I live in coastal NC and I'm planning on getting about 18 hens for egg production (and eventually meat.) I would like to try a mobile coop and rotating paddocks but I'm not sure how much area is needed for a flock this size. I have about an acre to work with and live in a rural/agricultural area. Is this a viable solution or should I just stick with a coop/run setup as I originally planned?
It is totally doable. The trick is figuring out how to manage it as the season goes along. In the early spring and late fall vegetative growth slows down and the chickens will need to be moved more frequently than they would during the summer when growth is at it's peak and bugs are more abundant. Another way to do it is to vary the size of the paddocks so that the birds move at regular intervals (every week or so). That works well if you only have time on weekends to really move things around.
With 18 birds and one acre you should have little trouble keeping things balanced. It becomes a matter of intuition after a while. Good luck
Thank you! I also have to mention that a bit of the available area is under pine trees. I've cleared some out, but the the ground is covered with pine straw and not grass. Is this a huge concern? Do they need grass or can they pick the bugs from the pine straw litter? We may rake up the straw and try to plant some sort of ground cover that works in a semi shaded, acidic soil.
I can't say for sure only because I have no experience with chickens under pines, but I would guess that as long as there is something on the ground for bugs to live in, the chickens will find them. If it's possible you might want to divide paddocks so that no one area is ALL pine. The pine litter will get mixed and tossed around with their manure which will add fertility and give you a better shot of getting a cover crop to take hold.
Below is the design I'm looking to implement. Instead of using tarps, we will uset the pool liners from our old bladder pool. It is vinyl, very thick, UV resistant. I appreciate your help and will update this thread when we get everything up and running.
With that housing you should be able to move around the 1 acre without much problem, if you can keep the unit flat on the ground. Sometimes there's slight slopes or divots where predators could get in. You can use that as housing, but you could always ad electric net around it to ad daytime space and extra predator protection. Then you'd more your house around in on electric net padding until you've covered the area, then you can move the netting and house to a different area. The pine trees won't be a problem as long as you can keep your house flat. Keeping your house flat won't be such a concern if you get an electric net. However, if do go with an electric net and you choose a solar one, you'll want to make sure the trees don't block too much of the sun. The companies of these solar units say the battery will hold the charge for 2 weeks, but I'm not sure I believe that.