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Layer paddock rotation questions  RSS feed

 
Cody Haynes
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East Texas, zone 9b.

I'm wanting to run 600 chickens on an acre of hay field.

So the idea is 600 layer hens in a 45'x20 pen at night.

During the day they would forage four days on each paddock or 5,500 square foot (~9 sq ft per hen).

I'd be feeding them as well.

So 32 days before they're back to the first paddock.

Shoot this idea full of holes so I can work it out.
 
Nicole Alderman
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I've never paddock shifted chickens--I honestly only have ever had one chicken at a time, along with my ducks 8-12 ducks--but, 600 chickens on an acre seems like a LOT. It seems more like a "chicken tractor" with a fence. I'd also be worried about the social dynamics of that many chickens together. Would some get waaay too henpicked? How do you make sure the more dominate chickens don't hog all the food? That might be alleviated by having lots of places to hide in the paddock, and feeding the chickens with large enough troughs or enough buckets that everyone can eat at once.

I tried looking up more info. I found this (http://www.plamondon.com/wp/how-many-chickens-per-acre/):

Broilers have a short lifetime before butchering, typically around 6-8 weeks, while hens are kept for a couple of years. On our farm, we only raise broilers for about eight months out of the year, while we have hens year-round. So what with one thing and another, a broiler places a lighter load on the land over its lifetime than a hen does. By my calculations, you can probably raise 500 broilers per acre per year in daily-move pasture pens without much trouble.


So if broilers are easier on the land than layers, and 500 of them getting moved daily is manageable, maybe 600 layers is too much?

It might also be good to seed some other plants in the paddock after they leave to add diversity to their diet. I found this neat thread on forage plants for chickens https://permies.com/t/845/critters/forage-chickens

For trying to have that many layers on that piece of land, I think you're going about it in one of the best ways. I tried to "shoot some holes" in your idea, but i'm afraid I just don't have enough knowledge/ammo! Hopefully someone with more experience can take an aim at it
 
Leora Laforge
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Location: Saskatchewan
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A longer recovery period would work better, 60-90 days recovery would be better for your land.

I am raising broilers in chicken tractors this year. I move them twice daily they kill anything growing under the tractor, by eating, scratching and burning with poop. Even with more space to spread out in the day some spots such as right by the pen will be taken down to nothing. More smaller paddocks would help increase recovery.

Overall your plan does look pretty darn good. 👍
 
Bryant RedHawk
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600 chickens would need 1 acre per paddock for the land to recover in only 30 days, while 9 sq. ft. per chicken sounds good, they are all going to be foraging that space.
That means 1200 chicken feet scratching the soil, which, in a four day rotation would pretty much mean all grass scratched out of the ground.

5,500 sq. ft. on a four day rotation is good for 150 chickens. 600 divided by 150 = 4. To calculate the space needed per rotation it would be more like 5,500 sq. ft. x 4 = 22,000 sq. ft.
Anything less and you will  have a lot of bare soil to reseed and get the new plants established before running the herd through again.

I have 4 chickens per 1/2 acre for a week rotation, and I get bare spots where they create their dust bath and where they concentrate their scratching in the "worm bed" areas.

Redhawk
 
Cody Haynes
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Bryant thank you. exactly the info I'm looking for.

If ya dont mind double checking me on this though.

This is still assuming 600 layers.

So 22,000 sq ft is about a half acre.

And for a paddock to have 32 days of rest I'd need 4 acres split into half acre paddocks and 4 day rotation.
 
Bryant RedHawk
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hau Coddy.  Here's a handy breakdown for your reference.

1 acre = 43,560 sq. ft.
1 acre = 208.708' x 208.708'

So you need a half acre per four days with supplemental feed.

Sounds like you have it figured out to me.

Even at these sizes you will probably find a need to reseed some spots as a result of their scratching.
When they make a dust bath spot, I would leave it, that way they will use it on the next rotation rather than make a new one.

Redhawk

 
Bryant RedHawk
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just conferred with a friend who runs 800 hens for her egg and meat operation for you.

She makes use of 1 acre paddock size and has 12 of these paddocks, she rotates through all of them on a four day cycle.
Supplemental feed is given in the chicken houses along with water.
There are 14 water stations that move with the chickens (15 gallon food grade plastic barrels fitted with 8 nipples per barrel around the bottom.
Barrels have separate stands that are 14" tall with a platform for the barrel to stand on. She fills these every day.

Hope that helps you figure out what you need for 600 hens.

Redhawk
 
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