Balfour Method


9 Years
Jun 4, 2010
Caribou, Maine
Anybody ever used this method? I've heard it's avery viable option if you can't free-range. (John Seymour seems to think so, and I like all the work he's done and written about over the years). It certainly seems much, much better than the "traditional" yard method. What do you all think?
I would love to have separate yard areas that I could rotate my chickens to, including one section that would be a mote around my garden. I don't trust the local wildlife and roaming dogs enough to free range them while I work. But I have too many different breeds in separate breeding pens to really use the Balfour method.
I do try to give them organic material when it is available to add to their runs. My main layers I'll allow to free range for the hour before dark while I'm home to watch over them.
Essentially, you have you henhouse, and attached to it is a small yard, for scratching. To that yard is attached 2 or 3 larger runs, filled with grass, that you rotate your birds to every few days. This provides them with grass, but doesn't allow them to scratch up all of your grass. Instead, when the runs are not being used, the grass, recovers. I'd probably use a 3 or 4 day, or a one week rotation. That way the grass has a week or 2 to recover.

I've penned out a concept where the house would have 2 pens, of 8x8. Each pen would have an outside scratch yard of 8x8. Each pen would bea attached to 2 runs, roughly triangle in shape, that would be 32 feet on the straight sides and about 45 on the diagonal (think of a 40 foot square divided in 2 diagonally). I'd plant several (3-5 per run) semi-dwarf fruit trees in the runs to provide shade and windfall fruit for the birds, and regular fruit for me. I'd reseed portions of the run each year with clover and small grains as well. The run would have a 6 foot high fence. the yard would be about the same, but covered with netting.
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How large would you make the pens? I currently have one bird running in a 22sq ft tractor print. The tractor is moved daily and she pretty much decimates half of the grass in that area per day.

Would the scratch yard make a large difference in the amount of damage they will do to the grass?

I do like the method though. Seems like the best option for those of us who are unable to range a flock.
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In theory, you wouldnt open the door to the grass first off in the morning. maybe later in the morning and then gather them all back in the evening. You'd have woodchips, and chopped straw and hay, as well as stuff you would normally compost, put in the scratch yard. You could also throw a few handfuls of scratch grains in there each day. This would essentially be your compost pile (though with all of the poop, I'd let it sit a few months to a year afterwards, before you put in in the garden). with the pen, and the scratch yard, you'd have 128 sq ft. of protected space. more than 5 sq ft each for 2 dozen birds, though I probably wouldn't winter over more than 12 or 18 in each pen. with the dimensions I listed above, each grass run would be about 768 sq ft. so all together, there would at any one time be 826 sq ft for each flock. If you have a flock of 2 dozen, that's about 34 sq ft per pird.

I been doing the Balfour.

Three equal sized runs. I rotate the chickens. Plant millet, bahayia, alcia clover in the summer.
Winter I plant rye grass, rape and turnips.
Okay grazing pictures

Before 12 hours of grazing 10 chickens 10X20 area




Summertime grazing before


Summertime after

That's a pretty cool setup. I can't plant anything for the winter, it wouldn't grow through all the snow we get. But the summer would provide all sorts of plant growth.
Is anyone else doing this (I know it's a old thread still)...I greatly liked the before and after grazing photos along with the info and want to see if I can do something similar and if so what sort of space would be optimal for alternating every other year with garden / veg.

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