How do I incorporate chickens into my fenced-in apple orchard?

Discussion in 'Coop & Run - Design, Construction, & Maintenance' started by fordguy, Dec 6, 2007.

  1. fordguy

    fordguy In the Brooder

    Dec 6, 2007
    Hi folks, first post. I know nothing about chickens, but am bound and determined to get 4-8 of them for egg laying. I have a one acre apple orchard with 3 year old trees. It is fenced in with dog fence up to 4 feet, and has a string of barbed wire at 6 feet and a string of electric wire at 5 feet to keep deer out.

    I want chickens. my secret hope is that you guys will tell my i have the perfect "run" for them to scratch in, eat japanese beetles, etc.

    the orchard is about a hundred meters from my house.

    Id rather not go out there every day. I can alter that plan if it is necessary. I thought of just leaving the coop open so hens can come and go, and I figured the fence would keep out coons and foxes, bobcats.

    I am willing to run a coon height elec. wire also if that becomes necessary.

    So given my circumstances, what would you guys do? thanks.
  2. silkiechicken

    silkiechicken Staff PhD

    It sounds like a great run, and trees should offer some protection from air predators, but I would still lock them up in a coop at night. If you get large feeders, you only have to fill and clean them maybe 2x a week, but that given, it would still be best to check their food and water in case they spill it, they get it dirty or something comes in and eats it all.

    From many here, no matter how safe their run is, predators eventually get someone.

    I would build a coop, stock it with chickens, add a large feeder and waterer, and attach an auto opening door. Then at bed time when you put them in, collect eggs and do a head count.
  3. 1acrefarm

    1acrefarm Songster

    Nov 3, 2007
    I would run that coon height electric wire and a couple more at different heights for good measure. If you have any hawks in your area about all you can do is give them good cover to run to and hope for the best. I don't think you can totally predator proof an orchard but maybe others will have some ideas. The chickens will peck any fruit they can get to.
  4. speckledhen

    speckledhen Intentional Solitude

    Weasels, rats and other small animals can still get in a fence like you described and kill your birds and contaminate and eat their feed. I have a small fenced orchard and I send my girls in to do bug patrol and use their composted shavings for fertilizer-works great! I may one day put a small coop inside the fence, but I would still lock them inside at night due to all the predators locally.
  5. fordguy

    fordguy In the Brooder

    Dec 6, 2007
    Quote:thanks for the input so far! a quick question...

    what is a self opening door? and if I had one, why would I need to put them in at bed time? I am commuting about 120 miles to work per day, so trying to watch my time commitments...
  6. silkiechicken

    silkiechicken Staff PhD

    I dunno, I'd have to design one or I know opening and closing ones work. An idea on an opening one would be to like attach a timer to some motor that pulls open a door. Guess if you want it open at sun rise, a photo sensor would work too. At night you just have to go in, do head count, food/water mainence, and egg collecting.

    They should learn how to put themselves in at bed time but you still need to collect eggs and make sure they are healthy and all there. Else you risk too many eggs collecting and that isn't good for various reasons including encouraging broodyness(wanting chicks so they sit on eggs and don't lay any) , encouraging predators like rats to come in and eat them or your chickens, and increasing chances of chickens breaking eggs and eating them... and breaking and eating them on their own. You can wait till after dark to put them in really. Just the less time the door is open in the dark the better.
  7. EboyDog

    EboyDog In the Brooder

    Jul 15, 2007
    Hallsville MO
    Do you want to have apples from your orchard ??

    I had my chicken run and coop right next to my two apple trees and they ate every apple that fell from the trees which was nice as I didn't have to clean up the apples on the ground.

    BUT after they cleaned up the ground of all apples, they got smart and figured out were the apples on the ground were coming from and in what I believe was planned, organized effort to keep me from having any apples, a couple of hens learned they could get up in the trees, peck the apple stems and the other chickens would wait below for the apples to fall. They cleaned out the summer apple tree in a week and the other red apples tree didn't last much longer.

    I never got apples until I moved them away and closer to the garden but then they started the 2007 Tomato conflict and had me defending my tomato plants in effort to protect the poor tomatos!!

    Mind you, it wasn't that I was starving them and not providing feed, they just decided that apples and tomatos were better than the crumbles I gave them!
  8. greginshasta

    greginshasta Songster

    Jul 26, 2007
    Mount Shasta, CA

    That is simply hillarious. Funny post.
  9. silkiechicken

    silkiechicken Staff PhD

    Haha, thats a great story. I have to fence my hens out of the garden. I don't think 6-8 hens will take over and destroy an acre of apples though. :p
  10. theMickster

    theMickster In the Brooder

    Oct 22, 2007
    N.W. Ohio
    I'm no Orchardist, but I've heard it said that apple trees can be over fertilized by chicken manure and that its good practice to only run the chickens in the orchard for short periods of time.
    Good luck!


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