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Garden Bed Project

Discussion in 'Coop & Run - Design, Construction, & Maintenance' started by Ashley80, Dec 22, 2008.

  1. Ashley80

    Ashley80 In the Brooder

    Hello, I've been reading up on coop designs recently (this site is a treasure trove) but I haven’t seen anything exactly like what I'm planning. I'm hoping someone out there can offer some advice.

    I've got 4 x 7ft square raised vegi garden beds (see blog www.house.soupmedia.com.au if you want to see what I mean) I want to make an enclosure that I can rotate onto each bed every 3 months. Here are the questions.

    - The guidelines in the FAQ on this site suggest I can keep 4 chicken in this space (2ft inside and 10ft outside per bird) but I think I want Bantams, does this calculation still apply?

    - If I choose a flightless breed (like silkies) how tall do I need to make the enclosure? I'm hoping to get away with 1m with an enclosed roof.

    - Any tips for making an the enclosure light weight?

    - Some of the sleepers are a bit wonkey, will the occasional gap along the base of the frame (up to 10cm) be a problem? I'm not sure it this is big enough for chickens to get out or predators to get in



  2. chickenma

    chickenma Songster

    Sep 8, 2008
    North Carolina
    Do you want to keep the chickens in your veggie beds?
    That's not a good thing. They will scratch up all your plant's and before you know they will destroy your plant. [​IMG] They can dig out plants by scratching until the root of the plants are open and have no dirt on it. [​IMG]

    Their poop is good for the garden but the chicken has to stay out. Mine love veggies and green so they will eat it before some thing starts to grow.

    I love your plant beds if I were you I would keep the chickens out of the beds and enjoy your veggies.

    Goodluck and Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. [​IMG]
  3. ibpboo

    ibpboo Where Chickens Ride Horses

    Jul 9, 2007
    always changing
    Cool veggie beds. Are you making enclosures so the chickens can scratch and fertilize the beds in between plantings for you? Four to six bantams should fit into that space. You can tell by how well they get along. If too much fighting and pecking, beyond normal, happens, then it is not enough space. Do you plan to also free range? Is 1m about 3 or 4 feet tall? Should be tall enough. I like to ba able to stand in my chicken pen, so it is easier for me to clean and collect eggs, just personal preference though.
    Good luck. I also enjoyed your blog page. [​IMG]
  4. Buff Hooligans

    Buff Hooligans Scrambled

    Jun 11, 2007
    I think it sounds like an intelligent idea, combining chicken manure and a garden bed, but I'd advise against it. Any structure that contains chickens has to be extremely strong and sort of permanent anchored to the ground to be really predator proof (temporary chicken tractors used with supervision notwithstanding).

    Also, chicken poo stays "hot" for a long time, and I'd be worried about the roots of the plants you would have in the garden after moving the chickens on to the next bed.

    I hope I didn't misunderstand your post.
  5. patandchickens

    patandchickens Flock Mistress

    Apr 20, 2007
    Ontario, Canada
    Quote:Gee, 4x7 is only 28 square feet total. Personally I would not keep more than 3 chickens in that space (indeed I have a tractor exactly that size, with an 'upstairs' house part so that the whole footprint is available for outdoor pen space, and 3 chickens is really about the right number for it.) That gives them not quite 10 sq ft apiece outdoors, plus whatever size house space you have upstairs for them.

    If you don't have an upstairs part, though, I would say maybe 2 chickens (that'd give them each 14 sq ft total)

    Banties doesn't IMO change the space requirements all *that* much.

    I want to make an enclosure that I can rotate onto each bed every 3 months. Here are the questions.

    how long are you planning on leaving the bed fallow after the chickens are moved on? It can take A While for chicken manure to compost down enough to where it won't kill or stunt your plants, so make sure you've thought the timing through carefully, and have a Plan B in mind.

    Also, I am really not sure you'd WANT to leave chickens on a bed for 3 months. Especially if you are at the larger rather than smaller end of typical stocking densities. Chickens compact the ground something fierce, as time goes by. (Yes, they scratch and dig, but mostly what they do is walk around and around, and tho they are little, their compaction ability is mighty in the end [​IMG]) Also, while *some* poo is good for the ground, lots and lots = not so good. I think you would want to keep a close eye on what's going on and be willing and able to relocate the tractor when it seemed a bed was going past the point you want.

    - Any tips for making an the enclosure light weight?

    Use 2x4 up on edge for the bottom of the frame, but 2x2 or HEAVY-gauge 1" pvc or cut-down cattle panels for the rest of the pen framing. Also, CALCULATE the weight of all your materials before you build, so's not to be too badly surprised [​IMG]

    A difficulty is that lightweight and mobile mean it's more difficult to predator-proof.

    Some of the sleepers are a bit wonkey, will the occasional gap along the base of the frame (up to 10cm) be a problem? I'm not sure it this is big enough for chickens to get out or predators to get in

    Banties could wiggle out a 4" gap. Many predators could get in -- anything from the small or normal-sized end of the weasel family, cats, rats, smaller raccoons, possums, etc. Possibly more important, unless your sleepers are VERY FIRMLY pinned into the earth -- like, so that if you put a chain around one and pulled with a lawn tractor, it would not move easily or at all -- the gaps will offer purchase for larger stronger predators (adult raccoons, dogs, coyotes, etc) to grab the sleepers and pull them further awry til the whole large predator can get in.

    If you really want to do this, I would suggest your best bet for predator-proofing (if space allows) would be to make a tractor that fits a foot or so OUTSIDE the sleepers, so the tractor is *around* not atop the raised bed. And have a 1" wire mesh skirt, as wide as space permits, ideally a foot and a half or so, that flips down from the edges of the tractor frame and lies on the ground to discourage digging. It can be weighted down with cinderblocks, which will also give some extra insurance against the tractor tipping over in wind or from a predator. It will be a real bugger to get the apron mesh untangled from any grass or weeds growing between your raised beds, after it's been growing for 3 months, but if you don't do this I think there is a pretty good chance of having devastating predator problems.

    So, just some things to mull over. If you've been reading Andy Lee's chicken tractor book, be aware he was a very optimistic kinda guy who preferred to look on the bright side of things [​IMG] Good luck,

    Last edited: Dec 22, 2008
  6. Mikeeeeeeeeee

    Mikeeeeeeeeee Songster

    Jul 20, 2007
    the easist thing is to check out gardengirltv.com

    She has done all the ground work for you and proven that the system works. I use her system.
  7. rainbowgardens

    rainbowgardens Songster

    Nov 19, 2008
    Central Virginia
    I built two of those chicken tractors from that book. I put one of them in the garden to allow the chickens to till and fertilize my soil between crops. It worked out great. Their bedding that I added every few days serves as my winter mulch right now and the fertilizer is breaking down and getting my beds ready for the new planting year.
    I did use the hardware cloth around the bottom anchored down with the pins you use for landscape fabric. I also put some cinder blocks here and there for extra security.
    We had a raccoon coming into the garden to steal corn and beans. Didn't know it was a raccoon until we caught it in a trap. I don't think he could have gotten into the tractor. The hen's sleeping area was covered with metal roofing as well as the lids. We locked all of the doors with padlocks.
    The only drawback to Andy's tractor design is that it's heavy. We didn't put wheels or the scoots on them. It takes three of us to move it, but we don't mind because its strong and it won't blow over. Besides, we only moved it once a month.

  8. ozzie

    ozzie Songster

    Nov 12, 2007
    I've done it - but I only have 2 chickens in a 4x8 foot veggie bed and they get to free range for a couple of hours daily. I throw straw in and they turn the bed over for me. When time comes to move it to the next vegetable bed that has been harvested already, I just lop off the tops of the spent veggies, move the tractor and the chickens do the rest of the digging up for me whilst pecking on the remainder of the veggies.


    It works well. I do leave the bed for about 2 weeks before planting out. Only thing is that it does mean that if you have a shortage of space for beds, the tractor uses up 1 of the beds so in my case instead of having 3 veggie beds in full production in summer I only have 2 because the girls are working one for me.

    I like not having to clean poop. However because I live in suburbia and really would like to have the 3 beds growing veggies I will most likely move to a permanent coop/run type situation which will allow me to have more chickens and also free up the space for all 3 functioning beds.


    PS I live in Australia so I don't have the predation problems that you have with raccoons (thank goodness). Foxes are supposed to be prevalent even around suburbia but I've never seen one where we live and I've never lost pets to any either.
    Last edited: Dec 22, 2008
  9. Ashley80

    Ashley80 In the Brooder

    ozzie, mike, rainbow; thats exactly what I was talking about thanks! I'm in Australia too but I think foxes might be a problem here we're "semi rural".

    Chickenma and Pat, sorry I might not have been clear enough in my original message. The idea is that the chickens become one step in the crop rotation so that they fertalise and scatch up the bed after the vegies have been harvested. I have four beds, each of which is 7ft x 7ft not 4ft x 7ft.

    ibpboo - cheers!

  10. red star11

    red star11 In the Brooder

    Dec 21, 2008
    Medina, Ohio
    Those are cool.!!![​IMG].[​IMG].[​IMG]

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