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Pastured Poultry Questions

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Hey All,

I have recently purchased a house on 3.5 acres and I have several questions about starting to raise poultry.  I have been doing alot of research and I really like paul Wheatons take on the rotated paddocks as it seems like it would be the healthiest and allow for more food production overall.

So here is my situation and I can provide anymore info you folk would like.  I am not set on chickens or just chickens...I want to be able to produce eggs and supply my family with a decent amount of meat.  I have an area to the back of my property about 3/8-1/2 acre big that has alot of open grass area as well as several large trees, a small creek (which actually runs the length of my property).  I also plan on growing other food in these areas as i am able to do so.  and then I also have several other partially open, partially treed areas I could have them also, propably close to another half acre.  i live the the NC Mountains so the weather is not really extreme either way.  It gets cold and hot but not to extremes usually.  I also have about 1.5 acres of woods
    I want to build a mobile coop that I move and either just allow them out during the day and move the coop every few days or possibly use the electric mesh fencing to fence off large areas.  I really want them to make great use of the forage and there is alot along the creek.

So here are the questions I have

Are chickens best?  ducks? etc?

can someone share some info about the electric mesh fencing?  where to get it?

What is a reasonable number of chickens  etc in that amount of space?

any breed recommendations?  i dont want to have to add heat in winter..I have heard barred rocks are good dual purpose breed?

When raising both hens for eggs and meat birds is it best to keep them seperated  or let them all together?

I really like the idea of letting them out totally free during the day but also like the idea of giving areas a break.  Can I achieve that with fencing?

Can I still let them out all winter or will they destroy pasture ?  whats a reasonble number to maintain all winter if its necessary to reduce the size?

Ok that was alot and I greatly appreciate any info you guys can share. I look forward to this adventure and really respect the help and opinions freely shared on this forum.

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Chickens or ducks....I guess that is more of a personal preference. They do graze differently, and ducks may be noisier (just from what I've heard! I've only kept chickens, but hope to work with ducks soon). I personally have a soft spot in my heart for chickens, but ducks are fine creatures as well. Maybe try a bit of both and see what you prefer, and what seems to mesh best with your other production ideas?

I've heard that ducks can be a bit sloppier feeders, but don't mess with gardens as much?.....someone else will have to give advice on ducks.

You may be able to purchase electric poultry netting at your local farm and home store, or you may strike out. It's readily available on the internet, but I know the farm store near me stocks the stuff. It's a bit pricey, but from what I understand it's worth it. If the cost puts you off, you could get creative with some of the electrified horse rope (electrified nylon rope or "tape") and use extra fence insulators (if the price is right) to create your own system. Maybe 5 strands of the tape spaced over 3 feet? But chances are, by the time you do that, you could have ordered the fencing, and saved yourself a few headaches. Moving the poultry netting will probably be much easier than movingĀ  the strapping system as well. It depends on how you want your system set up.

My fence was more for predators, and I used 18ga (I think) galvanized steel wire. I also didn't move mine, but I wish I had used the nylon stuff because stretching the wire so it looked nice ended up bending the metal stakes......I saved money, but not time or frustration. The steel wire bends and kinks, and has no give in it (so it bends the stakes if a dog runs into it, or a large and very motivated rooster).

Learn from my mistakes! Sometimes you can find an electric fencing guide near the fence chargers at the farm store, and if you feel a little confused, it's worth buying as well. It helped me a lot, but that was my first electric fence.

Number of chickens in that space....depends on how much space you really want to use, and how intensively you want to use it. It really depends on the carrying capacity of your specific ground (how much food it produces), and how much you plan to feed them. Also consider their waste. The article I attached suggests WAY too many birds in my opinion, but it depends on the operation and style of management. If you have a creek nearby, LOTS of birds may be a bad idea (runoff). However, it sounds like you're not looking to really load down your land.

Here's some info that may be of help, although it's geared for more commercial enterprises:


I imagine people with more experience in the paddock system can offer you better advice on numbers, carrying capacity, etc.

There was a recent post about the history of domesticated chickens, and I can't seem to locate it now. Anyone got it? It mentioned which breeds were best suited to cool climates.

Anyway, hope my info on the fencing helps.

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Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
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For very cold climates you want to get chickens with a "rose comb" which is small and not subject to frost bite.  Dual purpose or heavy breeds are hardier than light breeds.

A breed I loved which I had briefly on pastured was the Dominique, an old American variety.  Sadly I lost my entire flock in a freak storm.   

I have also been very happy with Dark Cornish on pasture.
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