Tyler Kumakura

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since Jun 08, 2015
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Recent posts by Tyler Kumakura

Looking for some advice from anyone with insight....

My plan this spring is to introduce 6 Welsh harlequin ducks into my 2 year old fruit tree orchard. It is heavily mulched with wood chips, is about 5,000 sf, and has a deer fence around it. My plan was to put a smaller electrified perimeter inside the deer fence and put their duck house inside of this. I would lock them up each night to keep the coons out. A few questions...

1) The wood mulch is 4-5 inches thick and has been down for a couple years. Any idea how much insect forage 6 ducks will get rooting around in this?

2) Good/bad idea to move my compost pile into the orchard (so they can eat the flies)?

3) What forages could I plant for the ducks to eat? I was thinking clover/comfrey...

4) Any duck-specific house/coop designs you would recommend?

5) I was considering a floorless mobile house/coop design that I moved around the orchard to encourage direct contact between the nitrogen-rich manure and the carbonaceous wood chips (with less cleanup). Any issue with letting them bed down right on the wood chips if I give them protection from the wind/snow? It does get below freezing consistently in the winter but I hear ducks are pretty hardy.

6) Any ways to encourage certain insects ducks particularly like to eat?

Thank you!!!
4 years ago
Full disclosure - I am new to raising chickens and living on acreage, but have done my best to read up on previous posts to get an idea of how I might best dive into raising chickens while avoiding unnecessary mistakes. Was hoping some of you with experience might be willing to indulge me some feedback / advice / reproof based on my plan below:

Background: My family and I recently moved to 10 acres from the suburbs. The terrain is diverse - 4-ish acres of pasture, 3 acres of wooded hillside, and a creek lined with cottonwoods. As far as chickens go, we would like the health benefits of free-range chicken but are dealing with heavy predation (i.e. raccoons, coyotes, hawks etc). After much research, my plan at this point is to rotate the chickens on 5 different paddocks alongside the creek using electric fencing as a perimeter with a mobile coop for shelter/shade in each paddock. This area is closer to the house than the pastures, so I believe it will get more attention from us due to proximity, and my thought was that the treed overstory might provide some aerial protection from hawks. Here are more details/rationale...

1) My family goes through approximately 3 doz eggs / week. If I go by the "1 egg/chicken/day" rule of thumb, this would indicate I need roughly 5 layers (5 chickens x 7 days in a week = 35 eggs). I will bump this up 2 layers to account for potential predator losses and/or lower laying rates and include a rooster for protection which puts me at 8 chickens total.
2) I have heard that another rule of thumb is to allow 87sf per chicken per week (based on 500 birds/acre calculation of old). I am inclined to want to allow more than this. I would prefer to minimize the amount of supplemental feed I need to provide and not have to move the paddock as often, so I will shoot to provide the maximum sf/chicken possible.
3) I have heard shorter lengths of electronet are easier to work with, so I will purchase (2) 100 foot lengths and create a mobile paddock that is 50' x 50' square. This would provide 2,500 sf of grazing area within the paddock. With 8 chickens, this comes out to 312 sf/chicken. I will plan to monitor the vegetation to see how long I can leave the chickens before moving the paddock. I'm hoping I can move it every 2 weeks without the vegetation being damaged...
4) I will purchase/build a mobile coop with a floorless bottom (to allow the manure to pass through to the ground), and move the coop periodically within the paddock. Perhaps I will put in roosts with chicken wire underneath (retaining the "open bottom" as far as falling manure is concerned) so that the chickens can be inside when I move the coop. I also was considering a hoop coop. In case my fence shorts out due to vegetative growth, or a raccoon jumps in from an adjacent tree, I was thinking it would be ideal to be able to button up the mobile coop pretty tightly. It would be nice not to have to do this every night and rely on the perimeter fence, but I would try to make an effort to secure the coop at night. Any advice in this arena would be much appreciated.
5) I can fit (5) 50x50 paddocks in the proposed site area along the creek where the trees are thicker and provide some aerial protection. I would not build 5 paddocks, but just move the electonet each time I moved the chickens. This is of course, more work, but keeps my fencing costs down and allows me to mow down the grass along the perimeter of the new paddock in advance. I was also thinking about putting in permanent t-posts at each of the 4 corners for each 50' square paddock area so when moving the net, I can easily wrap the electronet fencing around them to form a consistently perfect square. If I am able to move the paddock once every 2 weeks, the five paddock setup would allow for 2 1/2 months before I circled back around to "re-use" a paddock.
6) Since the (5) paddocks are all in a row along a creek, I was thinking (if this is possible) that I might center a solar energizer along the 2500 foot length on the opposite side of the paddocks from the creek. This way, I could drive a nice deep ground in one location and run an extension line from the energizer to each paddock location. This area is very wet (reed canary grass grows thick here outside where the trees are) and I think this would make for a good grounding site. This would in theory eliminate the need for me to move the energizer each time I move the paddock up and down the creek. It would require a pretty long extension to reach the paddocks on each end of the run - not sure if the extra run would degrade the voltage. If I'm thinking about this incorrectly, I could move the grounding stake and energizer periodically.

Other questions:
- The proposed site is pretty heavily treed with deciduous cottonwood. Will raccoons scale a tree outside the electric fence and jump inside? If so, does blow up my plan?
- In the winter, I was thinking it would be better to move the coop/fencing up closer to the house to be able to better monitor keeping water from freezing etc. I would probably not use the rotating paddock approach while temperatures were freezing but rather keep them closer to the house and feed them kitchen scraps / supplemental feed through the winter months.
- Deer cross the creek quite frequently. If they come across the creek where I have the electric fence set up, are they likely to just blaze through the fence and tear it apart not knowing it was there? They would of course get shocked, but at that point the damage would be done. Some have told me they tend to cross in the same spots, and I thought I would just keep a few feet of buffer area in between the fencing and the creek for safety. Also, I could hang some of those solar powered flashing red lights that mimic predator eyes from a distance on the coop or the t-posts...

Thank you so much for your insights / help. I am new to this and don't want to any more chickens to die in my care than have to...
5 years ago

Shane Gorter wrote:Hi Tyler, This is my forth year farming poultry and other critters full time, however, I do lean more towards the Joel Salatin methods than Paul's. I wont go into the other birds I raise as your question seems to be specifically on laying hens. I only loose about half a dozen hens a year to predators with my current flock being 125 layers. With only one exception all these losses are from hens escaping the electronet. Once you get the hens up to laying age they take care of themselves for the most part, but getting them there can be extremely challenging. A couple years back I lost 140 layer chicks in a single night to a single rat packing off about 14 an hour. It just killed them and packed them in the walls, so now I use brooding tables with lids and heavy duty welded hardware clothe on top. This has eliminated 100% or the predation from the birds while they are in the brooding stage.

Once the birds out grow the brooders I put them into chicken tractors Salatin style, however, mine are ultralight welded conduit tractors. I have seen eagles fly away with hens as old as 5 months, so I would suggest what ever you do make sure that you have cover. I do not like the idea of tractoring layers once they start laying, but while they are growing I find chicken tractors to have the highest survival rate. In my experience ground predators hate electronet so running the electronet around your tractors would be an extra layer of protection to keep coyotes and coons out. Make sure you invest in a good fencer in the ball park of $200. When you first start out I would recommend scything or mowing a path for your electronet as the shorts add up and you can watch your voltage drop rappidly if the grass is growing through it. Extra ground rods ensure that your fence has a good ground to optimize the charger, but a lot of shorts will still drop the voltage. Buy a volt meter to test your fence and get a feel for what your conditions require. One thing I consider a must for pastured hens is roosters to watch the skies as the hens forage. I have ten roosters to my 125 hens and they are adequate to prevent any sneak attacks from eagles or hawks. Once your birds get up to laying age make sure they have a mobile coop that they can run under and probably some portable shade roofs so that the birds can run for cover when the roosters sound the alarm.

Once you train your hens and the local predators to the electronet you probably wont need much of a charge. I have not had power on my hens electronet since late last summer and then hens know to stay with in it and the predators stay clear. The key is to train them well when they are young otherwise you wont even have them trained to the electronet and you will be chasing chickens every day. I personally have the 165' rolls of electronet, but they are heavy and difficult to move so I would suggest going with 100' rolls instead. I wouldn't put up anything perminant for the first few years of farming until you get to know your land and the local predators well. I have not used cattle panels so I can not speak to those and the coop I use is a former chasy to a camper trailer with a coop built on top. I took the bottom out so that the poop drops right on the ground and the birds have easy access in and out. I of course do not have any ground predators going through the electronet so I do not worry about locking them up. Hope I answered your questions, back to farming.



Shane - thanks so much for the QUICK and thorough response. Here is what I am planning to do now in more detail. Perhaps you can weigh in with whether you think this is a good plan or if I am missing/forgetting anything:

1) My family goes through approximately 3 doz eggs / week. If I go by the "1 egg/chicken/day" rule of thumb, this would indicate I need roughly 5 layers (5 chickens x 7 days in a week = 35 eggs). I will bump this up 2 layers to account for potential predator losses and/or lower laying rates and include a rooster for protection which puts me at 8 chickens total.
2) I have heard that another rule of thumb is to allow 87sf per chicken per week (based on 500 birds/acre calculation of old). I don't know how you feel about this, but I feel inclined to allow more than this. I would prefer to minimize the amount of supplemental feed I need to provide, so I will shoot to provide the maximum sf/chicken possible.
3) Since you mentioned that the shorter lengths of electronet are easier to work with, I will purchase (2) 100 foot lengths and create a mobile paddock that is 50' x 50' square. This would provide 2,500 sf of grazing area within the paddock. With 8 chickens, this comes out to 312 sf/chicken. I will plan to monitor the vegetation to see how long I can leave the chickens before moving the paddock. I'm hoping I can move it every 2 weeks without the vegetation being damaged...
4) I will purchase/build a mobile coop on wheels with a floorless bottom (to allow the manure to pass through to the ground), and move the coop periodically within the paddock. Perhaps I will put in roosts with chicken wire underneath (retaining the "open bottom" as far as falling manure is concerned) so that the chickens can be inside when I move the coop. Thoughts on this?
5) I can fit (5) 50x50 paddocks in the proposed site area along the creek where the trees are thicker and provide some aerial protection. I would not build 5 paddocks, but just move the electonet each time I moved the chickens. I was also thinking about putting in permanent t-posts at each of the 4 corners for each 50' square paddock area so when moving the net, I can easily wrap the electronet fencing around them to form a consistently perfect square. If I am able to move the paddock once every 2 weeks, the five paddock setup would allow for 2 1/2 months before I circled back around to "re-use" a paddock.
6) Since the (5) paddocks are all in a row along a creek, I was thinking (if this is possible) that I might center the solar energizer along the 2500 foot length on the opposite side of the paddocks from the creek. This way, I could drive a nice deep ground in one location and run an extension line from the energizer to each paddock location. This would in theory eliminate the need for me to move the energizer each time I move the paddock up and down the creek. It would require a pretty long extension to reach the paddocks on each end of the run - not sure if the extra run would degrade the voltage. Am I thinking about this correctly?

Since I will have such a relatively small operation, do you think I will need the Salatin-style tractor? If I understand you correctly, the tractor is used primarily for protecting immature hens/chicks. If I was to find a way to purchase full grown hens, I could theoretically bypass the need for this piece of equipment and put them right in the mobile coop correct? Does a 50 x 50 paddock size seem reasonable for 8 chickens and if so, any idea how long I could leave them there without having to feed supplementally (while vegetation is present)? On a completely different note, are there any other animals that I might be able to reasonably rotate through the same paddock area before/after the chickens using some more of the same electric fencing (i.e. goats/sheep)? I am curious about the other animals in that I would like the soil in the area to be rehabilitated in a healthy fashion and not become imbalanced due to the sole presence of chicken manure. I may look to plant some "food-forest" plants in the same area down the road and would love the soil condition to be optimal.
5 years ago

Deb Stephens wrote:I think our chickens have about the best possible world. They have a nice, secure hen house that they roost in at night (locked in against marauding racoons and opposums) and a very secure 1/4 acre main pen around that. It is full of mature trees and shrubs. Then, they have access to the 3 fenced acres where our goats roam from off one-side of their smaller enclosure. The goat herd has dwindled over the years from 15 to only 6 goats, so they do not come close to eating everything in there (plus I take them out to browse in the woods and glades for 2 hours each day to get more variety). The goat area is clear of small shrubs and smaller saplings so only the really huge trees (oak, hickory, elm, ash, a few cedars, etc.) grow there with lots of wildflowers and native grasses beneath. It has both shady and sunny areas, plus a nice patch of bare ground where the goats like to play and hang out, and the goat shed (with a hay feeder). The chickens can hide in the shrubbery and trees when hawks fly over (and boy do they know how to hightail it for the bushes!). they can get dust baths over in the goat play area; forage for young plants and bugs in the grassy areas under the trees; bask in the sunny places;, cool off in the shade; forage in the goat's hay and pick through the droppings for leftover bits of grain; lay eggs in the hen house nest boxes or in the goat shed (and sometimes under brushpiles!) and just generally stroll around clucking and cooing to one another. They are very happy chickens who lay fantastic eggs. In 20 years I think we have only lost about 4 chickens to predators, (and we abut a national forest just on the other side of the chicken house) a few to random injuries and illnesses, and had most of them live to ripe old ages between 12 and 18 before finally passing peacefully in their sleep. I think giving them plenty of diverse habitat -- securely fenced -- and then letting them choose what to do and where to go works best.



Hi Deb - this is very encouraging to hear. I have a similar sized area that is treed that I was considering letting some chickens range in. Did you use electronet fencing? Also, did you supplement with any additional feed or did they solely eat off of the land?
5 years ago

Shane Gorter wrote:

Jay Angler wrote:Re: net fencing
1. I was under the impression that long sections of net fencing can be cut into pieces. You just have to add electric leads to them. We've used large alligator clips soldered to suitable wire to connect net fencing to the electric fence wire that's on the outside of our moveable shelters, so the same technique should work to join fence sections, although I am in *no* way an expert in this area.
2. I know that the official rules call for very long grounding spikes, but we use a couple of foot-long galvanized spikes with a 20 foot wire attached near the top just with a stainless hose clamp and one of those alligator clips on the other end to clip it to the grounding wire on the net fence. Two techniques we use are to pour water on the ground (usually dirty chicken water - re-use!) around the spikes as wet ground will "ground" better, and adding extra grounding spikes around the circumference of the netted area. We try to position the grounds so they just get unclipped before a move and clipped back on after a move for at least a move or three.
Maybe someone who knows more can comment on this....



Hi Jay, Last year I had the neighbor clip one of my electronets with a tedder and I had to stitch it back together which took hours. What you are suggesting doing is possible, but the amount of work would not justify the savings you would get from buying a longer net and cutting it in half. I am 32 and in pretty good physical shape and I get really tired hauling the 164' bundles around the fields, so if your not in that kind of shape I think the suggestion to buy a 100' nets instead is excellent.

As far as grounding rods go one foot long rods will not give you much of a ground. I personally do not want to waste time mowing the perimeter of my electronet so I compensate the shorts with a powerful fencer. The limiting factor on your fencer is almost always your ground rods. I placed my ground rods at the base of the north facing side of my greenhouse so the rain run off keeps the soil well hydrated and I will set out a soaker hose if it has been dry for over a month. I buy the 8' rods and cut them in half do to a nearly impenetrable hard pan about 3-4 feet down. I will usually use two of these eight food rods to ground one fencer so cut in half that makes four 4-foot rods spaced ten feet apart. I like to see at least 3k volts on the meter when I test my nets which seems to be the minimum effective voltage.



Hi Shane - I am very intrigued by your posts above and was hoping you could weigh in on my situation. I have never raised chickens before, but would like to get a small flock of layers for the purposes of providing my family with nutritious, free-range eggs. We moved out onto some acreage a couple years ago but quickly learned that we have heavy predator pressure (raccoons, coyotes, hawks, owls etc), something that has discouraged me from pursuing chickens as I don't want to pen them up, but truly free-ranging sounded like it would be a massacre. Paul Wheaton's article (Raising Chickens 2.0) that promotes pastured poultry using electronet has intrigued me and in purusing the forums it appears you have used the strategy for a few years now with success. I have a strip of land in mind where I may be able to utilize the paddock approach (approx 270 feet) alongside a creek. It has pretty substantial tree cover (cottonwoods) extending out from the creek anywhere from 25-40 feet. Grass and weeds grow high in this area if not mowed. Presuming this is a suitable site, I am debating how many paddocks to construct, the best electronet lengths to work with, and how to minimize both predation encroachment and unnecessary maintenance. My issues / questions are as follows:

1) You mention not wanting to have to mow the fenceline perimeter. I also don't want to have to do this. Am I understanding you correctly that putting a ground in deeper into the ground minizes the liklihood that tall grass will short out the fence? If you could explain how you minimize the need to mow that would be awesome.

2) In my situation, would you leave permanent fencing up and move the chickens from paddock to paddock or have one portable paddock that you move from area to area? I doubt constructing a permanent electronet fence in a tall grass-growing area is a good idea but it would be nice to build the electronet fencing once and then just move the chickens form paddock to paddock instead of having to move the entire paddock all the time.

3) Have the cattle panel covers worked well for you? Are there any other mobile coop ideas that you might suggest?

Thanks for your time/insights.
5 years ago