Grazing and Poultry fencing + free range questions

Discussion in 'Feeding & Watering Your Flock' started by SisterFlash, Oct 27, 2007.

  1. SisterFlash

    SisterFlash Songster

    Ok I am still gathering info for my future flock (spring 2008). Thanks again for all the knowledge you guys are sharing. I just have to over think things before I do something so I do not get in to it and then go...yikes that was not something I wanted to do.

    I have about 3 acres I can use besides the coop run and garden area for the chickens. So If I use that wonderful poultry fencing that you all have mentioned here (great looking stuff and I use electric for my horses so this is right up my alley) what do I put on top to keep the birds safe from eagles and hawks? We not only have the black hawk, balds and even the golden plus the normal red hawks and falcons. So I do want to keep my future girls safe.

    I plan to use deer fencing on the garden per suggestion here when the hens are in there to protect them…but with stiffer sides on the garden fence. So if I used deer fencing on the poultry electric fencing will the sides bow down if a predator jumps on the top?

    Also when chickens graze I know they scratch a lot but even if moved around a lot will they ruin my grass?
    Do they rip the grass out by the roots or just eat the greens? I do think some soil aeration will be great.
    I have a nice grass pasture and I want to keep the horses on it but rotate the chickens through in the spring (before I put the horses out and in the fall after the frost). Do any of you do a grass rotation program with your horses? Do you rest the pasture before putting your horses out on it?

    BTW when ever my pasture look stressed I do rest it. I also do not let the horse out on it when wet or can be really ripped up. The greens is an equi forage mix with some clover, and alfalfa (no bloat low protein), orchard grass (endo free), and other grasses.

    So if I day range my girls in poultry fencing…even weekend range them when I am down riding and can better watch/protect them…would this qualify as free ranging or still caged? Or is there a new term day ranged (in at night) or weekend rangers?

    I cannot wait until I can get my chickens. Raised them until I was 12 and we moved. Have missed them ever since. We had a rooster live until 13 he was fantastic. [​IMG]

    thanks again
    Barb [​IMG]
  2. wren

    wren Songster

    May 27, 2007
    St Augustine, FL
    They make a netting that you can use to cover the top of a fenced in area. Top Flight is one brand that comes to mind. Covering 3 acres? That's a lot but why not if you have the will and resources. For game birds they erect telephone poles and tent the netting so they can fly around.

    How to keep them safe. Just keep the big picture in mind and let a few setbacks go. It's not easy to provide a natural living situation for any DOMESTICATED PREY animal without completely fencing them in.

    I have free range chickens that I lock in a safe shed at night and horses (10 acres) and the chickens haven't been more than 50 feet from the buildings but I've never lost any to hawks.

    Because you seem to be interested in keeping your grass in good condition and protect your chickens from predators, I would set up a shed like the British do. Use a shed that has a chicken door on each of the four sides of the shed. Put the shed in the center of the area you want the chickens to use, and have one completely fenced run attached to each side of the shed. Shut all but the one door that has access to the run that you want them to use. That way you can control which area they are in to allow the other 3 run's grass to recover. If you want the horses to also have access to the same grass, just don't put a top on the runs. Most chickens are lazy enough that they won't fly over a 4 foot fence unless forced or they have to to get food or water.

    If you can accept losing some chickens and keeping the pasture in great shape is your top priority use a chicken tractor. Shut the chickens in at night, and let them loose in the pasture during the day. Move the tractor anywhere in the three acres. If the chickens are raised in the tractor it will be home no matter where it is.

    Chickens tear up grass from the roots. They will eventually kill the grass around the shed. You can nest chicken wire over top of the grass and let it grow through the wire to help protect the roots.

    Just a thought, guineas don't tear up grass or your garden, and they will range. [​IMG]
  3. SisterFlash

    SisterFlash Songster

    Thanks so much wren for all your great info
    Intresting that gunies do not dig up the roots

    I do not plan to fence 3 acres...yikes. [​IMG]

    I was thinking of keeping them in their coop and run like a dry lot horse paddock. Then when I can turning them out (so to speak) on the grass or hillside with some poultry fencing. I will look into the avery netting.

    Maybe I can attach the avery netting to make a top to the poultry fencing with some sort of clamps (plastic & rubber).

    I basically wanted wanted to move the say 20 ft x 20 ft square aroudn my pasture and property to provde not only fertilizer but hopefully an enjoyable life for the chickens and weed control. I was hoping the way the stakes worked with the poultry neeting it would be easy to pull out and move aroudn ... thus rotating the chicken grazing.

    I plan to put them back in every night into the coop or run. I actually think I might only have time during weekends to get them out but I wanted to provide a little safe grazing. Maybe a chicken tractor for me.

    I agree with your big picture plan that their will be some losses but I just want to do the best I can to protecting them the most I can.

    thanks for your help

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