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.
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.
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.