I'd just like to share my setup and get some feedback as to what can improved or done differently.
Basically my system consists of the lawn area in my backyard, which is quite small as you can see from the photos. Therefore it's split into only 2 halves so one half can regenerate while the other half is grazed. There's only 2 chickens a bantam Australorp and a French Maran. I don't graze for any specific amount of time I just change pastures when grass is at a low level and at a higher level in the other pasture. Or when it looks like one pasture needs time to recover. As you can see a good portion of the pasture is dug up and bare, but there always seems to be enough grass to sustain them. I see them grazing often, most of the grass is couch grass I believe, there's not much clovers or other grasses around. But there is some medic/clover, barley grass, tall wheat grass and rye grass around, usually on the edges of the fence.
The coop is just a cheap kit chicken tractor I bought, it consists of a open section and the coop which has a roost and also doubles as a nesting box. I always leave the door open to the tractor and the coop even at night, predators aren't a problem here. They usually prefer to roost on top of the tractor, quite often I force them into the coop by putting them in the chicken tractor and closing the door. If I forget to open it before I fall asleep then there's a good chance of being woken up by squawking the next morning.
The water-er is a 20L container attached to a pipe with two cups that fill up automatically with a simple float mechanism. I keep it on a bit of cut pallet to keep it off the ground to prevent dirt, etc. Also it stops them from scratching the bit of ground and grass can grow underneath still. I keep it at the back as that is the most shaded area, also it's the most dug up area so it helps with that too. I plan on swapping to a white container instead of black so the water won't be really warm on hot days.
Feed is dispensed automatically into a specially designed PVC pipe which attached to a post in the shade and somewhat out of the rain. Underneath is the bottom tray of one of the store bought plastic automatic feeders, it's secured into the ground with the metal rod from the feeder. The chickens tend to peck through the feed so a lot can accumulate on the dish each day. I usually mix this with water or with some spent brewing grains and feed it into them in a bowl. I don't put it back in the feeder because it may be slightly soiled. Currently the feed is an organic soy free mash which is fed dry, but since they love flicking it every I'm going to change to the pellet equivalent to cut down on wastage. 1 - 1.5 Handfuls of spent brewing grains are often fed to them in a bowl in the morning and late afternoon or evening. They really love the brewing grains, much more than the mash they always have access to.
These birds are normally pretty good but sometimes they seem to squawk loudly for no reason, especially the Australorp. The Australorp is a fairly consistent and regular layer, she's been through one molting cycle so still young. The Maran doesn't lay as often but still not bad, the eggs tend to vary quite a lot in colour and already seem to be losing their brown pigment. It's probably only been laying for about 6 months. Sometimes the Australorp eggs can be quite fragile, despite having access to shell grit and also have their own egg shells fed back to them. The Australorp eggs are usually the same size or bigger then the Maran eggs despite being a bantam.
In the last photo there is a D'Anver I purchased from a show and I'd hoped that it would become part of the flock. But because of it's size it gets picked on so much that it has to be separated. It also tends to fly on the fence and roof and therefore has to be kept locked up so it doesn't fly into someone else's yard. If it's left out to free range it will be chased by both birds who pin it down and then unleash their fury onto it. This usually makes it very scared and skittish so it will tend to want to fly away when it's being chased. Once it flew over the pasture fence and spent the whole day digging up my compost heap. Which gave it a good feed of bugs but was time consuming to rake and shovel back into a pile.
I'm actually going to be moving to a property which a much larger backyard soon but would still value feedback on my current system. Any feedback on what can be done about the D'Anver would be particularly valuable.
Edited by firefowl - 11/6/15 at 9:40pm