Large Non-Rotating pasture for meat birds

JaggerbushAcres

In the Brooder
Sep 29, 2021
2
3
14
Hello, hope this isn't a dumb question -

Is there any reason why I couldn't have a large area with electric fencing as a permanent broiler area? My lot is really hilly which hasn't been great for moving the chicken tractor around. We have one sloped spot with apple trees, and I'm wondering next year if I could just electric fence that in, add some hawk deterrent, and an overnight wind shelter. I've seen other growers rotate the electric fence around, but that seems to be more for pasture regeneration (I won't be growing on this spot.) Would it be possible to grow meatbirds without moving the fence around? Could the grass get too tall for them? I'm hoping to do a more forage-friendly breed in the spring.

Thanks!
 

Ridgerunner

Crossing the Road
12 Years
Feb 2, 2009
28,035
22,664
907
Southeast Louisiana
Never a dumb question. If you don't now, it's dumb to not ask. I think there are potential problems, so Identify them and look for solutions.

I've seen other growers rotate the electric fence around, but that seems to be more for pasture regeneration (I won't be growing on this spot.) Would it be possible to grow meatbirds without moving the fence around?
I think it's more for poop build-up. Not so much not moving the fence but moving their sleeping and feeding area. Chickens of any breed poop wherever they are. They don't move around when they are sleeping so poop builds up. If they hang in one area, like where the feed is, poop can build up there. Poop management is a big issue. especially with the CX and, to a lesser extend, the Rangers. But dual purpose poop a lot too.

Could the grass get too tall for them? I'm hoping to do a more forage-friendly breed in the spring.
Another consideration is that they eat the forage. If the area is big enough you may keep enough forage in there for them but in a limited area they may eat it down to the roots. Climate, time of the year, rainfall, chicken density, and quality of your forage all plays a part. And how willing they are to roam for forage. Dual purpose or more likely to roam than CX.

My dual purpose have an area big enough that they never eat it to the roots but they eat what they like and leave the rest. The "rest" grows up and shades out the good stuff to keep it from coming back. So I cut those "weeds" around four or five times a year so the good stuff can grow.

Do you have experience with electric fencing or electric netting? The weeds and grass growing up in that can short it out, especially when wet so you need a strategy to keep that clear. If you wish we can chat about that.

I can see two potential solutions. One would be to move the feeders and shelter (not the fence) as needed because of poop build-up. That might be daily, it might be less often. The more it rained the more often I needed to move mine. The other would be to have a permanent shelter/feeding area and clean it as needed. That would be more often with CX than with dual purpose. There are a lot of clever people on here with loads of experience, hopefully they'll have other ideas.
 

iwltfum

Songster
Sep 10, 2018
677
1,343
241
Maine
It's possible. You will want to be in a relatively predator free area - low pressure of both ground predators and aerial predators. Poultry netting is not as good for keeping predators out as it is at keeping birds in. And it certainly does nothing to deter hawks, owls, or eagles. Neither is it very good to keep up in one spot for long periods of time as it is a pain (or near impossible depending who you ask) to keep the grass at the fence line short enough to keep the fence working properly. You will also need to move a shelter around the large paddock with water and feed moving as well. The shelter provides shade it will need to be big enough for all birds to get under at the same time. Food and water and shelter moving to all parts of pasture one move at a time - probably once daily would be necessary eventually. They will concentrate around their support system so the moves are absolutely necessary. It would be similar to managing a chicken tractor. The size of the paddock would need to be big enough to last the whole time or you might end up needing to extend it as the season goes on if they end up soiling the space too fast. That would all depend on how many birds, for how many weeks, the type of bird, the quality of the land and forage, and to a slightly lesser extent- frequency of shelter/food/water moves. For that reason, I cant really give you a solid sqft/bird number but as big as possible. I have 200 birds free ranging on about 2 acres right now (they dont have a fence but they stick to mostly a 2 acre area)- mostly freedom ranger broilers- and they just barely have enough space IMO. Since all 200 live in the same spot one solution would be to separate half out and move them several hundred feet away from the others to create another flock essentially. But yes I think with reasonable concentrations of birds it can actually work really well in the right areas.
 
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U_Stormcrow

Free Ranging
Jun 7, 2020
4,625
13,482
536
North FL Panhandle Region / Wiregrass
^^^ that.

I have a smaller flock - see Sig, below - and use 1.75A+ for ranging my birds, protected by an electric fence. Does nothing to deter aerial predation, which has thankfully been low.

Increased area reduces pressure on your pasture, it will only get torn up where you feed them - so you need a mobile food/water station where they can shelter against the elements. For a large flock, that means a trailor and a way to tow it. Nothing else is practical.

Ranging will improve flavor, increase texture, and retard growth. How much will depend on breed, individual birds, and pasture quality. I've forced CX to range with the rest of my flock - their live weights looked like many poster's processed weights at similar age, or even less. Better luck will likely be had with one of the "Ranger" types from a good line. They are better suited to mobility, more predator aware, and yes, slower growing - so you will need more time to target weight, which means a tougher carcass.

But taking a Ranger at 12 weeks is still better than taking a typical "dual purpose" bird at 20. Though not as tender, breast heavy, or feed efficient as a CX at 8 weeks.

No perfect solutions.
 

Geena

Free Ranging
7 Years
Aug 17, 2014
914
5,460
521
Maryland
We have two grow out pastures on slopes. One thing to consider, that I didn't and learned later, if you plan to raise typical meat birds. Once they get to a certain size they will refuse to make use of the hilly parts, too much trouble for them I suppose. That's why we now raise dual purpose x broiler meat mutts, as they are much better at foraging and negotiating the slopes.
As far as the grass, we have some issues with that as well, and usually end up weed whacking some paths for them in May and June.
But of course much depends on the grade of your land and how thick and tall the grass grows... just a couple of things to think about.
 

JaggerbushAcres

In the Brooder
Sep 29, 2021
2
3
14
We have two grow out pastures on slopes. One thing to consider, that I didn't and learned later, if you plan to raise typical meat birds. Once they get to a certain size they will refuse to make use of the hilly parts, too much trouble for them I suppose. That's why we now raise dual purpose x broiler meat mutts, as they are much better at foraging and negotiating the slopes.

Oh I hadn't even considered how lazy they'd be on hills! I think I'm done with CX after this batch and this confirms it - I can't give them the best life possible with pasturing on a 20% grade hill, and I can't give them enough grass turnover with the tractor as I have it now. Rangers in the spring it is.
 

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