Hi All, After many years in a small apartment we now have a 2 acres. I use to keep chickens many years ago and looking at keeping a few mainly for eggs. I am very interested in the paddock method as it makes a lot of sense!
My only question is what do you do in Winter. I am in Maryland and we can get maybe 2-3 snowstorm that stays around for a while. I would guess that the paddock method would be more of a challenge in the winter months as the paddocks would not 'recover' as quickly.
My question is how do you do the the paddock method in winter or is it more of a 3 season thing? The alternative would be to go to more of a deep litter method in Winter and then once it warms up again go back to the paddock method.
Chickens love kale. Does kale survive a typical winter where you live? There might be some other frost-hardy plants that can be left in the field until the chickens scratch the snow off of them, although I admit this probably means one grazing even per winter per plot.
It might also be possible to have large windrows of coarse woody material with a little "green" compost material: I'm thinking you might not want enough nitrogen to make it thermophyllic, just enough to keep it warm. That way, instead of paddocks of plant matter, you can rotate through paddocks of detritovores. When the chickens have scratched up most of the worms, millipedes, woodlice, etc., move them on to a new windrow and re-build the one they have turned & manured. It might be necessary to somehow cover the tops & sides of the windrow (chicken wire?), so that the chickens work from the ends not the top, and the detritovores can stay warm until the chickens get to them. Depending on your conditions, it may even be possible to grow the compost material in the location that you later build the windrows.
The long edges of a warm, composting windrow might offer shelter for some plants grown for the chickens, allowing those plants to survive farther into the winter.
"the qualities of these bacteria, like the heat of the sun, electricity, or the qualities of metals, are part of the storehouse of knowledge of all men. They are manifestations of the laws of nature, free to all men and reserved exclusively to none." SCOTUS, Funk Bros. Seed Co. v. Kale Inoculant Co.
Part of the plan is to reduce the flock for overwintering.
And during the winter, you sill get warmer patches. And there are things you can grow, that do grow a little during winter.
Most of all, there are things that you can grow that will be available to the chickens for most of the winter: winter keeper apples and unharvested grains come to mind.
But with a lot of chickens, one of the concerns I would have is that they can put a lot off poop on land that isn't taking it up. So that poop is just headed for the ground water. Therefore, a deep bedding technique could be preferred.