could lay eggs in there, and you could put a water dish nearby. Moving them to another section might be the trickiest part - chickens seem to get a home turf in their heads and want to spend most of their time there. Tho they'll often roam a half acre or more, so it could work for you.


    I've been contemplating the central nesting house concept as well. One henhouse, with four or five (or more) different doors that each accesses a different paddock. That way, to rotate the paddocks you simply close one door and open another. It simplifies some elements of the paddock shift system, though it does mean you'd have to clean the poop.

    Chickens aren't that intelligent, if you move their house more than 50 feet or so, they return to the spot where their house was, not where you moved it to at night. Takes them several days to adjust and generally requires catching them and putting into the coop. Though perhaps with a paddock shift system if your cutting off access to the area with the old coop, than they would go to the new coop location at night.

    A good thing about eggs is that that save for quite some time, even out doors at high temperatures. So if you work outside a lot you could just get used to noticing when a chicken is laying, then go to the place it is laying and find the nest. Of course the disadvantage is you might not find some nests for 3/4 weeks and by then the eggs some of the eggs will have rotted.

    Also for predator protection a LGD is probably the best way to go (if your free ranging or using a paddock shift system). Some predators (hawks and foxes) will hunt during the day once they learn you've got a nice supply of easy pickings out in your yard every day. If you don't use a LGD I would recommend at the very minimum having a few large roosters. They will provide some protection, though they might end up dead and eaten if the predator is large.
     
    Ryan Mitchell
    Posts: 38
    Location: Charlotte, NC
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    This is what I currently have, it gets moved every day. In the summer we flip the tarp to the silver side to reflect the heat (and run it in the shade), in winter we flip it to absorb the heat. I like this setup a lot, but would like to move to the paddock system like I mentioned but want it to be made even easier. With this system we have lost 2 chickens over the past 3 years to predators (we are in a somewhat urban area), but they were getting old and soon to be harvested anyway.
    393675_10150543497774238_305888680_n.jpg
    [Thumbnail for 393675_10150543497774238_305888680_n.jpg]
     
    Jay Green
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    A good dog in your fencing system will keep those pesky preds away and you can free range them while you are gone and not have to close them up in a coop. I have done this for years and just got back from a three day jaunt...everyone present and accounted for, per usual. In the past 10 years of free ranging, I have lost a total of 5 birds to predators...and three of those were chicks taken out of the brooder by a black snake.

    A good dog beats traps, guns, scents and closed up coops over and over.
     
    Cd Anderson
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    Jay Green wrote:A good dog in your fencing system will keep those pesky preds away and you can free range them while you are gone and not have to close them up in a coop. I have done this for years and just got back from a three day jaunt...everyone present and accounted for, per usual. In the past 10 years of free ranging, I have lost a total of 5 birds to predators...and three of those were chicks taken out of the brooder by a black snake.

    A good dog beats traps, guns, scents and closed up coops over and over.


    How do you feed the dog while you're gone?
     
    Paul Cereghino
    gardener
    Posts: 855
    Location: South Puget Sound, Salish Sea, Cascadia, North America
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    Here's our current setup. We are just fiddling with vegetation in three paddocks from a central lockdown facility.
    http://stewardshipinstitute.info/wiki/index.php?title=The_chicken_kingdom

    How to find/collect eggs - The nest boxes in the permanent coop provide the best nesting place. They are tied to the coop by food/water/good safe feeling roost, and safe feeling nest boxes, and always return to roost... sometimes they prefer the deep litter in the lockdown yard for foraging to a well worked over paddock.
    protect from predators - the lockdown yard and coop are one integrated system with little doors running to the paddocks. We can load up food and water and leave town for around 5 days if need be, leaving them in the lockdown.
    how to move chickens to another section - we put a generous door into the lockdown yard. Smaller you can just close one door and open another at night.
    make sure they find water - we currently hang a 5 gallon waterer in the lockdown.
     
    Paul Cereghino
    gardener
    Posts: 855
    Location: South Puget Sound, Salish Sea, Cascadia, North America
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    Nice tractor (and nice tarp trick.) -- how do you like the small wheels (I keep wanting larger wheels)? How did predators get in... was it grabby little racoon hands? I like the PVC feeders (if that is what they are...) I have contemplated going that route... any suggestions?
     
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