Confused newbie needing help

Discussion in 'Coop & Run - Design, Construction, & Maintenance' started by nashvegas, Feb 22, 2012.

  1. nashvegas

    nashvegas New Egg

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    Feb 22, 2012
    I'm a confused newbie. I've been researching getting backyard chickens for the last few weeks, and after about 50 hours of research, I'm more confused than ever. So I'd love some advice from you experienced owners.

    I read Paul's Chicken 2.0 article today (http://www.richsoil.com/raising-chickens.jsp, and I really like the theory of it, but I'm worried that it won't work in our situation. We have a 1/4 acre backyard that is pretty skimpy in terms of vegetation (see pic below). A little grass and weeds and that's it. Not much for a healthy chicken diet, I would think, even though we're only planning on 4-6 hens. So, I'm concerned that they wouldn't get much of a healthy diet, but I'm also concerned that even with rotating say 4 different paddocks, they'd still reduce what little grass we have to just mud. Am I justified in my concern? Any good solutions to this?

    I've also considered the chicken tractor method, but I'm worried that 4 or so hens will still reduce our lawn to just mud, even if I move the tractor every single day. Also considered just having a permanent coop (where you see the playground below) and having a traditional chicken run that I keep mucked out and with fresh hay.

    Would love advice, thoughts on any of this. Definitely want to avoid just having a big muck of poo and mud in the backyard.

    Thanks much,
    Kip

    [​IMG]
     
  2. Chickiee

    Chickiee Chillin' With My Peeps

    This is a really good question. I'm going to check back and see what input knowledgeable chicken owners can give. :)
     
  3. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner Chicken Obsessed

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    :frow Welcome to the forum! :frow Glad you joined us! :frow

    You’ve raised a question there is no clear answer for. The results will be different for each and every one of us. There are just too many variables, several centering around your climate but other things come into it.

    It sounds like you would expect them to find all their food. In spite of what some people on this forum may say, chickens have lived that way, finding their own food, on farms for thousands of years. I grew up on a farm where they did. I know from experience it can be done. But the quality of forage comes into it and it could be a real issue in your back yard. If they are going to support themselves they need to find a variety of feeds, such as grass and weeds, grass and weed seeds, various creepy crawlies, flying and hopping bugs, and maybe an occasional frog, mouse, or small snake. They need a varied diet. I would expect them to find a fair amount to eat, but you would probably have to supplement their diet, especially in the winter months. But looking at that, they may do fairly well for themselves much of the year.

    What I would suggest is that you build a fixed coop and run, and be generous with the size. You may wind up having to lock them in there quite a bit, not just from a keeping some grass viewpoint but maybe from predators. Maybe not. Try to get as few chickens as you can stand. Four to six is a good number and will give you a lot of eggs. Then just try it. Maybe you will be OK with the results. Maybe you will need to leave them locked up part of the time and roam part of the time. Maybe you will decide you can add more hens later. Just be flexible.

    I agree you don’t want to try the tractor. I did that for a while and you have to constantly move it. It takes them a surprisingly short amount of time to strip the grass away. It’s not just that they eat it, it’s the scratching.
     
  4. Imp

    Imp All things share the same breath- Chief Seattle

    I would agree with everything Ridgerunner said, there are many variables, and everyone's set up is different.

    I have about 1/4 acre lot, with about 2/3rds of that as back yard. I usually have 3-5 hens free ranging from sun up to sun down and have never had any serious damage to the lawn or plants. It used to be posted that for any chance to maintain a lawn you needed 450 minimum sf per chicken.
    I'm in the Seattle area so I have some years a 12 month growing season, with plenty of rain.

    Imp- Welcome to BYC.
     
  5. nashvegas

    nashvegas New Egg

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    Feb 22, 2012
    Thanks very much, everyone. Should I be worried about hawks if I'm letting them roam all over the backyard during the day? We definitely have some in the area. If I do indeed need to worry about them, can anything be done? Or am I back to having to keep them in an enclosed run with some sort of mesh covering over it to keep the hawks away?
     
  6. Imp

    Imp All things share the same breath- Chief Seattle

    Hawks may be a problem. Any predator can be a problem during free ranging. For hawks make sure you provide cover. Shrubs, trees, shelters, someplace where they can quickly get under and out of sight.

    Imp
     
  7. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner Chicken Obsessed

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    Predators are hard to predict. My parents totally free ranged in the middle of not much, way out in the country. They would go years in between predator attacks, though when one found the chickens, it had to be dealt with. Where I am, I have a lot more problems. We've got lots of hawks here but they have not been the problem. I had some minor problems with a fox, but my major problems have been when people abandon dogs in the country.

    Don't get me wrong. Some people do have problems with hawks and other things. It is really hard to predict. I lock mine up at night in a very secure coop, since nighttime is when a lot of the predators roam, but there are risks during the day also. You are taking a chance with predators, but I can't tell you how big your risk actually is.
     
  8. kateseidel

    kateseidel Chillin' With My Peeps

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    When my hens were locked up they would devour any type of greenery I put in the run. Once I let them out to free-range, they became quite particular. My healthy green growth is aided by the fact that I give them at least two snacks a day, and they have free choice chicken feed. As a result, they turn their noses up at regular grass. So it may depend on how you handle them. They are much more deadly to the bugs than the growing stuff.

    I have larger hens (Buff Orpingtons), and there is probably not a hawk that could take off with one of them. I kept them locked up until they were a good size (to keep the cats from making a run at them). A bit worried since I am getting a smaller breed this year and may have a hawk issue. But I have lost 6 hens to a fox who came onto my property through the fence we thought was pretty secure. Looking at your property, foxes may be an issue. The fox problem disappeared once we started letting the dogs roam freely around the property.
     
  9. jamband

    jamband Chillin' With My Peeps

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    a paddock system offers soooo many benefits....Run them in the first one until it beat up a little and re-seed it with a good pasture mix. Add other food if you want to like fruit, berries, etc. The paddock setup manages manure, improves the pasture, manages parasites, equates to higher omega eggs, etc etc......fear not with some work you could feed the 6 hens with no extra feed. It will take time and work oh and black soldier flys....google that. good luck
     
  10. nashvegas

    nashvegas New Egg

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    Feb 22, 2012
    Thanks much, everyone. All very helpful!
     

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