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Chicken Newbie! I want to use paddocks and am looking for advice

 
                                      
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Hello,

It's nick from Pennsylvania (pittsburgh greater)

I found out about this excellent forum from the survival podcast and am hooked on all of this awesome information.  I've been interested in permaculture and am ready to start putting some things into practice.

Here is my question.

Up until Pauls podcast I was dead set on using a chicken tractor where I would move the my chickens to a different area of my orchard every day or so, but it sees like Paul isn't too excited about this approach and I don't have very many predators in my area so it seems like I should be able to pull the paddock system off.

So I've got a small orchard which is currently outside of my fenceline. This is important because my husky loves fresh chickens.  This is where I want to put the chickens. 

The chickens would be kept in a space a bit over 1/4 acre among about 30 apple and pear trees.  I don't mow back there very often so the ground is about 12" of vetch,clover and grass

First is this enough space to implement a paddock system... and would I still need to mow back there or do the chickens take care of that?  Also could you point me to any decent threads or advice related to getting started with this approach.

Finally what sort of feed do I need to stockpile to supplement what they graze on, especially in the winter...

Thank you very much for your input.

Here is a picture of the orchard, sorry about the large goon blocking the view






 
                                      
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forgot to ask,, how many chickens are appropriate for the area. we are a family of 3 and don't care about selling surplus... just want eggs for my family... but if surplus is made I won't be sad
 
Terri Matthews
Posts: 468
Location: Eastern Kansas
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Don't huskies climb? Just thinking!

A young hen will give perhaps 6 eggs a week: how many eggs do you and your family use?

I used to let my hens roam a half fenced acre (also known as my back yard), but, the foxes found them and so now they live in a pen with a hen house. We need the hen house, because at night the predators come out and EVERYTHING likes grain-fed chickens! The raccoons like them, the opossums like them, the weasels like them, and so on!

It is a great way to get rid of damaged produced and the food that the kids leave on their plates, though. The chickens eat the scraps and some chicken feed and turn it into eggs.
 
Emerson White
Posts: 1206
Location: Alaska
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I think chickens prefer grass that's a little shorter than that, 4-6" typically (which keeps the grass from rubbing on your electrified fencing as well.) Good looking orchard, and I'm sure that there is some sort of predator that will eat the goons for you. Speaking of predators you should avoid brightly colored chickens, you want to stick with more natural camouflaged colors so as to avoid them being easy prey, having the trees for them to hide under also helps.

In winter grain does the trick, but there are various methods people have devised to generate the insects (mostly flies) that they love so dearly. Since you haven't got a jungle you may have to supplement a little in summer too, but dramatically less will be needed than you need in winter.
 
                                      
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Ok based on this it still seems like the chicken tracto is the ticket?  Is this what I understand?

Are u saying if I do a paddock system they will just get killed by the local raccoons or whatever?

Regarding the husky. He has a shock collar and a 6 foot fence to get through. He is still a husky but he is a bit of a wimp
 
John Polk
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For no more chickens than you will need, a portable tractor still makes sense.  They will need something to get out of the weather.  If it is small & light enough, you can move it periodically so they don't burn a hole in your soil.  They will greatfully accept any apples that you wouldn't feed to your family, and like magicians, turn them into eggs.
 
Chris Kott
Posts: 796
Location: Toronto, Ontario
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Hi All,

I just wanted to direct everyone to a thread where this sort of thing has already been addressed. http://www.permies.com/t/12967/critter-care/Confused-newbie-questions#117956 has some very good points, some of them are mine, but you can ignore those if you want . I personally think that grain-fed chicken is a cruelty to the chicken, as they are omnivores, though arguably you could give them meat scraps from the table (as long as they weren`t chicken, cannibalism spreads disease and is kind of a downer besides). As to the animal predation thing, I can`t remember where exactly, but I read on this site somewhere that simply hanging the carcass of a dead predator inside the coop deters predation, and I`d wager the carcass would host insect life until it dessicates or is eaten by the chickens, which in turn would be eaten as well. But the main point being, dead predators hanging around will deter the live ones.

As to the chicken tractor, I don`t see a problem with them. Moving one around in an orchard to my mind makes one something of a mobile paddock. I detailed in another thread an easy way to make a mobile coop. It is based on a chinese wheelbarrow design. Think of a rectangular coop with a long pair of handles that socketed into the frame on one side. Think of putting two large wheels on the handle side, such that to move it, one leans on the handles to raise the legs on the other side of the coop. With this design, a lot of weight could be moved by one person.

I don`t like floors, but one could design a system where sections of floor could slide out of one side for cleaning, or in a situation where it is parked, say in a bermed sheltered area for winter, for soil contact and direct fertilization.

Finally, the addition of a folding wire dog fence, large size, onto the side of the coop means the possibility of keeping your chickens in the area around the coop should you prefer.

Hope any of this helps.

-CK
 
Richard Nurac
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I keep my 12 chicken in a coop in the night and during the day they roam 4 fenced paddocks. I like your orchard. One of my paddocks encloses my small orchard (12 trees) and the chicken do a great job scratching and turning the tree beds. Since I do not use chemicals I appreciate their assistance in locating and getting rid of the over wintering pests though, unfortunately, my earthworms fall victim as well. During the day I do not seem to have a problem with predators. The fence is 4 ft high and some of them could easily fly over it if they wished but I have found that if they are happy (food, water, shade, a sense of security) they do not go wandering. Much less work than a tractor. My clover and hairy vetch are climbing up the winter rye and the growth is getting high. Does not seem to bother them. I want the clover to flower for my bees and the clover and vetch to seed for next year. The chicken occasionally peck at the clover but their main interest is investigating the tree beds.
 
Tyler Ludens
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My first chicken house was a very small coop on wheels, which could be moved from place to place. Then I made a variety of chicken tractors but they had predator problems and one blew away in a storm (100% fatality). Now I have a regular stationary coop and let the chickens out to forage at large in the fenced yard. Because you only want chickens for eggs and don't need many, you might consider a small stationary or semi-stationary coop for night-time predator protection and just let the chickens forage at will in the fenced orchard. With only a few chickens I don't think multiple paddocks are necessary.

 
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