I would not accept this, but that's another topic.
Most of us don't have huge paddock only a suburban yard. In our old house the chicken run was between 30 and 40 m² for five hens which is really huge. I was not able to grow any small plants there and sometimes I fenced a corner away to get something started. But I grew bananas there, they like the poo as do citrus. However, I think that this solution is not ideal as all the good fertilizer contaminates the water and gets lost, Even if you have some trees there, I think it is too much.
Chicken tractors are often constructed triangular, that they are light. But chickens are birds and the like to fly a bit. If it is only from the ground onto a bucket. For me a chicken tractor would hove to be higher, 1.5 meters at least. And I would not confine chickens with a rooster there, only hens. The triangular tractor is maybe good to raise chicks with a bantam mom.
If you completely free range you chicken you must live in the bush without neighbours or they wander off and you neighbous wouldn't be amazed having their veggie patch destroyed. We had this problem, even our yard is more than big and they didn't destroy anything. another neighbour has no fences and a guard dog but this does not work. And people don't buy eggs there because it looks messy, and chickens make a mess and you don't know how old the eggs are. We once lived in a situation were we had a fixed coop and a tiny bushland behind the yard. We did let them free range in the bush for some hours in the afternoon. that is what they like they like trees and shrubs.
Im curious how you feel about mobile poultry fencing for paddock management. Since I live on .3 acres and will have 4-6 chickens, I would like to use the paddock idea, but I cant do anything permanent. My idea was to get the fencing so I could move them around every week or so. Im hoping that they won't fly out since it won't have roof.
However, every now and then a chicken will chase another or something will frighten one right over the fence. They are not trying to escape, they are just trying to 'get away' and as chance would have it they clear the fence before landing. This too will be the case with electric fencing, but it should be a rare thing. If you do have a consistent escape artist eliminate them as they will teach others the skills of escaping.
If a gun-ho person reinforces the top of the fence-line (non electric of course) the chickens will soon learn it will hold their weight without wobbling and they will escape every chance they get.
Electric fencing, should they try it out, will reinforce the notion that it is not a safe place to land and so the chicken's shouldn't considered this a good method of escape.
The fencing Im looking at is the 4 ft high poultry netting that attaches to stakes so you can move it around. I plan on using if for paddock rotation so they can be in a large area every few days up to a week. We have hawks, foxes, dogs, cats, and other woodland creatures. I dont want to electrify the fence because of kids, and I figured as long as they go back to the "stronghold" at night they should be fine during the day. Someone will be home most of the time. If the fenced off area is a large area and they don't get spooked Im assuming it will be fine, but based on what you said they will fly out if they get scared. Will clipping a wing keep them from flying up that high? Im looking at RIR and/or BR. If its still too risky, then I thought I would give them a long but narrow run that had turns in it to keep them from getting a direct flight path. So basically 2 ft wide by 40ft long and zig zagged. Do you think that would work?
the hawks are protected, but not if there killing your stock, check with fish and game but
i call them post chickens , if you shoot them get rid of all of it. SSS some where else.
IF the chickens arnt for show id clip all of them . its just easer .
if you dont electrify the fience it will just keep the chickens in and nothing out. wild house cats can be the worst thing on your chickens ,coons,
here's something that immediately sprung to my mind when I read about the "30% rule":
If the chickens ate all their favourite icecream first, then their caretaker escorted them away from the empty icecream truck to a new one, where they once again
got their favourite stuff, and so on - wouldn't their less favourite icecream (greens) over time get an unfair advantage, and accordingly, profiting from the chickens' droppings and (relatively) unperturbed by the birds, outgrow the favourites ?
If you had posted the same thing about cattle, on could have drawn on the work of Allan Savory (whom you seem to know) to predict the consequences.
What then makes chickens different ?
Rob S. aka Blitz wrote:
If the fenced off area is a large area and they don't get spooked Im assuming it will be fine, but based on what you said they will fly out if they get scared. Will clipping a wing keep them from flying up that high?
This is a good idea, especially if you have one that seems to get scared over the fence a regular bases.
Im looking at RIR and/or BR. If its still too risky, then I thought I would give them a long but narrow run that had turns in it to keep them from getting a direct flight path. So basically 2 ft wide by 40ft long and zig zagged. Do you think that would work?
Hum, I really don't know, but I tend to think it won't help this issue. Chickens really don't get a run at the fence, it's just that when they are scarred they jump up and start flapping - so they need to be kind of near to the fence to clear it before coming down at what they deem is a safe distance from what startled them. This could happen at any angle, not just dead on.
Actually, if your netting is to taught at the top (firm line to perch on) and you don't heat it up they will learn to escape - some even with one clipped wing. So keep it floppy. I successfully used deer netting just two feet high, but it was very floppy. I had a renegade young bird escaping over the 3' high chicken wire, because she could land on it and have support at her light weight, which the deer netting did not provide. Even with a clipped wing I had to hobble her until she put on her weight.
If you have a repeat offender cage them or hobble their legs until they learn not to test the fence line. Once they learn to go over it becomes a very bad habit to break. This is especially true for young birds scared over by old hens enforcing the pecking order. Better to separate until the next generation has full weight before the pecking begins.
wouldn't their less favourite icecream (greens) over time get an unfair advantage, and accordingly, profiting from the chickens' droppings and (relatively) unperturbed by the birds, outgrow the favourites ?
the answer to this question and nearly all questions is .... "it depends."
For a lot of animals, the seeds will pass through the animal and be left in a small pile of rich fertilizer. But I am pretty sure that this would never happen with a chicken.
So there is room for concern.
However, grasses and forbes still thrive with this sort of pulsing. And will actually produce more based on nothing more than that being partially consumed.
I've finalized my homestead design, and am getting ready to start putting things in this spring. I'm going with a permanent coop at the intersection of yard, garden, free range and orchard/food forest. With, eventually, fence around each of those areas, and more paddocks in the food forest.
The plan for this spring is to fence the yard, build the coop and raised beds, and fence the chickens with 165' of electric poultry net. The net will be movedaround the to-be orchard until the permanent radial paddocks can be built, similar to the paddocks on the cover of Introduction to Permaculture by Mollison.
Right now, the orchard is just a field of grass with a little clover. I'll be planting/sowing everything I can get my hands on out there, this spring. Food for me, the chickens and for the soil.
Should the critters be a problem in the garden, the fence charger from the netting, will allow me to put up inexpensive electric fence around the it. A deer-proof fence may be required, but I will try to keep them happy with the native fruit and nut hedge.
I'd like to eventually get turkeys and geese, too. It would be nice to be able to direct different birds into different paddocks. I'm noodling the most efficient gate system, to handle the flow, but that won't be built for a while.
Who knows, I may like fewer barriers and end up just fencing the birds out of the few veggies they eat, like Irene does. (Great photos, Irene)
S2man wrote:I'm going with a permanent coop at the intersection of yard, garden, free range and orchard/food forest.
This is referred to as the wagon wheel approach, first introduced in savory's book. Nearly everbody that tries it eventually drops it. The reason is that now you are back to cleaning out the shelter and the land around the shelter becomes a wasteland with no greenery.
A portable shelter is better in so many ways.
Let's say I have an acre or two of woodland, into which I've planted many species that chickens like to eat (and have other beneficial uses, this being permaculture and all!). I fence off 2 or 3 or more paddocks, preferably connected to each other, into which I put my chickens. In theory, if I rotate the chickens at a frequency appropriate to their number and the density of food in the paddocks, I maintain healthy growth in the paddocks and the chickens get a great proportion of their food needs this way and I have to buy much less commercial feed. This much I think I understand.
But now the stuff I'm still not clear on. What is a mini-coop and what makes this any different from the other methods that use coops (which all need to be cleaned)? Am I not still stuck cleaning a coop? And if I don't want to have to put them in and take them out each night/morning then aren't I giving predators an open door to a nighttime meal?
Speaking of redators: am I to understand that the solution is "get a LGD"? I love dogs and wouldn't mind adding another to our family but ours are family dogs and do not sleep outside so not sure that would work for us. Plus how could they get into the chicken paddocks to defend the birds?
I have heard that given proper shelter (shrubs, trees, and dense undergrowth) that chickens guarded by a rooster will naturally take cover there (we have many raptors here). But what about raccoons and the like?
I love the idea of being able to leave the chickens for a few days, but not clear on how this is possible based on your (otherwise) excellent article Paul.
We currently have NO animals other than a cat. The chicken tractor seems the best idea for us and I was wondering if anyone has tried an old camper converted to a chicken tractor. It would be predator proof (we have lots of coons, fox, bobcat, etc), has plumbing, is wired, has windows, is insulated (it gets VERY cold here in winter), is portable (we have a farm tractor) AND it seems as if the inside could easily be converterd with little expense.
Just found two campers on Craigslist near us for around $500 - one was 35ft long for $600!!! That of course was too big but I'm thinking a 16' to 20' would be good. Anyone have any experience or ideas? Thanks, Rick
Also what would be a reasonable shelter/coop size for this area size/ number of birds ?
but I can see that the temp fencing and Irene's idea of protecting the plants in your garden you want to keep the chickens out of..as some really good ideas..
also we might be able to do the old wagon frame coop like the one photographed..but I'm thinking it would need a FENCED bottom of some sort for the poop to drop out and could be moved with a tractor or truck all over the property..and loose circles of fencing to keep the girls in line.
looking at only 6 or 8 girls and a boy or two..but I have concerns about -20 degree winters and the feed costs of those times..sure I probably could freeze, dry or store some way food for the winter if i had enough growing..but would have to have some input as to what to do and how much 6 or 8 or 10 checkens would eat over the winter..and can they be let out when there is snow and ice on the ground? (wouldn't be so worried about poop all over with 3' of snow)..the winter care has been my most huge big NO to getting them so far...any winter Michigan ideas and winter feed ideas would be very greatly appreciated..I have to make up mymind soon if I'm going to do anything this year
But isn't a wire mesh floor bad for their feet?
((Paul, if you are out there could you maybe address the coop issue and bringing the chickens in at night (as it relates to a "maintenance free" method for chickens?). thx!))
Whatever system you use for the outdoor areas, the birds need a roost and nest area and it's going to get messy and its going to need cleaning so whats the problem ??
The only way to a no "poop" coop is a no chicken coop
BUT every cloud etc. etc. the wood shavings / straw / leaf litter / shredded paper that you use as bedding, when added to your compost heap acts as the most potent activator in the business. It makes a great liquid manure when steeped in a barrel of water and put in the bottom of a trench for runner beans will give you a crop you can't pick fast enough
So avoid unnecessary work by all means but keep a little poop in perspective
If you're really that poop phobic ( can't be work phobic ?? or you'd not be in this forum) don't get livestock but you'll miss out on a load of fun, great food and, in my mind, you can't call yourself truly organic without the "closed loop" created by hens in the garden ......
It's more about the philosophy of permaculture and reducing inputs and finding ways to utilize outputs. So the input of labour for cleaning the coop might be spared with a bottomless coop that gets moved around. The manure and a few shavings, etc that are left when the coop is moved might be a tasty treat for the earth below it ('course, moving the coop would have to take less time than cleaning it!).
I don't mind having to clean a coop if it's only once a week, but if we could eliminate that task altogether while still reaping the benefits of the coop's "outputs" then I think that would be grand.
I use deep leaf litter in my stationary chicken coop and only change it out once in spring and once in fall. The deep littler gets broken down and coats poo so chickens don't have to stand in it. Smells great at all times of the year, important for backyard set ups, and the resulting compost is fabulous for top dressing beds, trees and shrubs. If you have to keep a stationary set up, deep littler with natural organisms is the way to go. Of course it's always better when you can keep animals on the move.
My question was about a chicken tractor created from a converted camper/travel trailer/rv.
I know it doesn't sound as aesthetically pleasing as a wooden structure or something made to look more like it belongs on a farm, but I'm more of a function versus form kind of guy - just would like to know if anyone has tried the converted camper idea or has an opinion or suggestion on the idea.
I like the idea of a bottomless (ideally moveable) coop - so much that I've got one The shelter / roost / nest area could be bottomless too but would have to be made predator proof obviously. The problem comes in winter, the damp - let alone the cold - would make the roost very unhealthy for the birds sooo back to cleaning poop again.....
I agree with Paul that birds kept standing in their own filth is unhygienic and cruel - but the only reason they'd end up like that is poor husbandry irrespective of the system used.
I've tried keeping the ark on grass and it simply doesn't work - 1/2 an acre reduced to a mud bath in a month - I now keep them on deep litter and move them from position A to B and back again every few weeks removing composted litter as I need it and adding fresh. The birds are out whenever I'm around, or my dog is, otherwise too many foxes to risk it. I reckon this is the easiest ........... ok laziest system The biggest benefit I've got is a fibreglass, insulated roost/nest area, with a removable floor. 2 minutes to remove the floor, knock the shavings into the compost bin, replace the floor and add new shavings - Job done - Easy Once a month or so I clean it out with a pan of boiling water - no scraping scrubbing or sweating required.........
The main thing is that a few birds are virtually no work, provide the tastiest eggs (if you avoid layers pellets) and however you keep them they have a way better life than any of the commercial systems including "free range".
paul wheaton wrote:This is referred to as the wagon wheel approach, first introduced in savory's book. Nearly everbody that tries it eventually drops it. The reason is that now you are back to cleaning out the shelter and the land around the shelter becomes a wasteland with no greenery.
Clean the shelter vs. move the shelter. I'll take cleaning it. If I only had four hens, a movable mini-coop would work. But I want layers, broilers, turkeys and geese, and room for their offspring. I plan on a coop (shed? barn?) large enough to have a walk-in area to store feed and supplies, and room to separate the various fowl. I guess I'm talking oranges on an apple thread.
I've kept goats and chickens together in a shed, before. When I tired of frequent cleanings I went to the deep litter method. Very easy to add a new layer of bedding occasionally, and clean it out when I needed the compost. The goats were fenced, of course. I don't remember how the chickens got out, but they were free range.
Funny, I can remember the goat sheds and rabbit hutches in my life, but I can't remember ever having a shelter dedicated to chickens. I just gave them a place to roost and lay, and free range.
I'm taking the next two weeks off to work on the new homestead. So many things to do. The coop is high on my list. But I doubt I'll get any real fencing done. The movable electric netting will be a great time saver at this point in building our infrastructure.
Just 4 - I found a day in one place was too long and the grass was too damaged and took too long to recover.......... mainly because I've got clay soil so it gets messy quickly even when dry.
Had the same set up at a show garden for a week didn't / couldn't move the pen and it was still fine when we dismantled after the show but that was on really sandy soil.
The run area is 4 metres x 2 metres plus roost
I'ts just so much easier to have a dedicated area for the main coop and roost and let them out as and when possible.
I'd like them to be full time free range but in a 2/3 of an acre site thats not really viable if you want to have space for anything else
Whenever I feel a bit guilty about not letting them out for the day I remember that cage birds have less than the area of an A4 piece of paper each and barn birds don't get much more - mine live like royalty in comparison
hernia on Fri, dr today so plans are on hold..but still glad to learn more and more from those who do.
love the deep bedding idea with evergreens..have them in abundance here..have very little straw or hay and would have to buy that..so this is a huge idea for me.
having 10 acres + where they could free range only problem might be to fence them away from the porches and house..and garden..and let them run the rest of the property in the nice weather..but 6 to 7 months of snow makes a deep bed coop much more attractive
Rob S. aka Blitz wrote:
I believe Paul's point is moreso that its not good for the chickens to be standing in their poop all day, not necessarily that anyone is poopaphobic.... Thats my take on it at least.
It always warms my heart to see people conveying my message. Make my life easy!
We have a permanent deep litter bedded coop for night time predator protection. We now have an easily movable pen for pasturing. Previously we let the chickens free range but that turned into a nightmare as the chickens shredded any vegetation in sight, roamed far & wide & laid their eggs where ever they felt like it. And we've had some serious losses from predators.
With the pen stationed at various places around the fenced in backyard, they get daytime fence protection, nighttime coop protection, new grass whenever they need it and they aren't tearing up my garden! They line up along the edge closest to the coop when night starts to fall. We open the pen & they head home to roost.
Then the bedding turns into super compost
also does anyone have any of these trees in with chickens and if so do they like it/ use it. I just got free trees from the arbor society sooo.
Sargent Crabapple (berries?)
Eastern red bud
Thanks so much for all the sharing
WE use a chicken tractor and a coop.
Our coop has catch trays for the poop and houses 26 egg layers and a rooster.
I empty the trays (made from a recycled luggage/cargo car topper) about once every 2-3 MONTHS. The floor of the coop is fencing, so everything falls into the trays. I sprinkle ag lime during the summer to neutralize the poop and wood ashes from our wood stove during the winter. I use diatomaceous earth as well. I also use ag lime to disinfect the coop by dusting the inside of the coop with it, or once a year making a whitewash of ag lime and water and using a sprayer. (Ag lime is the stuff you can touch and not get burned, and eliminates the smell of the poop, plus it is a nice soil amendment) I empty the poop trays into the compost bin where the herd's poop gets collected.
Our chicken tractor is used from May through Oct/Nov/Dec for a run of 20 meat chickens and 3-4 turkeys. Made from salvaged parts of course, on metal pole skids. I drag it into the pasture that the herd of llamas/alpacas grazed and during the day let the birds out to forage and lock them up at night. I use commercial feed for them when brooding the chicks, but once they can forage, I only use a small amount of feed, as a treat, to get them all back in the tractor at night. I'll even drag the bottomless tractor over the llama poop pile for them to scratch at and spread. My biting fly population disappeared!
I start processing chickens in Sept 2-3 at a time and the turkeys in November. I do have to re-introduce feed to the turkeys as forage is lower by November and I usually park the chicken tractor back up in a 'sacrifice' paddock around the barn where I use straw as some deep bedding for the remainder of the run which gets spread into that paddock in the Spring, becoming a garden paddock. (Wheat getting planted there this year for bread flour)
My primary reason for using a chicken tractor was not to raise meat, but to fertilize the pastures and control insect populations