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how many chickens per acre?

 
                        
Posts: 11
Location: NE Washington State
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We have one acre of established pasture (I don't know what it is, but it's a mix of grains) that we'd like to use for rotating chickens. We could put permanent fencing in to divide it into paddocks, one for each batch of meat chickens or layer replacements. Within each paddock we'll rotate the flock around to let each area for a month or more. Each flock will have a night shelter, water, and feeder but freedom to range within the large paddock.

Can anyone give me an idea of how many chickens to wisely run on it? Or per 1/4 acre? We plan to add more food plants to the pasture next year but for now it's just pasture grasses.

Thanks in advance!
 
Tyler Ludens
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Do you know what the animal unit carrying capacity per acre is for your land?

Here's a calculator for animal units:  http://66.173.241.168/nmp/calculator.cfm

 
                        
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We don't know the capacity for chickens, but it's one cow/calf pair per 2.5 acres. Does that help? I'm not sure how to use that calculator.
 
Tyler Ludens
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Hmm, I'm not sure how to use it either, but it does give animal unit equivalents for chickens.

Math is not my strong point, but

1 animal unit per 2. 5 acres means a carrying capacity of .4 animal units per acre.

A roaster (mature chicken) is .004 animal units, therefore as far as I can tell the carrying capacity for chickens is 100 per acre.

 
Tim Canton
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I've been trying to figure this out as well.   I keep finding european standards calling for 400 hens per acre and it has to mostly be covered with vegetation......I cannot possibly imagine a scenario as such happening.  400 per acre?     it seems hard to find chicken info on the topic....

I have also been given numbers of somewhere around 50 an acre if well managed and rotated will maintain good vegetation and healthy soil....both on this forum and in other things i have read.
 
kent smith
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I am not sure if this helps or not. We raise 50 cornish cross meat birds for our own use in moveable pens, moving them every morning. Along with this we move a small chicken tractor with some layers, and we move a small pen of turkeys each morning too. We also move two calves in the same area using temporary electric fences about every two days. The area where we keep these is seperate from our main pasture, part of this is it is an area that we can't get a baler into and it needs to be cleared and tamed a little more, and part of it is under some fruit trees. This whole space is an acre or one and a half acre. We are using a small scale Salatin style system.

One thing to consider with the cornish crosses is that we keep them in the brooder for 2-3 weeks then in a 8'x 10' pen for 5-6 weeks. So this means that the meat birds only need 3360 square feet of space if they are out on the pasture for 6 weeks, the layers use maybe less than half this amount, but don't damage or use the grass as much as the meat birds, the turkeys are in a 6'x 8' pen until the meat birds are butchered then the turkeys are split between the two pens as they get bigger. All said the chickens and turkeys do not use the whole area. The calves are now getting large enough that I am pushing them into some of the brushier areas surrounding this area in addition to some of this grass pasture. Part of this area is not the best pasture since it is partically shaded. I try not to put them on the few acres of pasture we have this year in order to bale it for this winter. This is a difficult choice because I think the grazing would help the grass. I also have several acres that have been neglected and over grown for several decades that I want to clear for additional pasture.
Sorry to get long winded. I would think that depending on your pasture that a modified Salatin daily move system would work well on your acre. Once I got a system down I can make all the pen changes, feedings and watering each morning in a half to one hour. It probably could be a half of an hour if I did not enjoy this early morning routine. I also check on the animals every evening to add feed and water for the meat birds and turkeys, if I would spend some money on larger waterers and feeders I could get away from this. I think that I could put two more meat bird pens out in this area especially in the late spring and early fall when the grass is growing faster. We have had some dry weeks and the grass growth slowed down. I hope that this helps.
kent
 
John Polk
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Sustainably, 400 chickens per acre would be disaster.  That is approximately 100 square feet per bird.  Try putting one chicken in a 10' x 10' (100 sqft) area for 6 months and see what you have left.  You would have bare soil that had so much nitrogen on it that nothing could regrow.
 
Tim Canton
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John Polk wrote:
Sustainably, 400 chickens per acre would be disaster.  That is approximately 100 square feet per bird.  Try putting one chicken in a 10' x 10' (100 sqft) area for 6 months and see what you have left.  You would have bare soil that had so much nitrogen on it that nothing could regrow.



I know......its unreal that they have both of thoose standards  since both could not possibly happen.


I like your numbers of about 50 per acre John
 
                        
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Thanks for all your comments. I can't imagine 400 chickens on that pasture!! The calculator figure of 100 on an acre is more realistic. But I think we will start with 50 birds next spring and see how that goes. I actually posted the original question this past April but we ended up with fewer than 30 chickens (layers and colored broilers) at a time this summer and just let them roam -- not our favorite way to do things but it worked for this time. I can't do frequent tractor moves and we haven't had predator issues (good guardian dogs) so the idea of rotating paddocks with a portable shelter sounds like it will work.
 
Tim Canton
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machinemaker wrote:
I am not sure if this helps or not. We raise 50 cornish cross meat birds for our own use in moveable pens, moving them every morning. Along with this we move a small chicken tractor with some layers, and we move a small pen of turkeys each morning too. We also move two calves in the same area using temporary electric fences about every two days. The area where we keep these is seperate from our main pasture, part of this is it is an area that we can't get a baler into and it needs to be cleared and tamed a little more, and part of it is under some fruit trees. This whole space is an acre or one and a half acre. We are using a small scale Salatin style system.

One thing to consider with the cornish crosses is that we keep them in the brooder for 2-3 weeks then in a 8'x 10' pen for 5-6 weeks. So this means that the meat birds only need 3360 square feet of space if they are out on the pasture for 6 weeks, the layers use maybe less than half this amount, but don't damage or use the grass as much as the meat birds, the turkeys are in a 6'x 8' pen until the meat birds are butchered then the turkeys are split between the two pens as they get bigger. All said the chickens and turkeys do not use the whole area. The calves are now getting large enough that I am pushing them into some of the brushier areas surrounding this area in addition to some of this grass pasture. Part of this area is not the best pasture since it is partically shaded. I try not to put them on the few acres of pasture we have this year in order to bale it for this winter. This is a difficult choice because I think the grazing would help the grass. I also have several acres that have been neglected and over grown for several decades that I want to clear for additional pasture.
Sorry to get long winded. I would think that depending on your pasture that a modified Salatin daily move system would work well on your acre. Once I got a system down I can make all the pen changes, feedings and watering each morning in a half to one hour. It probably could be a half of an hour if I did not enjoy this early morning routine. I also check on the animals every evening to add feed and water for the meat birds and turkeys, if I would spend some money on larger waterers and feeders I could get away from this. I think that I could put two more meat bird pens out in this area especially in the late spring and early fall when the grass is growing faster. We have had some dry weeks and the grass growth slowed down. I hope that this helps.
kent


oh yeah I think you can run alot more meat birds in an area because they go off it so over half your year thoose guys aren't around.  But if you had them all year over that same area it would be destroyed I imagine.......thanks for all the info
 
                      
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50 hens/acre will generate an estimated 2.5 tons of manure/acre. They produce approximately: 106 lb. N, 30 lb. P, 61 lb. K

Quoting from: "Mixing Free-Range Hens and Ruminants on Pasture", Robert Plamondon- Norton Creek Farm. March 8, 2000 (Revised June 4, 2001)

I would think that liming would be required if you went much higher than this.
 
Tim Canton
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stewartrIL wrote:
50 hens/acre will generate an estimated 2.5 tons of manure/acre. They produce approximately: 106 lb. N, 30 lb. P, 61 lb. K

Quoting from: "Mixing Free-Range Hens and Ruminants on Pasture", Robert Plamondon- Norton Creek Farm. March 8, 2000 (Revised June 4, 2001)

I would think that liming would be required if you went much higher than this.


thanks for the numbers.......  This makes me think about another idea......If the pasture itself could handle it.......if you floored the moveable coop (thus catching a presumed 50% of manure) and used deep litter methods so you only have to clean a few times a year, could you not increase your numbers if when removing the litter it gets strategically used in garden beds, compost piles etc on other parts of the property?

I mean the best thing about chicken tractors is the concentration of manure right??

just a thought
 
kent smith
Posts: 211
Location: Pennsylvania
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Just an update on the cornish crosses: We started butchering today, we got 27 or the 47 birds that survived the 8 weeks. We were shipped 51, one died the first day, most likely a bad chick from the hatchery. By my own mistake I lost two more in the brooder from trampling, just bad brooder habits, the last one I crushed with a pen move at 5.5 weeks, again my own mistake. I butchered that bird and had it for dinner that night. Today we killed, scalded, plucked, cheaned, and froze the first 27 birds. they all weighed between 5.5 - 6.5 pounds dressed. The 27 birds dressed and in the freezer totaled 156 pounds. We will butcher the rest tomorrow weather permitting. By next week I hope to total the feed cost for the 8 weeks. We think that we will have 280 pounds of non-medicated nearly organically grown chicken to help feed us for at least the next year. this and the 13 turkeys still growing, and a pig this spring to round up our garden produce. Next year I want to grow mangles, turnups, and other root crops to supplement the feed from off the farm. an ater thought, the birds all had a lot of fat. I did not keep the fat that was around the gizzard and the area by the vent, we don't need the fat in our diet. Next time I would probably butcher at 7 weeks.
 
                      
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Thanks for sharing guys,....
I have also seen this site of calculating the chicken calculator,... Have a nice day and good work you have done.
 
Rowan Braithwaite
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stewartr IL wrote:50 hens/acre will generate an estimated 2.5 tons of manure/acre. They produce approximately: 106 lb. N, 30 lb. P, 61 lb. K

Quoting from: "Mixing Free-Range Hens and Ruminants on Pasture", Robert Plamondon- Norton Creek Farm. March 8, 2000 (Revised June 4, 2001)

I would think that liming would be required if you went much higher than this.



Useful stats. Would that be per day/week/month or year?
 
Jason Lloyd
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Per year
 
Joseph Lewis
Posts: 21
Location: NE Missouri
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On another forum a similar question was asked and I got curious how much acreage I was using for my chickens. Most of my chickens are free range but I keep some in tractors. I measured it on google earth and my side yard is 1/3 of an acre. On that side yard I tractored 3 turkeys, about 8 Muscovy ducks and roughly 50 chickens. My tractors are 5'5" wide and 14' long. I moved them everyday and I still had to mow the side yard to keep up with the grass. I have good ground and live in northern Missouri. Ramp that up and it is 183 head of poultry on an acre and it would still need mowed. 400 may or may not be possible, but I bet you could get close in the growing season, at least with good land and sufficient rainfall.
 
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