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Chicken run/ woodpile. discuss.

 
Bucks Brandon
Posts: 44
Location: Bucks County, Pennsylvania [zone 6]
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So right now I'm working on many new plans for my half acre property here in Pennsylvania. One of the items I'm interested in is keeping some chickens, less than 10 – likely five to seven. During the warm weather months I want to freerange them as much as possible, perhaps even set up some paddock shift areas, but during our cold winters - and at night- they are going to need a home base. We have considerable predators including, but not limited to, feral cats, coons, rats, loose dogs [neighbor], hawks, eagles, etc...

So my grand idea:

We burn wood to heat our house, and so most of the time I plan to have between 6 and 8 cords of wood either being used or seasoning. I keep the wood off the ground on used pallets - but woodpiles attract a considerable amount of creepy crawleys.

Enter the chickens.

I was thinking that by fencing off this area and adding a [semi] movable coop creating a secure home base, that naturally attracts a bug buffet.
The area enclosed would end up being about 20’x35’. I plan on laying down woodchips/mulch to keep a clean, non muddy ground that will easily catch and blend additional chips from the wood, yet be easy and fun for the chicks to poke around in and find spots to dust bathe, etc..
Plan for inside the coop is a deep layer mulch of woodchips which I have free access to. Maybe some straw also, for added insulation in winter.

Bonus features [in my circumstance]:
-this area is next to our main door where we most frequently enter/leave the house. Easy to keep an eye on and take care of year round.
-woodchip base can easily be collected and used as rich mulch around rest of property as needed.
-this area is the shady side of house, not a very productive area for growing, and the most logical spot for the woodpile since it’s near the door = less distance to carry wood.
-I was also thinking of building a trellis over one of the long stacks of wood and training some grape vines up it. Fallen grapes and leaves could provide some forage for the birds.
-coop would only need to be moved about every 12-24 months, dependent on winter conditions and firewood usage. I would always use the coop to block in the greenest cord of wood, which will naturally benefit from the longest time to season.
-this area is next to one of my downspouts, and future rainbarrel plans could provide easy free fresh water for the birds.

So what say you? Can anybody think of any downsides or flaws in my plan that I haven’t considered? Is there anything that can be improved?

I’ll try to get some of my drawings and pictures of the area uploaded, if it’ll help. Thanks in advance for ANY feedback you can provide!
 
Leila Rich
steward
Posts: 3999
Location: Wellington, New Zealand. Temperate, coastal, sandy, windy,
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Two questions to get things started...
Would you be storing wood there longterm, or taking barrowloads regularly? Would they be locked away when you get wood? I ask cos if I did something like that,  a log would fall on several chooks battling over a worm, I'd trip over the corpses and take myself out on the wheelbarrow! Your mileage may vary...
Secondly, any self-respecting chook I know would hang out on top of the woodpile, crapping all over it, and/or the tarp.
I love chooks, but I reckon they are often a  problem, rather than a solution...
 
Bucks Brandon
Posts: 44
Location: Bucks County, Pennsylvania [zone 6]
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Leila wrote:
Two questions to get things started...
Would you be storing wood there longterm, or taking barrowloads regularly?

I haul it by hand in firewood bags, durring the winter I normally get a couple loads daily, or every other day dependent on weather.
Leila wrote:
Would they be locked away when you get wood? Secondly, any self-respecting chook I know would hang out on top of the woodpile, crapping all over it, and/or the tarp.
I love chooks, but I reckon they are often a  problem, rather than a solution...

It wouldn't be difficult to lock them away when getting the wood [or so I presume] because most of the time I haul wood is before dawn or after dusk - when I'd confine them to the coop anyways. As for "crappy" wood - I couldn't care less if they made the tarps a bit more...organic... The only spot I see that being a problem would be whatever stack I currently am taking from - tho I try to keep it at least mostly covered, anyways. FWIW most of the stacks I'm planning will be "vertical stacks". Most people stack cordwood 4 feet high by four feet deep by eight feet long - I'm planning on standing it up on end since I'll have a bunch together and have it eight feet high. Hopefully that will proove difficult for the birds to get up on. But honestly, I don't know.
 
Brenda Groth
pollinator
Posts: 4434
Location: North Central Michigan
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if you have a cold winter, is a shaded area the best place for your chickens?
 
Bucks Brandon
Posts: 44
Location: Bucks County, Pennsylvania [zone 6]
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Brenda Groth wrote:
if you have a cold winter, is a shaded area the best place for your chickens?


It's less shady in the winter because the trees drop their leaves. Part of the shade is from the house and naturally that's shady year-round. FWIW it's the Northeast side of my house, so there is more light in the morning.
 
                  
Posts: 114
Location: South Carolina Zone 8
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It sounds like a good plan plus being near the house it will be in a micro climate that should be a tad warmer than say a back corner of the yard. My only concern (and it's a big one born out of experience) is are you prepared for bringing firewood that has chicken droppings on it into your house. To me there is few things worse than laying your hand on something and unexpectedly feeling that squish.  My experience with both penned up and my current free range flock is you will find chicken poo on just about everything the chickens can get on sooner or later. The closer the quarters the more the stuff inside it with the chickens will get pooped on.
 
Bucks Brandon
Posts: 44
Location: Bucks County, Pennsylvania [zone 6]
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droppings on wood shouldn't be a problem since I tarp my woodpiles, right?

My current routine for woodpiles is to stack it all up, and then throw a tarp over the top of them, covering the entire top, and maybe 1 or 2 foot down on the front and back, to keep a decent amount of the sides open for airflow to help season the wood.

When a pile is being used, I fold back the tarp - take in a few bundles of wood - and then put back the tarp, weighing it down with bricks. With this system I expect I'll get droppings on top of the tarp, but don't see it happening with the firewood it's self very much.

Perhaps I could keep the chickens directed off of the woodpiles themselves by sticking some branches out of the sides of the piles that are not in use for interesting spots to roost? My experience with small pet birds has shown that they like interesting spots to perch, might this help the chickens, too?
 
                  
Posts: 114
Location: South Carolina Zone 8
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It will help to give them things to concentrate on however good chickens are wary but curious things and like to investigate because they are always looking for a bug or other easy meal. As well chickens are masters at hiding eggs to the point that I have found eggs under things I swear they had to belly crawl to get under. The first time you leave a flap up enough you will likely find a hen or eggs under it. That said if you have the top surface of your wood covered then I cannot see how chickens would get poo on anything but the tarp. I do recomend washing the tarp off frequently and if it is canvas you need to scrub the areas where chicken poo was or you will be going through tarps a lot faster than simple exposure degrades them. Along those lines you know how when plastic tarps (I hate em others use them) start degrading they will flake and shred chickens will find that fasenating and while they hopefully will not eat tarp pieces they will peck and scratch at it causing more damage. The same can be said for any thread or fray along the edge of a canvas tarp.
 
Bucks Brandon
Posts: 44
Location: Bucks County, Pennsylvania [zone 6]
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thanks, Peter K! Gold info for me!!!

I think I'm going to move forward with the plan. I don't see the wood having much opportunity to get dirty, since I tarp it so well - and if I'm wrong I don't mind starting a pile of cuts to get hosed off, or re-purposed. Of course now I need to work out the small details like building a coop and selecting a breed. 

Fortunately I have lots of local chicken sources, including a source who keeps and breeds endangered and threatened heritage breeds which deserve some serious consideration!
 
I agree. Here's the link: https://richsoil.com/wood-heat.jsp
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