Moving herd around in a large yard, newbie needs ideas on how to do this

Discussion in 'Managing Your Flock' started by Pixydish, Nov 26, 2012.

  1. Pixydish

    Pixydish New Egg

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    I'm not finding another thread on this particular issue so I thought I would just ask people who are 'in the know' about chickens. We are chicken sitting a flock of 6 hens and will have them for 18 months. My sister brought them over coop and all and we have their coop set up so the herd has a fairly large fenced area where they are safe. Already we can see that they are going to be very entertaining, but I also want them to be useful.
    By useful I mean that I would like to be able to have the chickens help me control weeds and insects in different parts of my yard. We have 3/4 acre of fenced, landscaped gardens. I am not concerned that they will uproot delicate plants, as I'm at the point where that's pretty much okay by me and most of my shrubs are well established. I have way too many plants anyhow.
    We are working on portable fencing that we can deploy to partition off parts of the yard so the chickens will be able to work a large area for a few days at a time and we won't have to worry about our Australian Shepherd bothering them. (he's a good boy, but he is, after all, a boy dog to whom his territory is important. We don't want to take chances.)
    So the containment issue is probably solved, but the issue of moving the chickens from one part of the yard to the other is not solved. Catching them is not going to work as we don't want to train them to run from us. Letting them meander around the yard willy nilly probably will not be effective because there are so many tempting places to stop and scratch between their coop and the weedy areas. Even catching them in the area of their coop is difficult because there are mature plantings in there, small trees and shrubs and they are very wiley.

    We've seen chicken tunnels and the use of a paddock system, but frankly those tunnels would have to be extremely long and would have to turn corners, etc., making that option more trouble than it's worth. I think the best solution is going to involve carrying them to the place where I want them to play.

    So my husband was thinking that if he built a portable coop, perhaps they could learn to go into that coop, say if we put some tempting food on the ramp leading into it, and then inside it, and once they learned to go into the portable coop for goodies, then we could move it to the area we wanted them in and open the door. Mike was thinking that we could just leave the coop in the work area for a few days at a time and let them roost in that coop at night. I am thinking they will want to go back to their regular coop at night. Their regular coop is a large structure that is much too heavy to be moved easily.

    Does that sound like something that could work? Do chickens learn to feel safe in more than one coop? If they spend the night in their regular coop, what's the best way of getting them into the portable one? I'm thinking food that they don't usually get but would be a treat for them. Also, what if a few hens go into the portable coop, but the others don't go? Can I separate the herd for awhile without causing distress?

    We're looking for guidance from the experts here. We only get these girls for a year and a half, so the sooner we can figure this out, the sooner they can get to work eating my weeds and insects. I look forward to it. I already had them in one area of the garden and it's just great! The weeds are almost gone and all I have to do is rake it now. Gotta love that. But we had to chase them down to catch them, and no one enjoys that, including us. We want it to be easy on them, and on us.
     
  2. Judy

    Judy Moderator Staff Member

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    You can pick them up off the roost at night and move them, even one by one. Just don't have a bright light on -- the less light, the better. They should be fine waking up in a different coop -- a bit rattled, perhaps, but not overly stressed,, especially when they discover new forage is included in the deal. Bribing them with a favorite treat is what I use during daylight, but it does work better with some than others.

    (By the way, please don't be offended, but thought you'd like to know it's called a flock with chickens.)
     
    Last edited: Nov 26, 2012
  3. Mattemma

    Mattemma Overrun With Chickens

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    Use some plastic fencing,bamboo poles,and zip ties for the portable fencing if predator attack isn't an issue. I have a 6 foot chainlink,and have used the plastic fencing to block off areas.

    I would get my hens in the coop in the am and put them in a carrier to walk back to their summer area.It took them a while to start laying there.After a while I could just herd them straight to the back with a stick in hand,and then close the gate.In the pm they would walk back to the coop for lock up.In fall and spring they get to roam the yard freely.

    I think getting them at night and putting them into the portable coop is a good idea.
     
  4. Pixydish

    Pixydish New Egg

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    Nov 25, 2012
    Thanks for the comments. I had not thought of picking them up off their roost and moving them into the portable coop at night, but that's a good idea. I used plastic hex fencing with rebar to create a fence outside their usual area, leaving their gate open so they could explore the yard a bit in safety. So far they have preferred to stay in the fenced area surrounding their actual coop and have not ventured outside to the newer area. We'll just leave that fencing up until they discover it, and possibly block off part of the area they always have available, which is large enough to keep them occupied for a long time. Making their area smaller might encourage them to journey forth a bit.
    This morning my husband took two of them out of the closed coop and carried them to an area I had fenced off on the other side of the yard. Now we know that they do not like to be separated from the flock as a whole, as one chicken found a way out of the fence and headed back to the coop. I lifted the fence and the other one followed suit. Guess they just want to be together, so if we move one, we'll move them all.

    I wonder if there is a way to train them to get into the portable coop on their own. We have a timed light in their coop so it comes on at about 4:00am. If we remove them from the coop at night, they will not have the benefit of the timed light unless we set one up in the portable coop.
     
  5. donrae

    donrae Hopelessly Addicted Premium Member

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    Have you researched a chicken tractor? It doesn't need to have a coop attached with your set up, just an enclosed run.

    Or electric poultry netting? That should deter your dog also. You could just herd them with the fence/netting to where you wanted them to go.


    Or, if you use a lot of treats you can often train them to let you pick them up and handle them. I don't do this personally cause I don't handle my birds, but a lot of folks do pick their birds up as a matter of course.
     
  6. hotrodflash

    hotrodflash Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I would just use plastic fencing to contain them in an area until I want to move the fencing to another area. I use a stick to guide mine back into the coop after foraging, I use it as an extension of my reach, so they move when and where I want them. You could move them to the area in the morning and back to their regular coop at night. Making sure that they have food and water in each area. They will quickly learn where to go when you start moving them around.
     
  7. Pixydish

    Pixydish New Egg

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    Nov 25, 2012
    Yes, we are looking into a chicken tractor. The issue was how to get them to go into the contraption so they can be moved. I have a garden wagon that will make a good platform for a portable coop. My husband is going to build something on that so when we get the birds into it, he can pull them all to the new location.
    We have tried herding them but I think that will take some time to learn, as there are so many places where they can scurry out of arms reach, and behind large shrubs. When we first tried it they took cover underneath a cluster of large rhododendrons and it took some time to coax them out. They are smarter and smaller than we are.
    But using these suggestions we will figure out a way to get them to the other side of the yard eventually.
     

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