60 chickens, two chicken tractors, one acre: Will their waste help or hinder forage growth?

Discussion in 'Meat Birds ETC' started by cascadechicken, Feb 3, 2015.

  1. cascadechicken

    cascadechicken New Egg

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    Hi,

    I am planning on raising 60 meat birds, Freedom Rangers specifically, on roughly one-acre of open land. The land is undulating and gently slopes west. There is good forage cover throughout and the soil is relatively developed. My idea is to have the birds in a mini-pasture pen system (6'x10' chicken tractors). This will allow me to maneuver around the various obstacles that exist in tight surroundings (trees, house, stone wall, etc.) and maximize the amount of forage I can give them access too.

    I estimate that I can get them through 30 to 40 days of new plots before I will have to rotate the tractors back to their initial forage plot. Will this be a long enough rotation to ensure the the chicken manure is helpful to the grass and doesn't prove toxic over the 10-week (foraging) life-cycle of the birds? With these estimates, I am guessing each day-forage plot will only see two "chicken-days" of intensive foraging and associated waste. Is this a legitimate plan? I want to aid soil development, not hinder it.

    Lastly, if this does not seem viable, is there any point in spreading hay each day directly preceding the tractors' move to new plots? In theory, this would elevate the carbon content on that grazing plot, yes?

    Any comments/suggestions greatly appreciated!

    -LB
     
  2. bigzio

    bigzio Overrun With Chickens

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    This will work and will improve the growth, provided you monitor how long you can allow the birds to remain in one spot before moving. It depends on your present turf and the soil. Maybe 2 days is too long in one spot, and maybe not...Just move them before it's turned into bare ground and by the time you are back to the same spot it will be much improved, as long as you have enough rainfall for new growth.

    bigz
     
  3. aart

    aart Chicken Juggler! Premium Member

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    30 chickens in a 6x10 pen 24/7?
    That's gonna be crowded......
    ...or do you plan on free ranging them during the days?
     
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  4. cascadechicken

    cascadechicken New Egg

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    aart,

    I'm planning on 30 birds per tractor, or 2-square-feet per bird. This is different than building a 10x6' stationary coop, so they will be "ranging" as the tractor moves each day. In this way, they have fresh manure-free ground every day. If I were doing a more conventional coop-and-run system, I would definitely make both much bigger. However, I think this is going to be the most effective way to raise chickens on pasture and deal with predators. The tractors are designed so that, if you wanted to, you could let them day-range, but I have a feeling the daily move will be enough to keep them content. I'm planning on either Cornish crosses or Freedom Rangers.

    Best,
    LB
     
  5. aart

    aart Chicken Juggler! Premium Member

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    That's tight space IMO.

    I suggest you have this thread moved to the meat bird forum yo may get more experienced advice there.
    Click on the red flag (lower left of your first post) and ask the mod to move it.
     
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  6. cascadechicken

    cascadechicken New Egg

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    Hi aart,

    Couldn't see how to easily move the thread. Thanks for your advice. I'm basing my design off of Foodcyclist Farm's chicken tractors (foodcyclist.com). They raise Cornish X meat birds on pasture with seeming success. Perhaps I will change my design if things are too cramped but from all of their research and videos, the birds looks content and low-stress (I think this is because they are on pasture and not in stationary coop). Your thoughts?

    Best,
    LB
     
  7. lazy gardener

    lazy gardener True BYC Addict

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    I think you need a moderator to move a thread. I agree with Aart. 2 s.f./bird is very tight spacing. Have you built those tractors yet? Are you going to grow all of them out at the same time? You might have enough time to grow them in 2 separate batches. Are you doing your own processing? 60 or even 30 birds is a lot of processing to do at once.

    Your thought about spreading hay... is that to buffer against the high nitrogen load? The issue with the hay is that if that's your goal, you'd need to put it down thick enough that it'd kill the grass underneath it IMO. You might want to spend a little bit of time reading "Chicken Tractor" by Andy Lee. Perhaps you've already read it, and that's where you arrived at 2 s.f./bird. He does it with that amount of space, but I just can't imagine that many broilers in that space without them laying around covered with chicken poo. If you had 2 tractors, and staggered your batches, so one group was ready to go into the tractors as the other group was headed to the freezer, that would make your processing easier, increase your time investment, but give the birds more space.
     
  8. aart

    aart Chicken Juggler! Premium Member

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    I did this and it has been moved.
     
  9. bobbi-j

    bobbi-j Chicken Obsessed

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    Two sq. feet per bird is still too crowded. Especially for something like Freedom Rangers. I raised a bunch of them last year, and they really do like to move around. It might work for a less active bird like the Cornish X that just lay around anyway, but I would give even those more room than 2 sq. feet/bird.
     
    Last edited: Feb 4, 2015
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  10. dfr1973

    dfr1973 Chillin' With My Peeps Premium Member

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    I tractored a small batch of Cornish-Rocks over the winter (FL winter, folks!) in a smallish tractor. First, they spent the first three weeks in a brooder, then a small pen for a week, then the tractor. When the birds were small, we only moved the tractor every other day. Only when they got bigger did we need to move it every day. I would move it half the length in the morning, then the other half the length in the late afternoon. This seemed to keep them from laying around ... a bit of an accomplishment with CRs. There was just one downside when the last pullet decided to do a "Logan's Run" and had the stamina to lead us on a merry chase around the front of the property.
     

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