chicken forage / free range ideas

Do you keep livestock? Having any problems? Want to talk about it, whether it be sheep, goats, chickens, pigs, bees or llamas, here is your place to discuss.

chicken forage / free range ideas

Postby JoseyJo » Thu Nov 22, 2012 4:27 pm

Hi, We've had chickens for about 4 years and in that time have changed their living arrangements a few times, never quite felt we'd got it right.
First of all they (3 hens) had a smallish house & run (about 36 sq ft) but free ranged pretty much all the time. Very happy hens but no veggies in garden and lots of poo for little children to step on!
Next we tried the house in an enclosed area - about 14 x 12 ft - but they stripped it bare pretty quickly, could escape over 5 or 6 ft fence (despite wings being clipped :scratch: one very athletic hen in particular!), and also it took up quite a bit of our small garden.
Thidly - and currently - we have a 4 x 12 ft enclosed run (with roof - but 6ft high so a bit of jumping room, as one bird likes to sit on top of her house) but I've felt unhappy with them (now 2 birds) in there. They soon churn it up, we've had problems with rain this year even though we had a tarpaulin roof, the poos soon build up, and the ground gets too compacted for dust bathing so I put a dust bath in there but all in all needs very regular maintainance to stop it getting really grotty and I don't feel the hens are as happy.
Today I decided to let them out into garden again and they look much more content scrabbling around together.

I think we'll continue to let them free range for the winter, as no veggies growing anyway and children in the garden less. But come next spring we'll need to keep them enclosed again for quite a bit of the time. So a few questions...

If we continue to let them free range for a couple of hours a day are there any veggies which are chicken-proof (we tried fencing off the veggies before but they always got in!) Now we have a half allotment, so can grow some things there, but still want to use the space at home too. And I'll have to a poo pick-up in the evening!

For the time they're enclosed I'm wondering about some sort of mobile system, so we can rotate the ground they're on, but in small garden the possible locations are limited! I'd like to use plants to provide a chicken forage system, but I suppose in a small area they'd just decimate that quickly too, so it might have to be either rotated or they only have access to it for some of the time. But I don't know what sort of run would be easily moved over new areas of forage.
I'm also wondering about converting a small shed to replace their house, so they have more indoor space to keep their food/water and to shelter - maybe mesh at the side but big enough to keep them in if weather really wet to stop them churning over wet ground. But then that would be less mobile...

Any ideas for small garden chicken keeping gratefully received. :icon_smile:
JoseyJo
Tom Good
Tom Good
 
Posts: 78
Joined: Fri Aug 28, 2009 4:03 pm
Location: North Cambs

Re: chicken forage / free range ideas

Postby diggernotdreamer » Thu Nov 22, 2012 5:10 pm

I kept chickens in my town garden happily for many years. We used to get the tree surgeons to tip us a load or two of chippings, they are very rough and last a long time. Put a good thick layer down and you will find they will stabilise the ground really well and the hens will love to turn it all over looking for grubs. When it breaks down, you can shovel it out and use it on the vegetable garden and put in fresh chip again. usually the chips are free as they want to get rid of them, you can phone round a few, even if they sell it, a big trailer load was never much than about 15-20 quid, which isn't too bad as you get a lovely potting compost and soil conditioner at the end. In my experience chickens and gardens do not mix, they have a go at everything. I think the chips will cheer you chouks up and it is quite a quick fix.

I have attached a photo of my run at the moment with the chips
Attachments
Sept.JPG
Sept.JPG (10.07 KiB) Viewed 1186 times
User avatar
diggernotdreamer
Moderator
Moderator
 
Posts: 840
Joined: Sat Jun 30, 2012 11:23 pm
Location: North West Ireland

Re: chicken forage / free range ideas

Postby Mithril2 » Thu Nov 22, 2012 5:19 pm

..
Last edited by Mithril2 on Thu Feb 14, 2013 10:08 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Mithril2
Jerry - Bit higher than newbie
Jerry - Bit higher than newbie
 
Posts: 30
Joined: Wed Nov 21, 2012 11:33 pm

Re: chicken forage / free range ideas

Postby oldjerry » Thu Nov 22, 2012 10:27 pm

Am I the only person on here that likes chicken tractors?? For me,it's the answer to all your probs.
oldjerry
A selfsufficientish Regular
A selfsufficientish Regular
 
Posts: 2101
Joined: Thu Aug 26, 2010 10:57 am

Re: chicken forage / free range ideas

Postby marshlander » Fri Nov 23, 2012 12:12 am

We used to have the same problem with the girls trashing the flower beds, raiding the veg and greenhouse and leaving booby traps for visitors. We also went through a very upsetting period of loosing birds daily to the foxes. Although it's lovely and nostalgic to watch them wandering at will, we went for tractors in the end. Works well for us. To give the grass a rest and provide a bit more protection from the weather we've recently moved the tractors into a double garage with straw under foot and the doors open during the day.
Terri x
“I'd rather be a little weird than all boring.”
Rebecca McKinsey
User avatar
marshlander
A selfsufficientish Regular
A selfsufficientish Regular
 
Posts: 1323
Joined: Tue Jan 15, 2008 3:45 am
Location: Cloddygate Farm, North Linconshire coast.

Re: chicken forage / free range ideas

Postby JoseyJo » Fri Nov 23, 2012 4:02 pm

Thanks for all the replies. Can I ask what type/size of chicken tractors you use? And how often do you move them? And did you build them yourself?
JoseyJo
Tom Good
Tom Good
 
Posts: 78
Joined: Fri Aug 28, 2009 4:03 pm
Location: North Cambs

Re: chicken forage / free range ideas

Postby oldjerry » Fri Nov 23, 2012 10:22 pm

Well in terms of space,I would make them 4' wide and say 8' long for about5 or 6 birds and move them every day or two.Either build them with 2 centre poles going length ways and extending beyond the tractor so two of you can move it as you would a sedan chair.I make them with an upstairs 3'x4'.( I like them 4' wide cos that's the width of a deep bed)( the one's I'm making after Christmas will have 4 bike wheelsthe plan is that the axles will be at the height of the sides of the deep bed (but it'll probably go pear-shaped).
oldjerry
A selfsufficientish Regular
A selfsufficientish Regular
 
Posts: 2101
Joined: Thu Aug 26, 2010 10:57 am

Re: chicken forage / free range ideas

Postby diggernotdreamer » Fri Nov 23, 2012 11:16 pm

I would go with OJ, in my experience with chicken tractors, make them with two doors at the back that you can open and clean out very easily without having to bend down too much, enough height for a perch 6-8" off the floor and to give a bit of head clearance. A small door in the front that comes down like a ramp for them to get down by using a rope. Cardboard boxes with straw or shavings as nest boxes, you can then burn them or compost them, cuts down on wooden nest boxes that get infested with red mites, or I get plastic trays from the shop that you can give a good scrub and have no nasty nooks for the mites to hide in. I had an ark, didn't like it much, the splayed out bottom meant that it was awkward to clean out as the side came off and you had to lean forward to get in there, so squares or oblong shapes are best in my opinion, if you have the house above and wire all round and out the front, you have an area under the house which keeps drier for a dust bath or to keep the food clean, put a small door in the side so as you can slide the food in easily. If you make it from waterproof ply, you can marine varnish the inside which helps keep it much cleaner as the moisture doesn't wick into the wood. I gave my neighbour a plan for one which she made, but unfortunately made it out of 4x2 and it is so heavy you can only move it with four people. That is my only gripe with chicken tractors, I have seen the ones with wheels on and they look like a brilliant idea, I hate having to get people to help me do my jobs, so I would like something I can move quickly and easily on my own. I like things that are easy to do, the more complicated jobs are the less likely you are to do them regularly.
User avatar
diggernotdreamer
Moderator
Moderator
 
Posts: 840
Joined: Sat Jun 30, 2012 11:23 pm
Location: North West Ireland

Re: chicken forage / free range ideas

Postby JoseyJo » Fri Nov 23, 2012 11:31 pm

Thanks, lots of ideas there. :icon_smile:
JoseyJo
Tom Good
Tom Good
 
Posts: 78
Joined: Fri Aug 28, 2009 4:03 pm
Location: North Cambs

Re: chicken forage / free range ideas - what about this?

Postby JoseyJo » Sat Nov 24, 2012 4:27 pm

I found a lovely looking chicken run (bit bigger than the space I could make in my garden but I only have 2 chickens, would go to 4 max.)

http://www.ecofilms.com.au/deep-litter-chicken-coops/

I can't get it to cut and paste as a link - sorry.

What I was wondering was... has anyone tried anything like this? Would the wood chips suggested by others make a similar compost? Could it really smell "beautiful"!! How often do you think she has to dig it over to stop it compacting? Why doesn't it turn into a soggy mess like my chicken run :dontknow:

and also.... The forage plants are described as outside the chicken run, so I wonder how the chickens reach them?
JoseyJo
Tom Good
Tom Good
 
Posts: 78
Joined: Fri Aug 28, 2009 4:03 pm
Location: North Cambs

Re: chicken forage / free range ideas

Postby diggernotdreamer » Sat Nov 24, 2012 5:20 pm

This is very similar to how I kept my chickens in my town garden, there were lots of trees. Before we put in the woodchips it was a disgusting stinking mire, after the chips, the ground stabilised and everything became much more pleasant for everyone. There is no smell from the hens using this method. You don't need to regularly turn the chips really, the hens do it, if you get some compaction on the top, you can take it off with a spade and put it in the compost bin, then just get a fork and turn it over a bit. My hens eat all the weeds I throw in, ( but I do have 30) I put in logs and large stones for them to stand on and then move them from time to to time so as they get to eat the worms underneath, and yes after you take out the spent mulch, it has no smell at all just a lovely earthy scent and is ready to put on the garden or stack under a tarp until you are ready to use it, then rechip. Forage plants, I grew comfrey and jerusalem artichokes, but picked leaves for them to eat as they would have destroyed everything, don't forget chickens are really woodland creatures and love the friable soil, they are not natural to pasture land.
User avatar
diggernotdreamer
Moderator
Moderator
 
Posts: 840
Joined: Sat Jun 30, 2012 11:23 pm
Location: North West Ireland

Re: chicken forage / free range ideas

Postby JoseyJo » Sat Nov 24, 2012 7:20 pm

right... maybe time for me to find a local wood merchant!
JoseyJo
Tom Good
Tom Good
 
Posts: 78
Joined: Fri Aug 28, 2009 4:03 pm
Location: North Cambs

Re: chicken forage / free range ideas

Postby GeorgeSalt » Sun Nov 25, 2012 2:14 pm

Anywhere you spread woodchip (hen run or path) is basically a very flat compost heap. Our woodchip path was laid 6" deep and is now a lovely rich mulm just under the surface. It will soon be time to "mine" this crop and re-chip to start the cycle over again.
Curently collecting recipes for The Little Book of Liqueurs..
GeorgeSalt
Living the good life
Living the good life
 
Posts: 425
Joined: Sat Apr 28, 2012 11:21 am
Location: West Norfolk, UK

Re: chicken forage / free range ideas

Postby dave45 » Mon Nov 26, 2012 12:03 am

I am so chuffed.

Entirely independently I have only recently decided to dump all my pruning shreddies into the chicken coop, now i find its the recommended thing... I've been shredding brambles and fruit tree prunings this afty... think I need a lot more though... AND i was planning to shovel out the stuff for compost too once it had decayed a bit.

The chickens don't seem bothered either way (mud or chips).
dave45
A selfsufficientish Regular
A selfsufficientish Regular
 
Posts: 598
Joined: Tue Feb 24, 2009 9:20 pm
Location: Lancashire


Return to Livestock

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 1 guest


Buy a Foraging Course for
The New Year






Ishers books

Adverts (paying the bills)


Find Selfsufficientish on facebook


Join Our Flickr group.