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Please shred my business idea..

 
Posts: 79
Location: Aside the Salish Sea
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So I come up with a lot of funky ideas, particularly in areas (like permaculture) where I know extraordinarily little in the first place. I'd like to share my latest idea.. in the hopes that some knowledgeable folks here can tell me I'm crazy, which will allow me to avoid putting too much thought or effort into it (or hone it if I'm not totally crazy).

The inspiration mainly comes from Geoff's chicken tractor videos. I asked myself three questions. What if you don't have a property like that with a near-unlimited source of food, but you don't want to buy supplemental feed? What if you want to share the benefits of chickens with others? But what if you (or others) just want the benefits of chickens on the soil, but don't really *want* the chickens?

The answer to these questions? Rent-a-Chicken!

The idea would be to create a chicken tractor that's street legal.. a chicken trailer, or maybe a pickup with a coop installed in the bed. Working with landowners or landscape architects that have been commissioned to remake someone's property, the chickens would be driven to a site and electro-net fencing set up around the specific area where they'll peck and scratch. Considering most sites would take a while, they would just be driven back to the site each morning until the 'work' is done.

The yield would come from those clients (who hopefully would see the benefit of having living creatures do some of the clearing rather than machinery) and from eggs. I don't suspect it'd be extraordinarily high-yielding.. but just something that could be added to a little business portfolio.

As for challenges.. my wife (a veterinarian) thinks most chickens would be too freaked out about the constant moving to be very productive. I thought this could potentially be overcome by 'staffing' enough chickens for the timid ones to stay behind in the truck/trailer longer while others get to work.

Anyway.. that's my idea. So, please tear it apart and tell me where I'm off-base or not realistic. And maybe this sort of thing is already being done and I just don't know about it..!
 
pollinator
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Sheep and goats are used for clearing. I could see adding some chickens to that business.
 
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Strange as it seems, Rent-a-chicken has been done here in Phoenix but is now defunct. It wasn't quite the same concept as you lay out, though.

Hens will clear areas of herbaceous plants, for the most part, but not woody plants. Someone will have to do some fine tidying up to get stuff chickens missed. They may strip leaves and flowers off woody plants. I know people around here have used goats to clear woody debris (Geoff also has a video on goats).

Chickens are pretty adaptable - I have taken one of my hens on a bike to a friend's house and to a café. I think they would get used to the ride.

It will be interesting to hear what others think of your idea!

Here is a person doing something similar with goats: http://www.rentaruminant.com/





 
B.E. Ward
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Intriguing.. so maybe start with goats and sheep and 'finish' with chickens? At least as much as they could finish. Or team up with an existing goat/sheep rental business to follow them with the chickens?
 
Posts: 1947
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If you had a modified chicken tractor you could have that stay overnight at the site with the chickens in it. If there weren't very many chickens the coop wouldn't have to be very big. Chickens like to be cozy together in the night.
 
B.E. Ward
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Matu Collins wrote:If you had a modified chicken tractor you could have that stay overnight at the site with the chickens in it. If there weren't very many chickens the coop wouldn't have to be very big. Chickens like to be cozy together in the night.



My only concern was the possibility of overnight chicken theft. That might be mitigated, I suppose, by parking in a garage overnight if it's available.
 
Matu Collins
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Human theft or predator theft?
 
B.E. Ward
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Matu Collins wrote:Human theft or predator theft?



Both, but mainly the former..
 
Jennifer Wadsworth
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If you viewed Geoff's videos - the chickens get shut up at night in the pull-along trailer that he's modified to serve as their roosting place. Humans would have to steal the whole trailer to get the hens. Or you could just pull the trailer home. Hens "come home to roost" regularly every evening. If they know the trailer is their safe spot for the night, they will return there. They will also spend the night crapping on the floor of the trailer. Crap, crap, crap all night long! You can gather that up, let it age and sell it as fertilizer. You can modify the trailer with nest boxes and harvest eggs as well.
 
Matu Collins
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You could always put a lock on the coop. It's a good idea to have a lock too keep raccoons out anyway, they will open latches to get chickens
 
steward
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Yup, you're crazy. In my experience, crazy is an essential aspect of being an entrepreneur.
What you are essentially talking about is mob grazing. Check out Alan Savory's work.
I've thought about this, called it Chicken Tilling, but it never occurred to employ the birds as an enterprise. On a small scale, with a movable tractor covering a small area, the chickens will clear away every bit of green, stir up the soil, and blend in their droppings. I've contained chickens in tall grass. Some areas they will clear down to soil. Other places can be left matted or growing. Perhaps the population density was not high enough for complete razing. Take the chickens away, stuff grows like wildfire. I can see the benefit of the idea when used in the right settings. Brushy, woody locations would not seem to be ideal, but I don't have an example of this working or not.

Seems to me if this were done on a large scale, containment and security would be a key issue. Each location will have different hazards, be they predators, humans, or contaminants. The right fence would be needed, as well as overhead protection. For mobility, lightweight, easy to erect/remove, and enough durability to warrant the cost. Plastic screen kinda fits this, but unwelcome entry is way too easy. Perhaps chain link with posts set in concrete buckets? Transportation would best be done at night. If you have to gather the chickens, nighttime is the easy time. They always go home at night. Being they have a preference for the same roost every night, the coop would be the transportation. Leave it in place for the duration of the job. With the same housing in place at all times, you'd have to make the trip to lock it at night, open it up back up in the morning. At least it will deter easy theft.

Chickens don't eat evenly. They'll take the low hanging fruit first, then work their way to the least desirable weeds and stems. I think nutrition might require supplemental feeding. This has the advantage of directing the birds to a particular area that needs further scratching. I've noticed that anywhere I toss some scratch grains or pieces of bread, the chickens will work that area over looking for that least morsel. Putting that behavior to work for you may be possible. Add compost, the chickens will spread it. Follow up with feed so the girls work that compost into the soil. The top inch or two will be well blended.

The charge for the service would depend on the area being Chicken Tilled, how extensive the job needs to be, and the travel costs twice per day. Downtime will need a place for the birds to hang out on their days off.
If you can put this together, I think there may be a market, if the price is right. How big that market would be, and if it could support the investment I can not guess at.
 
B.E. Ward
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Jennifer Wadsworth wrote:If you viewed Geoff's videos - the chickens get shut up at night in the pull-along trailer that he's modified to serve as their roosting place.



I just wonder if he'd do that in suburban (or urban) Brisbane or Sydney.

Jennifer Wadsworth wrote: They will also spend the night crapping on the floor of the trailer. Crap, crap, crap all night long! You can gather that up, let it age and sell it as fertilizer.



I would love to sell bags of something that had a nice calligraphic old-timey label that said "The Crap of Chickens". That would be awesome!

Eggs would definitely be an instrumental part of the business plan. It seems like it'd be fun to sell them at farmers markets, and maybe bring the trailer and some of the chickens along so everyone gets to see where the eggs came from.
 
steward
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You mentioned using a pick-up as a coop.
Even better (way cheaper) is that many people make utility trailers out of P-U beds. I see them for sale ($150-$300) all the time on Craig's List. Also see lots of truck bed canopies (free) on craig's list. Add a 1" x 6" ramp, and you've got a cheap, portable unit.

Leave 4-6"of straw on the floor for bedding. After each 'job', when you bring them home, rake the N rich bedding out, and renew it.

Moving each morning/night would be eliminated. Those moves, with gasoline hoovering around $4 per gallon would turn the profit into a loss. In an urban/suburban setting, the 2 legged predators would be the biggest concern --
-- How do you make a Gypsy omelette? -- First, you steal a chicken...

 
B.E. Ward
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Ken Peavey wrote:The right fence would be needed, as well as overhead protection. For mobility, lightweight, easy to erect/remove, and enough durability to warrant the cost. Plastic screen kinda fits this, but unwelcome entry is way too easy. Perhaps chain link with posts set in concrete buckets?



I don't know much about electro-net.. but what about that as an option? And maybe a lightweight net to go over most of the area to deter predators from above?

Excellent thoughts on transportation! Thanks!
 
B.E. Ward
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John Polk wrote:
Moving each morning/night would be eliminated. Those moves, with gasoline hoovering around $4 per gallon would turn the profit into a loss.



This is a very good point. However, something I just thought of.. I wonder if keeping the chickens in the coop/trailer overnight on site would make the landowner subject to chicken laws - albeit temporarily. So things like "no roosters" or a limit to the number of chickens or even "no chickens, period" could be a potential obstacle to leaving them there overnight.
 
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I think I would want to rent chickens if that was an option where I live but only if they where chickens that would eat ticks (would also rent guinea fowl if that was an option) I have been pondering getting some chickens and or guinea fowl to help deal with ticks but the thought of them eating up all the native salamanders and millipedes that I love has left me with the decision to deal with the ticks and not have any fowl. I would rent some though once in a while to lesson the local ticks before having a lot of people over or if the ticks where really getting out of hand.
 
Dale Hodgins
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The eight boys in my family, entertained many criminal ideas when I was a teenager. I don't remember any of us ever suggesting that we should go out and grab a noisy critter that shits, scratches and pecks. We lived on a farm and there were many nearby chickens to be had. This seems like a crime right out of Oliver Twist. I imagine that you'd be the laughing stock of death row, if it was learned that you were there for stealing chickens.
 
B.E. Ward
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Dale Hodgins wrote:I imagine that you'd be the laughing stock of death row, if it was learned that you were there for stealing chickens.



I don't know how it is in other urban areas, but here in Seattle we seem to be reaching new heights of sheer dumbness in crime. It wouldn't surprise me to have chickens stolen (or the trailer vandalized, which might be more likely). The biggest problem is just the risk. The whole business could come to its knees temporarily in such a situation.
 
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I think over future generations the rent-a-chickens would evolve to be more adapted to the nomadic life.

Just be careful of getting too big or ranging too far as some one argue this scale is a part of colony collapse issues with the honeybees.

Post an ad selling the service to see if you get any interest. Pre-selling is an important part of validating a business idea. I would be worried if you get no leads.
 
Matu Collins
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Olivia Helmer wrote:I think I would want to rent chickens if that was an option where I live but only if they where chickens that would eat ticks (would also rent guinea fowl if that was an option) I have been pondering getting some chickens and or guinea fowl to help deal with ticks but the thought of them eating up all the native salamanders and millipedes that I love has left me with the decision to deal with the ticks and not have any fowl. I would rent some though once in a while to lesson the local ticks before having a lot of people over or if the ticks where really getting out of hand.



Ah! I would consider trying out a guinea hen based deer tick abatement system! You could make more money with this in my area, I think. And I bet the guineas would have really healthy meat! That's a permaculture research project right there

I strongly encourage everyone to be cautious with deer ticks. Lyme disease, Erlichiosis and babesiosis are very serious. Each member of my family has had one or more of these. I used to say I'd live with the ticks, but now I'm getting more serious about tick abatement.
 
Posts: 82
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It's being done here in Australia, rent a chook. On site coops rented to yuppies. Costs a bomb!!! Google them for the model. Good luck mate.🐔🐔🐔
 
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Dale Hodgins wrote:The eight boys in my family, entertained many criminal ideas when I was a teenager. I don't remember any of us ever suggesting that we should go out and grab a noisy critter that shits, scratches and pecks. We lived on a farm and there were many nearby chickens to be had. This seems like a crime right out of Oliver Twist. I imagine that you'd be the laughing stock of death row, if it was learned that you were there for stealing chickens.



Dale, I get the impression you do not follow police reports or listen to news stories about criminals very much. They do not tend to be the brightest bulbs. Like the bank robber who wrote his hold up note on his own deposit slip. Some ideas would never occur to most of us because we have a clue about the idea of cause and effect. Some folks have no idea why they are in trouble after doing something extraordinarily dumb. Like choosing to walk into the police station to use the "public toilet" instead of going to the Burger King across the street, when drunk as a skunk.

So, yeah, some one might see the little chickens and think "$2 a pound", or "hey, free fighting cocks!" And have no idea that they might be a problem to manage.

Of course, I can envision the would be thieves chasing around after a flock of disturbed chickens and having the whole neighborhood call in the police, too.
 
B.E. Ward
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Peter Ellis wrote:
So, yeah, some one might see the little chickens and think "$2 a pound", or "hey, free fighting cocks!"



Or, as evident by a recent 'spree' in our neighborhood, there are people who may decide the trailer would look a lot better with letters (or words) etched into them with a screwdriver.

Thanks, everyone, for all of the feedback in this thread!
 
pollinator
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Rent a chook is based on the idea that people trial out having chicken before they buy. It seems to be very crazy. That is really something for earth disconnected yuppies. But I accidentally googled the site some time ago, it seem they survived some months. As they are in Australia and no competitors to you I would ask them how about their business. I would think that you sell chicken too, as soon as people decide for chicken. I would not go for the trailer, but a real usual chicken tractor system, which you sell too.
There are guys in Australia selling overpriced chicken and chicken tractors called city chicks.
Two other thoughts: for real city areas there are quails too and Chinese like quail eggs very much. It could be rent out a goat dwarf goat....too
Were I grew up the city hired a shepherd to mow the lawn of parks, I don't really know weather he was paid or only allowed to graze, he had some 50 or 100 sheep and a real shepherds cart (probably an apartment somewhere).

BTW it's really frustrating, you think you come up with the craziest idea and it's done already.
 
Mark Chadwick
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Plenty of crazies down here in Oz. Lots of competition in this rent a chook space. Yuppies go mad for it!!!
They do have a rent, try, buy deal. I was talking to one of the operators at an open garden recently, it seems bantams - particularly silkies, are hugely popular. They must be making a motza.

Just to demonstrate how crazy we can be, a vietnamese migrant recently fought all the way to the High Court to keep a sheep named Baa in his suburban yard. He spent $200, 000 and lost!
 
Angelika Maier
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The more I think of the idea the better I find it. It's kind of subversive. Build (or convince someone to build for you) several very posh chicken tractors (these metal ones available in OZ or better), then aim for the high end suburbs. As soon as there are luxury chicken in the high end suburbs, scratching a lawyers garden, council will have a problem to restrict chicken keeping in other suburbs. Plus if you work for the upper 5% you won't know an economic crisis. You offer maintenance of the coop as well. Silkies are great for that purpose, maybe ... you must investigate, because your wife is right chicken do not like to be transplanted. We had dead chickens when we brought them in from somewhere else, very often. Usually it is best to breed yourself. Either you find chicken which can handle this or you will have trouble. But maybe this is not a problem because they are not introduced into an environment were there are other chicken.
Grow some herbs too and concoct some health tonics for your chicken which you sell, buy food or grow it and sell this too.
Look at the website of city chicks.
 
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Why remove them at night? Could you not take a portable garden shed out for them to sleep in at night? (Chickens need to be safe when they sleep)

You could visit them morning and night to shut them in and let them out, and also to provide them with water and feed.
 
Terri Matthews
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Olivia Helmer wrote:I think I would want to rent chickens if that was an option where I live but only if they where chickens that would eat ticks (would also rent guinea fowl if that was an option) I have been pondering getting some chickens and or guinea fowl to help deal with ticks but the thought of them eating up all the native salamanders and millipedes that I love has left me with the decision to deal with the ticks and not have any fowl. I would rent some though once in a while to lesson the local ticks before having a lot of people over or if the ticks where really getting out of hand.

Yes, you would need to find out what your community would allow: perhaps animal control would be who you need to ask?
 
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I dig it Ward!..

You could build a fly-in-coop on wheels. The chickens fly in and out as needed w/o our help. All you'd have to do is clean the coop and make sure they have water.. All the clients would have to do is dump their compost and collect the eggs! People would dig it.. Humans have been playing with chickens for a long time.. It's in our bones ha..

Plus they're such dorks.. they keep out hearts light.

I put some pictures up of our fly-in-coop on another thread.. at the bottom

http://www.permies.com/t/33875/geoff-lawton/Geoff-Lawton-Chicken-Tractor-Steroids#273533
 
B.E. Ward
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Terri,

Based on what I've read here, we wouldn't *need* to take them away at night, and doing so may actually be more of a disruption than we'd like. But..... the primary motivation is keeping them (and the trailer) safe and vandalism-free. I suspect this wouldn't be much of a problem in a smaller or quieter town. But we here in Seattle have a big vandalism problem, whether it's tagging or keying cars or whatever.

Milo,

What's the advantage to a fly-in coop? It looks cool!
 
Milo Stuart
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Nice yeah our fly-in coop takes advantage of the chickens ability to fly.. (if you don't clip their wings). We have just about every chicken predator down here.. racoons, skunks, foxes, bobcats, lions and bears but none of them can fly! (Except the red tailed hawks and eagles ..but.. they're pretty awesome quite frankly and probably deserve a chicken every once in a while)

But yeah it's predator proof and we don't have to be around to close them in at night and let them out in the morn.. The chickens can fly in and out at their leisure to lay and roost.

As far as vandalism goes.. The only opening would be a chicken sized hole on one side.. Nobody is going to be able to crawl in but I spose they could throw something in if they were feeling angry.. But with some proper design I bet you could make it difficult to do much harm! Hopefully the only vandalism comes in the form of beautiful art.

I like the idea and I think your in the right place.. Seattle folks would dig it... Portland sure to follow!

Have fun with it
IMG_0772.JPG
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Fly-in-Coop.. Angled face so critters can't scamper up to the hole..
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Cruisin. Caged compost in background, attracts bugs for the ladies..
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Lift off! Most don't need the stand but it's fun for em..
 
pollinator
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B.E. Ward wrote:Intriguing.. so maybe start with goats and sheep and 'finish' with chickens?  At least as much as they could finish.  Or team up with an existing goat/sheep rental business to follow them with the chickens?



I'd think the other way around: Start with chickens who will enjoy the lush growth and finish with the goats, who are browsers. Otherwise, I think the goats would eat it all.
 
Cécile Stelzer Johnson
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That is not such a silly idea. The number of chickens to "employ" to clear the land would have to be suited to the task at hand so the job can be done in a few days. Also, predators tend to "case the joint" before they go in for the kill, so the "job" would be done before they can find a way to snatch a chicken.
Going back and forth to the place would be a drag: gas expense, having to wait until they come in, then leaving early in the morning to release them. That part needs to be scratched.
For me, the only "fly in the ointment"is the idea of someone who "does not want to have chickens" being in charge, even temporarily, of my birds: Would they get watered and fed properly? Also, what happens if a bird you have temporary custody of, dies, either unexpectedly, from sickness or from malfeasance? Who gets the eggs? What if a hen goes broody and starts sleeping on the job [having to move her and her clutch back home may mean she will refuse to go back on them? What if the chickens are stolen?
A few things would need to get ironed and the details nailed tight in a contract, but it is workable.
Any contraption they come in is the one they would go back to at night, especially if water and feed is kept there, so that is not so much of a problem.
For my part, I'd like to exchange a rooster for a while with a neighbor: I have a flock, but they were bought as chicks at the same time from one source, so they are all "brothers and sisters" potentially. I took their eggs and placed them in an incubator after several of my hens went broody but quit. Whether or not they hatch in the incubator, I don't like the idea that they may be so closely related.
 
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I think that when we plan on putting chickens to work, we need to remember that chickens are omnivores and that insects are an important part of their diet particularly if you're trying to avoid commercial feed as Geoff Lawton's "pick-up trailer" set up does. Geoff is building multiple compost piles, which attract a lot of insects, which have more energy/nutrients on a volume basis compared to many green leafy plants. Layers who are laying daily need a lot of calories and nutrition.

I'd also point out that Joel Salatin's meat bird system is specifically designed and operated *not* to damage the pasture, but to spread the chicken manure and supplement the diet of the meat birds he raises. His layer bird system is intended to follow ruminants specifically to clean up bugs that lay in the "cow pats" left behind and to spread out those pats. Again, this actually helps to improve pasture rather than destroying it.

The few times I've tried to use chickens to clean up land, I've found that they will initially knock a bunch of greenery back, but unless they are forced out of hunger or boredom to get every scrap of stuff out, there's going to be a lot left when they're done. I've read that the "moonscape" commonly seen in contained chicken runs is actually due to the high nitrogen from the chicken manure poisoning the soil, rather than from the chickens eating behavior. This is why the "deep mulch" system of adding lots of high carbon material such as straw, sawdust, dead leaves etc is important to keep things healthy. I believe, but haven't tried, that there are some biodynamic mixtures that if added to the high carbon bedding will also help to keep the system working well - helping control disease, smell and ammonia.

That said, there was a local company offering an Urban/City "rent-a-chicken" program - cute coops for people to try out back-yard chickens where the renter was responsible for feeding, watering and collecting eggs, but knew they could just send them back if it wasn't working out.
 
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A friend of ours leases chickens, pullets to be exact. He offered to lease us some, bringing over the coup and the whole nine yards. Basically they would clear the yard and fertilize it for us, we would take care of young chickens for him, and then he would take them back. There wouldn't be any eggs involved though, because they would be too young. I didn't see the point, because where is the fun in just having chickens to clear up your yard? I could borrow goats for that. It could be a mutually effective arrangement, though, if you want to focus on showing your older chickens, and you know someone who wants to spend less time mowing.
 
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Jay Angler is so right suggesting that we need to look at this work from the chicken's perspective. Humans are just used to *using* bees, goats, chickens that we don't always see the line when we do it for the good of the chickens or for our own interest.
You'd have to see how long it takes for the chicken to do a *decent* job, but using them to get the very last scrap is cruel. Yes, they would eventually clean it without any vegetation, but that may be out of hunger or boredom. Mine have been cleaning their yard of *almost* all vegetation, so I had to supplement. They need brown and green litter so they keep enriching the soil. I planted a dozen trees in their yard, with a surround for each so they would not scratch near the trunk. They are keeping the grounds clean of bugs, which really helps the young trees, but they appreciate getting good food too. I am also weighing doubling the size of their out yard into the forest.

I would not rent mine to do such a job. I inter-planted too many cukes among my asparagus, so my chickens are getting pails of it right now, along with all the other table scraps. I have also straw and hay in their yard, and they make the most of it. Later, it looks like they will get loads of small pumpkins, which is an excellent vermifuge. So, yes, you can stack functions but let's be careful not to give them the short end of the stick: To be productive and be happy, they need the right food in the right amount.
It is true that confined bird may make the soil so full of nitrogen that you will only get lush growth but no fruit. What you are aiming for is good soil, which will sustain any trees you plant there, giving them shade.
 
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Have you considered pigs followed by chickens?
 
Cécile Stelzer Johnson
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Ryan Hobbs wrote:Have you considered pigs followed by chickens?



Pigs are also omnivores, but besides eating unwanted vegetation, they will also till the land ... deep. There is a good reason they used pigs in France to dig truffles, this delicacy mushroom. Using their snouts to dig for roots and other things, they can create deep holes in which you can twist an ankle or worse.
In a number of southern states, feral pigs are destroying pastures by creating deep ruts. Such a pest they have become that there are organized hunts to abate the problem. So that is what they can do to your property unless they are closely supervised.
Assuming the pigs are domesticated and well taken care of they could be great help if you can move them out when they need to be moved. This would make them a good animal for renting, IMHO. Plus they manure prolifically, which should be good too.
Another caution though is that a pig can bite, so the rental agreement would have to have a clause in case of injuries to the family that invites them in. Small children who have fallen in a pig enclosure have been killed and devoured, so caution!
This said, the same remarks applied to chickens can be used for pigs: There may be a short distance between using and abusing, and pigs have a more delicate digestive system, more akin to our own. If you want to have pigs helping out, make sure you identify what is in their new paddock before letting them loose. They should still be given their proper rations of regular food/ grain.  A number of plants are harmful to pigs, so proceed with caution:
https://www.grit.com/animals/plants-toxic-to-pigs-ze0z1802zmcg
 
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