Flock and coup size for "The Master Plan".

Discussion in 'Managing Your Flock' started by Johntodd, Mar 5, 2016.

  1. Johntodd

    Johntodd Out Of The Brooder

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    Hi! I am a newbie to chickens, although I do have experience from when I was a child.

    My plan is to split my HUGE garden in half, and let the chickens process one side while I garden the other. Each year, I flip-flop the garden and chicken run. The coop will be in the middle and have doors for each side. All will be fenced as needed to keep the chickens where they should be. Obviously, the door on the garden side remains closed that year.

    I intend to flip-flop indefinitely into the future. I need all the help I can get with bugs and weeds in the garden. :) So, let'em rip and process the ground for me ahead of time.

    I've got the overview of the plan done, and now it's time to crunch the numbers. Here's my big question:

    How many chickens?

    Each run is ~3000 sq. ft. How many chickens should I put there to have them "clear" the run in one year? (52 weeks).

    I'd like them to scratch around eating bugs, weeds, weed seeds, etc, making compost for me, etc., all the things chickens seem to enjoy. What I don't want is a muddy barenaked run for part of the year. And I'd like to minimize feed purchases. Esp. during growing or warm season. I understand I'll need feed for the winter.

    All these things, to me, point to a smaller flock of 3-5 chickens. That's 3-5 chickens in a 3000 sq.ft run for a year.

    What are your thoughts?

    Thanks so much!
    -Johntodd
     
  2. lazy gardener

    lazy gardener True BYC Addict

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    Hey John. Wonderful plan. I like the idea that you are thinking small scale for your flock. Many flocksters would try to pack that run full of a lot of chickens. This would create nutrient saturation of the soil, and likely run off that would be toxic to the soil over time. I suggest that you read The Small-Scale Poultry Flock by Harvey Ussery. He offers plenty of suggestions that will mesh well with your management plan. He takes a careful look at the nutrient exchange of the soil when managing crops with poultry.

    Other methods that you might like to look at: Back to Eden Gardening: or any of the writings by Ruth Stout. Either of these concepts can greatly reduce your work load in the garden, allowing you to increase productivity while decreasing your garden foot print. Both methods work well with poultry management.
     
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  3. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner Chicken Obsessed

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    What is your climate like? People in Denver, Yuma, or Miami might have different answers to this. Things grow a lot faster if you are in a warm wet area than a cool dry area. Seasons make a big difference.

    I think there is a flaw in your plan. Either you have enough chickens to keep the grass and weeds cleaned up (which means a barren landscape) or they don’t keep the grass and weeds out. They will still fertilize it and eat a lot of bugs but they only eat certain things. Unless they are really packed in there pretty tightly it’s possible certain undesirable things they don’t like to eat can take over.

    I keep mine in an area about 45’ x 90’ (about 4000 square feet). Sometimes I may be down to 7 or 8 chickens, sometimes I have more than 40 though many of these are younger and growing to butcher size. During the winter it can look pretty barren in there but in the summer I have to cut it a few times to get rid of the weeds and grass they don’t eat to give the ones they do eat room to grow. Even with 40 in there, they have plenty grass and weeds to eat in the summer as long as we don’t have an extended drought.

    There are people that do what you are talking about. The ones I know have more than two sections so they are not flipping every year but maybe rotate every four years. All I can suggest is to try it and see how it goes. We are all unique in many ways. What might meet my requirements might not work for you. I don’t know your climate or how clean you actually want it but you may find 5 chickens isn’t nearly enough.

    Good luck!
     
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  4. Johntodd

    Johntodd Out Of The Brooder

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    Thanks for all the info!

    I live in west Tennessee. We typically have mild winters, wet springs, normal summers and a mini-drought in August, then a medium wet fall.

    A barren landscape would be fine if it can be made to happen towards the end of their time in that run. I guess what I'm really worried about is bare soil/mud for an extended period of time.

    So, maybe 5-10 chickens?
     
  5. Folly's place

    Folly's place Chicken Obsessed

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    Welcome! Your plan sounds good to me too. Consider ordering either straight run, planning to eat some cockrels in fall, or at least a nice group of maybe fifteen (can't have too many!) of various breeds, and pick favorites. I have never totally fenced my flock as you are planning, so really don't know if there's a 'magic number' that would be perfect. Mary
     
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  6. Mrs. K

    Mrs. K Overrun With Chickens

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    Tennesse is south of me and more humid than in Southwest SD, in my experience, the only months I see a decrease in the feed bill is during May and June. By mid July, the bugs are not enough protein and the birds need more commercial feed. Further south you might have better luck.

    I think you will also need boards around the lower edge of you garden, so as to keep the soil in the garden and not kicked out. I add quite a bit of bedding to both my run and my coop. This absorbs some of the manure, the chickens break it up, clean out the weed seed, and I then use it as mulch for my garden. Honestly I have kept chickens for years, and use the bedding and manure in my garden, but it has often surprised me that the soil in the run, really does not improve.

    I do not have any real advice, but I think that the 3-4 year plan might be better. It would be an interesting read the books recommended.

    Mrs K
     
  7. Johntodd

    Johntodd Out Of The Brooder

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    I don't understand that. That's the complete opposite of everything I've seen/read.
     
  8. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner Chicken Obsessed

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    3000 square feet means maybe a 50’ x 60’ area. I would not worry too much about dirt getting scratched out of that. A smaller run, yes definitely a possibility.
     
  9. Mrs. K

    Mrs. K Overrun With Chickens

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    Perhaps it is because I pull the bedding out of it. I think that you need organic matter, but that may also be because I live in pure sand. As Ridgerunner says, "where' you are is going to have a huge influence on this.

    Chicken manure is considered very hot. It will need considerable aging. Until this last year, my run was small, now I have a much larger run, we will see if it makes a difference. I have never had to mow a chicken run, nothing grows in it faster than the chickens can eat it or scratch it up.


    I too have considered this idea, I do hope that you post your progress. I may check out those books.

    MK
     
  10. donrae

    donrae Hopelessly Addicted Premium Member

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    [​IMG]

    I would look into subdividing the chicken side into two or three separate areas. This could easily be done with chicken wire or orange construction fence (with adult birds) and you could then concentrate them on a specific area, then rotate through to the next space to prevent too much attention to a specific spot. Doing that, I think starting with around 5 birds would do nicely.

    You can always add more later [​IMG].
     

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