"Free-ranging" on 1/2 acre

Discussion in 'Managing Your Flock' started by nekomi, Feb 17, 2009.

  1. nekomi

    nekomi Out Of The Brooder

    Oct 24, 2008
    Hi everyone, I'm new here, so please be gentle! [​IMG] I understand that true free-ranging means NO fences (right?), but for the ease of explaining, I have a question regarding "free-ranging" my upcoming chickens on my 1/2 acre pasture.

    The pasture is currently fenced with split-rail, which I will be supplementing with hotwire. (I imagine I'll also have to clip a few wings in order to keep the chickens contained in the pasture and not wandering off into the neighbor's yard.) The quality of the grass in the pasture is very good, and I'm planning on letting it grow tall this year for the chickens to forage about in. My main question is - if I keep a flock of roughly 12 chickens on this size pasture, will they reduce it all to a mudbath? Should I be "rotational grazing" them in the area, in order to keep the grass at optimum health? Or is 12 - 15 chickens sustainable on 1/2 acre, if they are locked in a coop and run at night for safety? Although I'm not sure of the size of the run yet, it will have gravel footing so it can be used as a "sacrifice pen" for early spring and poor weather when the grass isn't tall enough anywhere to sustainably graze.

    Please forgive my use of terms - I come from a background with horses so that's really the only way I have of explaining things right now. [​IMG] Thank you all so much for listening to all my questions! [​IMG]
    Last edited: Feb 17, 2009
  2. nekomi

    nekomi Out Of The Brooder

    Oct 24, 2008
  3. Akane

    Akane Overrun With Chickens

    Jun 15, 2008
    I wouldn't do rotational grazing on a half acre. A half acre is not a pasture here... it's a large garden or small yard. [​IMG] If you wanted to move them around on that I would use a chicken tractor instead of "free ranging". Otherwise you will probably close them off in too small of area and they will spend all their time trying to get over the fence (depending on breed some can clear an 8' fence with wings clipped) or they will hit the hot wire too often to be safe/healthy. In a larger area they will be more likely to stay in the fences and not feel the need to see what's on the other side. The plamondon site electric fencing section is for very large areas. I would either divide the land into roofed pens, build a portable chicken tractor, or just leave them loose on the whole thing with a perimeter fence.

    Rotational grazing is also not really needed with such a small flock beyond the uses of a chicken tractor. Rotational grazing helps keep down parasite load by exposing the animals to less of their waste but those levels won't be noticeable with just a handful of chickens. It also helps prevent overgrazing an entire field which also isn't a problem with a handful of chickens on 20,000sq ft. They will likely kill the grass in a few areas they hang out the most like right in front of the coop but that's not really preventable unless we go back to the chicken tractor and confine them in a small area that we control.

  4. spook

    spook Chillin' With My Peeps

    We have 1 acre lot, when we let the girls out to free range we only have a cheap (thrifty, excuse me) Walmart plastic fence that is gray and appears to be hardware cloth around the area where they are allowed.
    The only time they fly over is if I come out the back door, they think they need to fly after me!
    Where the split rail is stationary landing zone on top, I'd use ribbon or thin string tacked onto the top of posts around the pen so they are not able to have the security of flying up , the string is not a positive place to land.
    Good luck!
    (I have no idea why they can fly over a 6' fence, yet 3' keeps them contained in the summer. lol)

    Edited for an after thought, I don't know where the 1 acre is a garden in their area, but for me, our girls have less then 1/2 acre fenced in for them- including the garden - small boxed in garden, have never seen them kill the grass or eat that much. The green grass is natures way of giving these birds all the nutrition they can eat- also lessening your feed grain bill.
    All you can do is trial and error, see how it works for you, poultry are so simple, they don't care if you give them gold lined dishes, they will stand in those just as well as the beat up hand me down ones that were given to you 40 years ago.
    That is the fun of hanging with the "girls"!!!
    Last edited: Feb 18, 2009
  5. cmom

    cmom Hilltop Farm

    Nov 18, 2007
    My Coop
    I have my birds fenced in. I did it to protect my gardens as they were scratching up everything I planted. I still consider it free ranging. I do move the fenced area to give them new territory to range in. There are pictures on my BYC Page.
  6. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner True BYC Addict

    Feb 2, 2009
    Northwest Arkansas

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