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Looking for tips on keeping chickens naturally. Permaculture chickens.

Discussion in 'DIY / Self Sufficiency' started by HeidiEmbrey, Oct 16, 2017.

  1. HeidiEmbrey

    HeidiEmbrey Songster

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    Hi! I'm getting chickens soon, researching their care, housing needs etc. I want to raise them the permaculture way, naturally, zero input, zero waste, sustainably. The cheap lazy way, the planet loves it! Reduce reuse recycle.
    I know a little already..like I don't want to be raking and shoveling, want them to work for me to do the weeding, so constantly rotate them. I know I want a movable chicken tractor, and I'll need a fixed coop as well to protect them from predators at night? I don't want to fence them a whole yard for that like a paddock. I want to use them in the entire yard where I want. I know they need nesting boxes but then I read you only need 1 nest box for 4 chickens, is that true? That can't be true..don't they sleep in those? :) I know I am asking silly questions, I'll learn lol.
    I don't know what sizes of anything I need yet for the 4 hens that I'm now allowed here in the city, since I will be rotating them and keeping them in a tractor a lot it's confusing me how much enclosed space they need. I don't plan to keep them free range at all, we have too many cats and dogs running lose in my neighborhood! I might take them out on occasion if they are that well behaved, when myself and others are standing guard over them, maybe with leashes on them so they don't run away! my daughter is going to crochet me leashes for them lol
    I know I want a natural ground system in their runs of course and a trench compost system for their food, I'm not going to buy them food or grain but feed them from compost and what I grow..I know I want to use my own leaves and grasses like lemon grass from my yarden for their bedding as opposed to buying straw, etc.
    I'm looking for any and all advice on saving money and naturally keeping chickens, how to keep them healthy naturally. I know clean, ventilated, and clean water is #1 :) Any and all comments are most appreciated. Thanks! :)
     

  2. Pyxis

    Pyxis Hatchi Wan Kenobi Premium Member

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    Chickens don't sleep in nest boxes, they sleep on roosts. So yes, you only need three or four nesting boxes per hen :)

    Space wise, they need four square feet of space per bird in the coop and ten square feet of space per bird in the run - or tractor, since that seems to be what you plan to use. So will you be getting up at the crack of dawn each morning to take them out of the coop and put them in the tractor? If not, you're going to want the coop to be even bigger, if you don't plan to have a run attached to it that they can use when not in the tractor. What will you do in the winter for them, if you get snow and cold? Will you still be willing to haul them out to the tractor each day?

    What are you planning on feeding them? What will you be growing that will get them the appropriate amount of protein, calcium, vitamins, and nutrients that they need? And how will you feed them in the winter, if you're in a place that gets snow?

    Just asking these questions so you can start to make a plan on how you want to handle these things :)
     
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  3. HeidiEmbrey

    HeidiEmbrey Songster

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    Love it! Thanks! I do get up at dawn, my favorite time of day, I run out the door as soon as it is light to see what's doin' in my garden and eat fruit and pick herbs for tea :) .. and wanted to do that each day, to place them in a different area in my garden to weed for me, but I do want to build a run on their fixed coop too, for days I can't. Maybe I could build two runs on their fixed coop and when they muck up one, open the other..and then keep them in the tractor too..But how big those runs? 10 sq ft per chicken even with the tractor? There are days when I wont be here to watch them and won't want them in the tractor.. Here in Florida not much snow and cold but we could get a hurricane! I would take them with me I think if we get evacuated? It depends.. I'm researching how people feed them through trench composting. You just put your kitchen scraps in a shallow trench and they eat the scraps and the worms and bugs that are attracted to them. Do they eat night and day? Do you know, does it need to be pitch black dark for them to sleep? We have a lot of light from neighbors houses..
    Not having cold and snow does make it a lot easier.. It's always growing season here year round ..
    They sleep on roosts=do those need to be in front of their nest boxes? I've seen them kept free range and they sleep under bushes and in low trees!..Thanks so much again, very helpful! :)
     
  4. lcwmt

    lcwmt Songster

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    My article on our coop/run/chicken keeping situation is still in the writing process. here's the quick version:
    We built a hoop run, on wheels, to move the girls around the property. 4'wx10'h x 5.5' tall. We also put their original coop on wheels and designed both units to dock together. This allowed the pullets to get out and about and be on fresh ground as often as I was able/willing to move them.
    Then it became obvious that the dogs were better with the chickens than anticipated and the girls got let out every morning. We built a permanent coop (new and improved roosts!) and in preparation for the cold season, moved the hoop run to dock to the permanent coop (took the wheels off).
    It's all working well, except that the first two layers want to use the original coop for nesting. We'll get that shifted before Thanksgiving but right now all is well.
    We are not doing the zero input thing you are talking about (because, Montana!) but the girls seem content, the eggs are fabulous, the grasshoppers non-existent since we started free ranging. We might even get topsoil sometime in the next several decades as a result of their work. :)
    DLM, lock up at night, the dogs are great protectors... but we do not have neighbors, streets or stray dogs and cats. Local predators are kept at bay by the dogs and the fact that there is abundant easy prey. We do get very gusty winds, forest/range fires are a possibility, sub zero temps are guaranteed.
     
  5. HeidiEmbrey

    HeidiEmbrey Songster

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    Thanks for the sizes! How many chickens do you have in there? The docking tractor is such a neat idea! I like the idea of a hoop too as it seems like it would make it more balanced for moving but I'll have to make it out of whatever I can find free.. My main concerns are raccoons, cats and rodents, we have all 3 in great abundance. I read a post from someone from Louisiana who said they have the same problems and ring the coop and run in a deep moat of broken glass to deter the diggers.. I'm actually worried about the chickens eating my bugs=my pets, in the yard but, the way I see it they will create their own guilds like the rest of my plants if I do it right ..I'm worried about my sensitive ecosystem here on the lagoon but the way I will be keeping them I think they will nurture as many bugs as they eat .. Yikes sub zero temps..I'm a Florida native, that sounds awful! I can't believe people or chickens can live like that lol Good luck to us both, me with my chickens and you not freezing to death! :p Thanks so much for the tips! <3 Going to follow you so maybe I can catch your article when you post it.
     
    Last edited: Oct 16, 2017
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  6. lcwmt

    lcwmt Songster

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    Chicken math hit me hard. Everything was planned for *4* and we have *7* (but one is a Banty, and another is immobile). Basically, 5 active pullets plus the hyper active Banty <G>.
    We doubled the original coop/run size with retro-fitting and so long as the mobile run was moved regularly, all was well. Quarters would have been too tight if that was a static space. Now they are spoiled rotten, have a regular routine when the coop is opened and they are free!
    Racoons require double action latches plus hardware cloth.
    Rodents: HC aprons.
    Cats: we have the super sized cats rather than domestic-gone-feral. The latter does not like full grown chickens, the former wants more meat (deer etc). Know your locals and plan accordingly is my recommendation.
     
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  7. HeidiEmbrey

    HeidiEmbrey Songster

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    Was thinking about how you would keep chickens the permaculture way where you are when it was so cold..and just thought of a video I just watched the other day of a guy who keeps his chickens in a green house with compost to heat it in Norway. I thought that was neat and that you might be able to use the tip. He just hot composts in a big heap in the middle of the greenhouse, ..the chickens love it, scratch around in and eat it, and he says it keeps it very warm in there and it was snow everywhere, I wish I could find the link..looking for it..If I find it I'll post it here..thought that might possibly be a good tip for You in return? :)
     
    Last edited: Oct 16, 2017
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  8. HeidiEmbrey

    HeidiEmbrey Songster

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    I'm only allowed only have 4 here, and I don't think even if i could have more that i have the room..tiny yard :) Thanks for the tip, I'll make sure to make it big enough! Thanks for this too! =Racoons require double action latches plus hardware cloth.
    Rodents: HC aprons !! Id like mine to Feel free even though they will be caged lol I want Plenty of room, and a natural environment for them in their coop and run, like living bushes, and tree stumps for them to scratch, and plants they can eat and roost on..and stuff, I know they tear everything up but that's ok stuff grows like crazy here.. And I want it tall enough that I can go in with them and pet and play with them :p This is really helping me think this out a lot..thanks ! :)
     
  9. lazy gardener

    lazy gardener Crossing the Road

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    This book will go a long way towards getting you started:

    [​IMG]

    You'll want to keep the birds out of your garden while it is growing crops for you, then allow them access to the beds so they can get them ready for the next crop. Some urban gardeners build a light wt tractor that is the same size as their garden beds, so the tractor can cover one bed at a time, or the space between the beds.

    Chicken poo is quite hot, and you will also need to allow time for the bacteria in their poo to be neutralized so that there is not a risk of disease when you enjoy your salads! I believe the common rule of thumb is 90 days for safety.
     
  10. HeidiEmbrey

    HeidiEmbrey Songster

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    Thank you so much for suggesting this read, I've seen that book before on permaculture sites about chickens and wanting to read it. I try not to be bigoted but Bill Mollison being from Tasmania and the Permaculture Institute there really endear me to that anyone from that place. And also thank you so much for the advice about their pathogens!! I've been trying to work that out myself.. I've been saying I want to use them to do my weeding in my garden but I should be saying the only weeding I need them to do is my pathways ..My beds are all permanent. Perennials and self seeding annuals. No room for weeds in them and I won't want them eating any seeds in them those are my next season. I wouldn't want them in the beds at all, just on all the paths, my nice clear wide paths turn into jungles in no time if I don't keep sheet mulching, if I were not in the city and for looks I would let them, they're a pain to maintain, and little animal type paths would be fine with me, but I like to keep things pretty for the neighbors and the paths make people comfortable, they are afraid of pushing through a jungle, for good reason here, snakes (you should see them though it's like they expect leopards or something here, a lot of people seem afraid of plants or being in the jungle even if it's in the middle of the city! I have only ever seen non poison snakes here, I have many native snakes but never a poison one yet, I do walk with a 'snake stick' just in case to poke into anywhere i cant see and want to put my hand! lol) .. but anyway I am so hoping the chickens could keep the paths clear for me and have been trying to work out how I will rotate them to keep things safe. I rake my paths weekly so figure I will rake up their waste with the fallen debris from my paths, and then put it all in the compost like I do with the debris itself now..oh gosh just though of another spot they could keep under control for me in the front yard oh won't that be great! ...I've been concerned about their waste mostly because first and foremost I am on the lagoon and don't want excess nutrients washing out of my yard, I've selected all my plants to not need soil amendment and fit into the ecosystem here, I don't need compost=soil amendment, it burns off in the sun here anyway..I do have a few that will love it like the bananas.. I do have a little security in knowing in my city all the yard waste is collected by a company that uses it all to make mulch and compost to sell so no guilt there, it won't go to a landfill if I can't deal with it. The front yard is mostly sand paths but the back is leaf litter paths and I think they would really enjoy helping me out there. The back is the problem, the sand keeps weeds down pretty well in the front but the leaf litter you know plants love to grow in.. I have mostly natives not edibles, and fruit trees back there..actually it just occurs to me all my ground covers back there are not edibles, what is there? shrimp plant, patchouli, my shed, my potting things, we go camping back there and is a big clear spot for camping, its a nursery back there for plants in pots because they enjoy the shade..i do have raspberry blueberry, blackberry, elderberry back there but those are pretty high and I can keep them far from in the spring.. I've had trouble finding shade loving edible ground covers.. well that makes it easy! The idea that they could help me clear my paths is really thrilling me I hope it all works out that way! I don't have any problem ever with insects so not wanting them for pest control at all, I'm worried they might eat my frogs toads snakes lizards turtles crabs etc actually, another reason I don't want them free range in any way, I think I just have way too many types of plants and everything is so healthy so I don't need them for pest control though I know being able to feed them fallen fruit will not hurt there! Gosh you guys are great! Sorry for rambling but this is helping me think this out so much! helping me get a very clear picture of how and where I will be keeping them, thanks!! <3 :)
     

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