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Paddock size per chicken

 
                                                
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How much area of grasses would be a minimum for a paddock shift system per chicken?  This would be for a Paul Wheaton style, low/no feed system. I will have some kitchen scraps, but want to plan for a no-feed baseline.
 
John Polk
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There are too many variables to put a hard, fast rule on stocking density.  Are these Cornish-X's that will all be slaughtered within 8 weeks, or laying hens that you want to stretch to year-round production?  Do you live in an area with short growing season?  A desert/semi-desert?  What fodder is growing on the land?  Are you trying for organic, or are you going full-on "Life is better with chemicals"?

The estimates I have heard for true sustainability (year round, year after year) range between 40, and 50 birds per acre.  I "round off" to 43.56 hens per acre, which equates to 1,000 square feet per bird.  This is assuming decent fertility, and sufficient rainfall (and growing season) to replenish what the chooks will eat.  It also assumes that the birds will be rotated to fresh pasture before they  have consumed more than 1/4 of the available ground cover (the birds know what is good/bad for them, and will eat the "good" first, and then start eating the "bad" if left on pasture too long).  If your land surface is 20% rocks, your stocking density should be 20% less.

Hope that this gives you an idea of what to try for in looking at the long term picture.
 
                                                
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So CA central valley, with good grass/weed mixture, 2000-2500 sq/ft with a good paddock shift system should support 2-3ish birds. I realize there are a ton of variables, I was just looking for a general idea. And while what I do may not be certifiably "organic", I do try to keep it as natural as is practical. We get a ton of rain in the spring, and the grass (and I mean generic grass, as in an uncontrolled mix of wild grasses and some left over lawn grass, not in the sterile sense of a normal monoculture lawn) grows to a foot or more tall if I let it. I usually let it dry up in the summer, rather than waste water/effort trying to keep it up, but if chickens were eating it, it would be pretty easy to give it a bit of water to keep it growing through the summer.
 
John Polk
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Central Valley is a wonderful place to grow chickens (and just about anything else!).  Your mixed grasses should be dandy for them.  You might consider broadcasting some clover in there if you don't already have it.  Chicks (and bees) love it, plus it has some protein.  If you innoculate the seed, you will also be proving nitrogen to the soil, and all grasses love nitrogen.  Just make certain to provide your birds with shade and endless water for those hot summer months...it does get hot there!

With all of the migrant farm labor there, there are also a lot of good Mexican restraunts there too!

In that location, you could probably bump up the stocking ratio a little, as long as you could give them some different ground on occassion (like winter. when there isn't too much to eat anyway).  Bugs should not be a problem, as the chooks will keep them under control.  Another advantage to rotating is it helps break the disease/parasite cycle, as long as you can keep them off of the same ground long enough.
 
Patrick Winters
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16onrockandroll Hatfield wrote:So CA central valley, with good grass/weed mixture, 2000-2500 sq/ft with a good paddock shift system should support 2-3ish birds. I realize there are a ton of variables, I was just looking for a general idea. And while what I do may not be certifiably "organic", I do try to keep it as natural as is practical. We get a ton of rain in the spring, and the grass (and I mean generic grass, as in an uncontrolled mix of wild grasses and some left over lawn grass, not in the sterile sense of a normal monoculture lawn) grows to a foot or more tall if I let it. I usually let it dry up in the summer, rather than waste water/effort trying to keep it up, but if chickens were eating it, it would be pretty easy to give it a bit of water to keep it growing through the summer.


Question: do you mean 2,000 square feet per individual paddock, for a total of 8,000 square feet for 2 birds, or do you mean 2,000 square feet for all 4 paddocks, for 500 square feet per paddock?
 
Elisabeth Tea
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Bumping Mr. Winter's question.
 
clem nelson
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just got wind of permies.com.new to computers,didn't go to shcool that long,type with one finger.yes i am from wisconsin,yes i do own coolers but not THAT many! just enough. anyhow,this next season will be my 3rd year gardening,must be up to 6 to 7000 sq',learning what i don't know. want to grow chickens for meat,eggs a plus. considering 25 to 50.live about a mile from the mississippi.preditors,cayotes,fox,racoons,occasional moutain lyon,swedes,bear. want to put the chickens under a canopy of young 6 to 12 inch basswood ,elm, hackberry,afew red and white oak.how many sq' are needed per chicken?like the rotating paddock plan found here. i do have a racoon killing machine,yellow lab and a dumped found american staffordshire terrior(pit bull).both protective,no time for varmints

 
clem nelson
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just looked for a reply to last night's post under 'paddock size per chicken'. realized i didn't ask secifically to this situation,the cooler wasn't that empty.new to this forum,don't know how quick it goes.any advice is welcome.



 
Robin Downing
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I, too, am new and confused. lol. 1000 sq. ft. per chicken would be a 20'x50' pen. If that were divided into 4 paddocks, they would be 20' x 12.5' in size. I'm thinking that if this paddock were well planted and diversified enough, it should support one chicken for seven days. I read somewhere that the chicken should be off the paddock - rotating on the other paddocks - for 28 days. Wouldn't that neccessitate 5 paddocks? If so, then dividing this 1000 sq ft per bird by 5 would mean a 20' x 10' space per week. That's for ONE chicken. I'm thinking I will need at least 3 to supply eggs for the family, or two hens and a rooster. Raising meat birds would be totally different and since they would need to be on pasture only about 2 weeks before slaughter, having permanent paddocks for them would not be a very feasible idea, as I won't be raising meat birds year round.
 
John Polk
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I completely agree with the 5 (or more) paddocks.

It helps to break the cycle of parasites, which can only survive so long without a host.
A complete moon cycle should pass before repopulating.
It also gives the forage more time to rejuvenate itself, especially in summer drought & scorching heat.

As far as the meat birds go, it is true that they will only spend several weeks on pasture.
Once they have gone to freezer camp, their paddock can be regrown, and put aside as an area for the layers to use in autumn/winter. An extra paddock is always nice to have if the others are not regrowing 'on schedule'. Just make certain that they haven't over fertilized it. Chicken manure is very hot, and too much of it will kill off, or stunt regrowth.

 
Francis Oublieux
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Location: Great Bend, Kansas (border on zone 5/6, 20"-25" yr)
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Wow I feel really silly right now.... I made a post asking a very similar question recently, but I swear I looked through these posts and simply missed this. This information gives me a great step up towards my plans.

Maybe that's why only a few answered back.... But hey, you could have chimed in and pointed that out....

As always thanks Permies!
 
I agree. Here's the link: https://richsoil.com/wood-heat.jsp
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