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Shane Gorter wrote:

Jay Angler wrote:Re: net fencing
1. I was under the impression that long sections of net fencing can be cut into pieces. You just have to add electric leads to them. We've used large alligator clips soldered to suitable wire to connect net fencing to the electric fence wire that's on the outside of our moveable shelters, so the same technique should work to join fence sections, although I am in *no* way an expert in this area.
2. I know that the official rules call for very long grounding spikes, but we use a couple of foot-long galvanized spikes with a 20 foot wire attached near the top just with a stainless hose clamp and one of those alligator clips on the other end to clip it to the grounding wire on the net fence. Two techniques we use are to pour water on the ground (usually dirty chicken water - re-use!) around the spikes as wet ground will "ground" better, and adding extra grounding spikes around the circumference of the netted area. We try to position the grounds so they just get unclipped before a move and clipped back on after a move for at least a move or three.
Maybe someone who knows more can comment on this....



Hi Jay, Last year I had the neighbor clip one of my electronets with a tedder and I had to stitch it back together which took hours. What you are suggesting doing is possible, but the amount of work would not justify the savings you would get from buying a longer net and cutting it in half. I am 32 and in pretty good physical shape and I get really tired hauling the 164' bundles around the fields, so if your not in that kind of shape I think the suggestion to buy a 100' nets instead is excellent.

As far as grounding rods go one foot long rods will not give you much of a ground. I personally do not want to waste time mowing the perimeter of my electronet so I compensate the shorts with a powerful fencer. The limiting factor on your fencer is almost always your ground rods. I placed my ground rods at the base of the north facing side of my greenhouse so the rain run off keeps the soil well hydrated and I will set out a soaker hose if it has been dry for over a month. I buy the 8' rods and cut them in half do to a nearly impenetrable hard pan about 3-4 feet down. I will usually use two of these eight food rods to ground one fencer so cut in half that makes four 4-foot rods spaced ten feet apart. I like to see at least 3k volts on the meter when I test my nets which seems to be the minimum effective voltage.



Hi Shane - I am very intrigued by your posts above and was hoping you could weigh in on my situation. I have never raised chickens before, but would like to get a small flock of layers for the purposes of providing my family with nutritious, free-range eggs. We moved out onto some acreage a couple years ago but quickly learned that we have heavy predator pressure (raccoons, coyotes, hawks, owls etc), something that has discouraged me from pursuing chickens as I don't want to pen them up, but truly free-ranging sounded like it would be a massacre. Paul Wheaton's article (Raising Chickens 2.0) that promotes pastured poultry using electronet has intrigued me and in purusing the forums it appears you have used the strategy for a few years now with success. I have a strip of land in mind where I may be able to utilize the paddock approach (approx 270 feet) alongside a creek. It has pretty substantial tree cover (cottonwoods) extending out from the creek anywhere from 25-40 feet. Grass and weeds grow high in this area if not mowed. Presuming this is a suitable site, I am debating how many paddocks to construct, the best electronet lengths to work with, and how to minimize both predation encroachment and unnecessary maintenance. My issues / questions are as follows:

1) You mention not wanting to have to mow the fenceline perimeter. I also don't want to have to do this. Am I understanding you correctly that putting a ground in deeper into the ground minizes the liklihood that tall grass will short out the fence? If you could explain how you minimize the need to mow that would be awesome.

2) In my situation, would you leave permanent fencing up and move the chickens from paddock to paddock or have one portable paddock that you move from area to area? I doubt constructing a permanent electronet fence in a tall grass-growing area is a good idea but it would be nice to build the electronet fencing once and then just move the chickens form paddock to paddock instead of having to move the entire paddock all the time.

3) Have the cattle panel covers worked well for you? Are there any other mobile coop ideas that you might suggest?

Thanks for your time/insights.
 
Posts: 36
Location: Everson, WA
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Hi Tyler, This is my forth year farming poultry and other critters full time, however, I do lean more towards the Joel Salatin methods than Paul's. I wont go into the other birds I raise as your question seems to be specifically on laying hens. I only loose about half a dozen hens a year to predators with my current flock being 125 layers. With only one exception all these losses are from hens escaping the electronet. Once you get the hens up to laying age they take care of themselves for the most part, but getting them there can be extremely challenging. A couple years back I lost 140 layer chicks in a single night to a single rat packing off about 14 an hour. It just killed them and packed them in the walls, so now I use brooding tables with lids and heavy duty welded hardware clothe on top. This has eliminated 100% or the predation from the birds while they are in the brooding stage.

Once the birds out grow the brooders I put them into chicken tractors Salatin style, however, mine are ultralight welded conduit tractors. I have seen eagles fly away with hens as old as 5 months, so I would suggest what ever you do make sure that you have cover. I do not like the idea of tractoring layers once they start laying, but while they are growing I find chicken tractors to have the highest survival rate. In my experience ground predators hate electronet so running the electronet around your tractors would be an extra layer of protection to keep coyotes and coons out. Make sure you invest in a good fencer in the ball park of $200. When you first start out I would recommend scything or mowing a path for your electronet as the shorts add up and you can watch your voltage drop rappidly if the grass is growing through it. Extra ground rods ensure that your fence has a good ground to optimize the charger, but a lot of shorts will still drop the voltage. Buy a volt meter to test your fence and get a feel for what your conditions require. One thing I consider a must for pastured hens is roosters to watch the skies as the hens forage. I have ten roosters to my 125 hens and they are adequate to prevent any sneak attacks from eagles or hawks. Once your birds get up to laying age make sure they have a mobile coop that they can run under and probably some portable shade roofs so that the birds can run for cover when the roosters sound the alarm.

Once you train your hens and the local predators to the electronet you probably wont need much of a charge. I have not had power on my hens electronet since late last summer and then hens know to stay with in it and the predators stay clear. The key is to train them well when they are young otherwise you wont even have them trained to the electronet and you will be chasing chickens every day. I personally have the 165' rolls of electronet, but they are heavy and difficult to move so I would suggest going with 100' rolls instead. I wouldn't put up anything perminant for the first few years of farming until you get to know your land and the local predators well. I have not used cattle panels so I can not speak to those and the coop I use is a former chasy to a camper trailer with a coop built on top. I took the bottom out so that the poop drops right on the ground and the birds have easy access in and out. I of course do not have any ground predators going through the electronet so I do not worry about locking them up. Hope I answered your questions, back to farming.
 
Tyler Kumakura
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Shane Gorter wrote:Hi Tyler, This is my forth year farming poultry and other critters full time, however, I do lean more towards the Joel Salatin methods than Paul's. I wont go into the other birds I raise as your question seems to be specifically on laying hens. I only loose about half a dozen hens a year to predators with my current flock being 125 layers. With only one exception all these losses are from hens escaping the electronet. Once you get the hens up to laying age they take care of themselves for the most part, but getting them there can be extremely challenging. A couple years back I lost 140 layer chicks in a single night to a single rat packing off about 14 an hour. It just killed them and packed them in the walls, so now I use brooding tables with lids and heavy duty welded hardware clothe on top. This has eliminated 100% or the predation from the birds while they are in the brooding stage.

Once the birds out grow the brooders I put them into chicken tractors Salatin style, however, mine are ultralight welded conduit tractors. I have seen eagles fly away with hens as old as 5 months, so I would suggest what ever you do make sure that you have cover. I do not like the idea of tractoring layers once they start laying, but while they are growing I find chicken tractors to have the highest survival rate. In my experience ground predators hate electronet so running the electronet around your tractors would be an extra layer of protection to keep coyotes and coons out. Make sure you invest in a good fencer in the ball park of $200. When you first start out I would recommend scything or mowing a path for your electronet as the shorts add up and you can watch your voltage drop rappidly if the grass is growing through it. Extra ground rods ensure that your fence has a good ground to optimize the charger, but a lot of shorts will still drop the voltage. Buy a volt meter to test your fence and get a feel for what your conditions require. One thing I consider a must for pastured hens is roosters to watch the skies as the hens forage. I have ten roosters to my 125 hens and they are adequate to prevent any sneak attacks from eagles or hawks. Once your birds get up to laying age make sure they have a mobile coop that they can run under and probably some portable shade roofs so that the birds can run for cover when the roosters sound the alarm.

Once you train your hens and the local predators to the electronet you probably wont need much of a charge. I have not had power on my hens electronet since late last summer and then hens know to stay with in it and the predators stay clear. The key is to train them well when they are young otherwise you wont even have them trained to the electronet and you will be chasing chickens every day. I personally have the 165' rolls of electronet, but they are heavy and difficult to move so I would suggest going with 100' rolls instead. I wouldn't put up anything perminant for the first few years of farming until you get to know your land and the local predators well. I have not used cattle panels so I can not speak to those and the coop I use is a former chasy to a camper trailer with a coop built on top. I took the bottom out so that the poop drops right on the ground and the birds have easy access in and out. I of course do not have any ground predators going through the electronet so I do not worry about locking them up. Hope I answered your questions, back to farming.



Shane - thanks so much for the QUICK and thorough response. Here is what I am planning to do now in more detail. Perhaps you can weigh in with whether you think this is a good plan or if I am missing/forgetting anything:

1) My family goes through approximately 3 doz eggs / week. If I go by the "1 egg/chicken/day" rule of thumb, this would indicate I need roughly 5 layers (5 chickens x 7 days in a week = 35 eggs). I will bump this up 2 layers to account for potential predator losses and/or lower laying rates and include a rooster for protection which puts me at 8 chickens total.
2) I have heard that another rule of thumb is to allow 87sf per chicken per week (based on 500 birds/acre calculation of old). I don't know how you feel about this, but I feel inclined to allow more than this. I would prefer to minimize the amount of supplemental feed I need to provide, so I will shoot to provide the maximum sf/chicken possible.
3) Since you mentioned that the shorter lengths of electronet are easier to work with, I will purchase (2) 100 foot lengths and create a mobile paddock that is 50' x 50' square. This would provide 2,500 sf of grazing area within the paddock. With 8 chickens, this comes out to 312 sf/chicken. I will plan to monitor the vegetation to see how long I can leave the chickens before moving the paddock. I'm hoping I can move it every 2 weeks without the vegetation being damaged...
4) I will purchase/build a mobile coop on wheels with a floorless bottom (to allow the manure to pass through to the ground), and move the coop periodically within the paddock. Perhaps I will put in roosts with chicken wire underneath (retaining the "open bottom" as far as falling manure is concerned) so that the chickens can be inside when I move the coop. Thoughts on this?
5) I can fit (5) 50x50 paddocks in the proposed site area along the creek where the trees are thicker and provide some aerial protection. I would not build 5 paddocks, but just move the electonet each time I moved the chickens. I was also thinking about putting in permanent t-posts at each of the 4 corners for each 50' square paddock area so when moving the net, I can easily wrap the electronet fencing around them to form a consistently perfect square. If I am able to move the paddock once every 2 weeks, the five paddock setup would allow for 2 1/2 months before I circled back around to "re-use" a paddock.
6) Since the (5) paddocks are all in a row along a creek, I was thinking (if this is possible) that I might center the solar energizer along the 2500 foot length on the opposite side of the paddocks from the creek. This way, I could drive a nice deep ground in one location and run an extension line from the energizer to each paddock location. This would in theory eliminate the need for me to move the energizer each time I move the paddock up and down the creek. It would require a pretty long extension to reach the paddocks on each end of the run - not sure if the extra run would degrade the voltage. Am I thinking about this correctly?

Since I will have such a relatively small operation, do you think I will need the Salatin-style tractor? If I understand you correctly, the tractor is used primarily for protecting immature hens/chicks. If I was to find a way to purchase full grown hens, I could theoretically bypass the need for this piece of equipment and put them right in the mobile coop correct? Does a 50 x 50 paddock size seem reasonable for 8 chickens and if so, any idea how long I could leave them there without having to feed supplementally (while vegetation is present)? On a completely different note, are there any other animals that I might be able to reasonably rotate through the same paddock area before/after the chickens using some more of the same electric fencing (i.e. goats/sheep)? I am curious about the other animals in that I would like the soil in the area to be rehabilitated in a healthy fashion and not become imbalanced due to the sole presence of chicken manure. I may look to plant some "food-forest" plants in the same area down the road and would love the soil condition to be optimal.
 
Shane Gorter
Posts: 36
Location: Everson, WA
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Hi Tyler,
Sorry for the slow reply on this one. I do not know who came up with the one egg per chicken per day rule, but it is not a good rule. If you get the hybrid birds you might get 5-6 eggs a week, but only if you are feeding them a lot of grain. In my experience the hybrids are bred to convert grain to eggs and are lousy on pasture. The heritage breed I run is the black austerlorp. They consistently give me 4 eggs on average a week and require much less grain per egg than the hybrids. If your going to try and have forage based chickens I would not expect more than 3-4 eggs a week on average, the birds cycle so you will have peaks and valleys. I would aim high on the egg product and then you can always sell the eggs/layer or use the eggs to feed another livestock.

I do not use the sqft model for chickens at all. The organic inspectors talley those numbers, but for me they are near useless outside of a confined feeding operation. You will be able to tell if your birds have enough room by their temperament and condition. I always give them way more room than necessary because I can, but smaller area moved frequently will work as well. If you do not have enough space the birds will start pecking each other, but if your trying to have them forage your space will need to be as large as you can protect from predators.

I do not own any of the 100' sections, but those 165' stretches sure are heavy and awkward to deal with. If you do not have enough land to put away winter forage plan on a sacrifice lot. I live in the Pacific NW with fairly mild winters so I can get away with move my 3x165' electronet padock once every three weeks with out damaging the pasture. If your confined to smaller area I would sacrifice a lot to be left dormant during the growing season and protect the rest of your pasture from over scratching and excessive nitrogen.

I like the idea of the coop, here is a link to pictures of my coup which works excellent, except that it is very heavy to move by hand. These pictures are a couple years old and there are turkeys in the coop and you can see my austerlorps in the tractors before they matured. You can also see a picture of a winter lot and a spring paddock: http://www.earthineer.com/photos/606

I would not do anything permanent with the paddock system until you have had it operational for at least one full season.

If portability is the reason for the solar charger then I would recommend solar charging a marine battery and going with a battery operated fense charger. I have cheap to very expensive solar fencers and they are all disappointing. A marine battery can last from a few weeks to a couple months on a charge from what I have been told. You can always charge them up at a solar charging station and you will also develop off grid redundancies this way. I buy the step in fence posts with the insulated orange pig tail tops to run a hot wire to my paddocks from a centeral fencer. I used to move the fencer with the netting, but now I have stuck grounding rods out in my fields and it was a pain. I think of my wires as high voltage power lines going to the netting, but if you have a fencer good for half a mile, then a few hundred feet with no shorts wont take much zap out of it.

You wont regret building a nice tractor. Being able to move the birds daily with ease will be the best practice for your soil and the complete enclosure will be the safest for them. I do not like using standard tractors for the layers however, but I do have an enclosed mobile aviary for my ducks which functions like a tractor but you can walk into and 20'x15'.
 
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