Grass for the Chicken Run?

Discussion in 'Coop & Run - Design, Construction, & Maintenance' started by Simeo, Jan 22, 2013.

  1. Simeo

    Simeo Out Of The Brooder

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    Jan 22, 2013
    North Georgia
    Hello I'm new to the forums and new to chickens but I've received TONS of info scouring the forums before even signing up! You guys are awesome.

    I finally built a coop, penned in a run and got my first chickens and things are going great. My question is this: The penned in run is starting to get a little scatty in grass near the coop (where they scratch the most). I also noticed they like to munch on the grass a bit. Is there a fast growing grass seed I could scatter in the run so it doesn't turn into a large dirt patch in a few months? Run is about 70 ft x20 ft for 24 (eventually) chickens. Should I extend the run? I could make it out to 100ft before hitting the property line.

    Thanks for your help!
     
    Last edited: Jan 22, 2013
  2. kichohana

    kichohana Chillin' With My Peeps

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    [​IMG]

    ...and welcome to the world of chickens destroying grass! They'll eat ALMOST anything green. My enclosed run was initially grass/weeds. Within a month, it was dirt. You can not grow anything from seed in an area chickens frequent. They will eat the seeds before they even have a chance to sprout. I have since covered my dirt run with sand and it's much cleaner/easier to keep clean - and less muddy.

    As for the grass... I discovered a way to grow fresh greens for my flock without them destroying the roots so it can re-grow. I made a box out of 2x4. I made a hinged lid for the box with 2x2 and stapled 1/2" x 1/2" hardware cloth to the underside. Something like this:
    [​IMG]

    In the box I planted some winter rye grass seed that I sprouted in milk jugs in my garage. I chose winter rye grass 'cause it grows in the cold, and the grass will grow through the wire, unlike wide flat leaves like lettuces. Read about winter sowing here:

    http://www.agardenforthehouse.com/2013/01/hows-your-winter-sowing-coming-along-2/

    This way your chickens can eat fresh greens as they grow through the wire without destroying the roots. They will walk over the top and poop on it. Water it as you would any raised bed garden and your chickens can have fresh greens year round!
     
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  3. Simeo

    Simeo Out Of The Brooder

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    Jan 22, 2013
    North Georgia
    So... pretty much the whole run, no matter how large it is will turn into dirt/sand? Okee dokee... Do I have any options to avoid that?

    I think I'd do the box idea for some chicken veggies (cabbage, etc) ! That's a great idea.
     
  4. mdbtalon

    mdbtalon Out Of The Brooder

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    Jan 14, 2013
    As the other poster indicated you will not be able to get grass to grow in there with chickens since they eat seed as well.

    If it is possible for you I suggest letting them out of the run to roam in the yard during the day. Obviously in many locations I realize this is not possible. I would say second best option is having alternating runs and plant with some fast growing hay or grass. You indicate having a very large run (70x20). If you can make that two 70x10 runs or two 35x20 runs you can alternate back and forth. Would still be a struggle keeping them with greens, but gives you ability to let one sit and grow for a month and then switching back.
     
  5. mdbtalon

    mdbtalon Out Of The Brooder

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    Jan 14, 2013
    Opps forgot to add. This is what I do alternating runs (they free range weekends and summer evenings when I am home, but predators are too bad otherwise). It works fine and as long as I switch runs before one has turned to dirt the other run recovers quickly (will depend on the load of birds you have though. In either case though where I live in the winter I can get nothing to grow and start the spring with two bare runs, but fairly quickly get one "greened up" and then the other and they do fine until late fall.
     
  6. skippyscage

    skippyscage Out Of The Brooder

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    Nov 25, 2012
    so I understand that the grass will be destroyed in a run. Are you saying that if they get the run of the whole yard, it won't get beaten up?

    I'm still in the planning stage, and have a yard of about 400 sq feet to play with for four chickens. I'd like to let them roam during the day.
     
  7. kichohana

    kichohana Chillin' With My Peeps

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    If they have the whole yard, you will have holes where they dig to make dust bath holes. They will eat a lot of everything/anything green and otherwise. You will also have little plops of squishy chicken poop all over your yard. Imagine that between your toes in the summer... I think not for me. Also, I can not free range in my yard because I have two dogs with very high prey drive and they were here first. [​IMG]

    As mdbtalon suggested, rotating runs, could be done if you have the space. It's called a "paddock" system. It's nice if you have the space:
    [​IMG]
     
  8. Simeo

    Simeo Out Of The Brooder

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    Jan 22, 2013
    North Georgia
    I might need to do something like that (section the run). Is there any maximum for the length of the run? Say the run is 80 feet away from the coop... would that be an issue?

    Edit: Sorry, it's not possible for me to let them roam freely where I am. We have predators in the woods around us.
     
    Last edited: Jan 22, 2013
  9. aldarita

    aldarita Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I don't know where you live, I live in south central Texas and winters here are not too bad, every now and then we have freezing temperatures but must of the time it is warm. I am new with chickens (started last April) I have a big run that used to have grass but now it is all dirt so I decided to plant some rye grass seeds outside the run for my girls to eat in the winter. I was successful and it is growing very nicely. You can look at it to the right of the picture. I don't free range my hens all the time because we have lots of hawks in this area, however when I can supervise them they go out and happily devour the grass
    [​IMG]
    I would think that if my 9 hens were freeranging all the time, maybe the grass wouldn't have grown so much but since they free range 3 or 4 hours a day, there is plenty of time for the grass to grow all over.
     
  10. ocap

    ocap Overrun With Chickens

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    Smithville, Missouri
    I have been looking at youtube and learned a lot about chickens and chicken tractors (which are movable pens). do a youtube search for "Joel Salatin polyface farm chicken" to see if that information is helpful in knowing how many chickens per square foot and how often he moves his pens. Mr. Salatin has a 1000 hen home he has built to move. I need to telephone his farm to find out what he does for the owls. All his livestock change pastures and he has not bought seed or fertilizer in 50 years.
     

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