neighbor has too many chickens

Discussion in 'Managing Your Flock' started by chick-neighb, Sep 12, 2013.

  1. chick-neighb

    chick-neighb Out Of The Brooder

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    My neighbor has been keeping a half dozen chickens in a small (about 10X15 feet) space in her backyard for several years. Their pen is completely bald. I felt a bit sorry for them, so I offered the use of half my yard. Within days, she added two more hens to her flock (to my dismay) and then constructed a passageway and two small yards for them in my yard.

    I'm concerned about the impact, over time, of having so many chickens in such a small space. At this point, the hens have 2 pens that are about 20X20 feet each in my yard and their original 10X15 utterly dead patch of dust in their owner's yard.

    How long will it take for the nitrogen and phosphorus to build up to the point that the ground is no longer able to support much plant life? Is there something I can do to counter that accumulation?

    (Pens in my yard are about 50% shade. The hens have removed about half the vegetation so far in just a few months.)

    How much room do hens need to be unstressed and happy?

    I'm trying to get up the nerve to request that she not replace ones that she executes after they stop laying until there is no more than 3-4. However I suspect my neighbor will not be receptive: She seems to greatly enjoy having lots of eggs to give away to neighbors and friends.

    I can understand the pleasure of having lots of great eggs to give away. But I would rather see optimally happy, healthy hens and have a sustainable situation than have the fun of giving away eggs.

    Any suggestions about how I can persuade her to agree to fewer hens?

    (Her household is two people, and I live alone, so 3 hens should meet most of our needs most of the year. I love good eggs, but I will offer to forgo my share to cushion the cutback. She executes at 2 years, so although some of them have names, I don't think any are pets.)
     
  2. Half a dozen?
    6 chickens?
    In 10x15 ft?
    By my Math (which is awful) that's 150 SQ ft.
    A laying hen needs a min. Of 4ft. (I'd say a min of 6-7 ft, but even so)

    6/150 that's 25 SQ ft per bird, and if its 8 birds that's 18 ft per bird



    Am I missing something? You can, in restricted conditions, keep 5 birds on a 4ft x 5 ft run & coop (granite, I still think that's small - 4ft isn't much, but if your trying your best to squeeze in as many as possible) , so I'd imagine 8 birds on 3x that much doesn't seem cramped.

    Are they picking each others feathers? Or do you just feel bad about no grass? That's what happens when you have chickens for a long time and don't till the ground or whatever. I'd say she's doing a great job, the birds sound like they have plenty of room. Now, if my math is wrong - which is completely possible - and they're plucking each other feathers, then I'd simply ask her to reduce , or, if it comes down to it, report her to a humane society or something. But if all the birds don't have is grass, then I'd say your making mountains out of mole hills, simply because its a lot of work to keep chickens on grass when they don't free range. They kill the grass, and if you don't till the ground & continually plant grass, it'll die.




    Oh, and if you want, you can suggest she tills the ground, fertilizes and adds grass back into the ground and maybe keeps it up. Other then that it doesn't sound bad, but of course some more info would be nice
    Sorry if I came off rude or anything!
     
    Last edited: Sep 12, 2013
  3. chick-neighb

    chick-neighb Out Of The Brooder

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    I recall reading somewhere that for sustainability, 1000 square feet/hen is minimum. Below that, the phosphorus & nitrogen in their droppings makes the soil infertile. That's probably the reason our city limits backyard hens to 3, a generous estimate of what a local backyard could hold without adverse environmental impact.
     
  4. aart

    aart Chicken Juggler! Premium Member

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    For sustainability of the plant growth, yes probably.
    For 'happy' hens, 4 sqft of coop space and 10sqft of run space per bird is the recommended minimum.
    City limits often have more to do with noise and stench.

    It's not just the nitrogen/phosphorus, but the physicality of the chickens scratching up the roots of anything growing there. Most people who have chickens, or read enough here to be informed, realize that chickens can decimate the ground of plants pretty quickly. Tilling and reseeding is pretty pointless as the chooks will just tear that up too...if they don't eat the seeds before the even germinate.

    Grazing frames might be a partial solution for you and your neighbor. You kind of let yourself in for it when you offered to allow her livestock on your property before doing the research as to what the issues really are, might be hard to back out now.

    Good Luck!
     
  5. WalkingOnSunshine

    WalkingOnSunshine Overrun With Chickens

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    It was very nice of you to allow your neighbor's chickens on your yard. That being said, chickens are awful to plant life. Nutrient build-up or not, when chickens scratch they dig up everything by the roots and take the property down to bare dirt.

    It sounds like your neighbor's yard is plenty big enough for her hens. What I would personally do is tell her that you didn't realize what the chickens would do to your property, and say that you're sorry you can't have them over any more. Then, if you are worried about the chickens having nothing to do, throw some veggies over the fence to entertain them. However, chickens actually enjoy scratching in the dirt and as long as they have enough space, they're doing fine.

    My chickens have a very big pasture, 75' x 150'. There are trees and grass. However, the birds have scratched away every blade of grass in the area near the coop and fence and under the trees. Although it's bare dirt and they have other options, my hens spend most of their time there. Chickens are not people, or even dogs or cats--they have different ideas of what's fun and what's not than we do.
    [​IMG]


    I think you're a great neighbor, but maybe it's time to rescind your offer. The chickens will be fine, and your neighbor sounds like a good chicken keeper.
     
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  6. donrae

    donrae Hopelessly Addicted Premium Member

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    Chickens just decimate plant life where they're confined. It's jut a fact. Unless you have acres of room, they'll take all the vegetation right down. The numbers you give shows a pretty generous living allotment for the hens, from the bird's standpoint. We all can't free range and have fluffy birds wandering happily on green grassy pastures, which seems to be what you're wanting. That takes a lot of space and pasture management, rotational grazing, cross fencing, etc. Most of us just make the best of it by tossing a handful of grass/weeds/greens in the run every so often to supplement the feed.

    I'm not sure where you're located, but I do know if I were to pull my birds off my run (dry, barren wasteland from having the flock on it for 3 years) and set a sprinkler, I'd have green sprouting vegetation in a week or so. The ground's not permanently scarred or anything.

    I think maybe you just need to leave the chickens to your neighbor. I'd sure be unhappy if I were her and you tried to tell me how many birds to have.
     
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  7. chick-neighb

    chick-neighb Out Of The Brooder

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    I don't want to rescind the agreement as I want to do what is best for the hens. And I like chickens & enjoy their company. Not going to give her ultimatum but rather will just try to encourage her to think environmentally.
     
  8. chick-neighb

    chick-neighb Out Of The Brooder

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    BTW I grew up in a family that always had 8-12 chickens. But we also had several acres for them to wander around on. So although I'm somewhat familiar with chickens, I was pretty ignorant about situations in which urban people have excessive numbers of hens in small spaces for some reason.

    My neighbor is an urban person: to her, desertification & a small crowded yard seems normal & reasonable.

    This has nothing to do with aesthetics. I wasn't growing anything but weedy grass in the areas they are in. But I am protective of soil, e.g. when I garden, I rarely leave soil exposed for longer than absolutely necessary so as not to expose it to the oxidizing effect of sunshine.
     
  9. sepaditty1

    sepaditty1 Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Ummm....I'm going to just have to say it. You're loony. Most people would covet soil that has been enriched by manure of any type. Especially chickens. God made the earth with the ability to replenish itself. Any God made organism is only going to contribute to the Earth. Not take away. Man made things are what would ultimately endanger the balance of the ecosystem. Unfortunately, we can't have it both ways. We can't drive a car to and from work and then complain because our neighbors may be diminishing nutrients in the soil. Come on. Get a clue.
     
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  10. donrae

    donrae Hopelessly Addicted Premium Member

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    I agree with this. Leave your poor neighbor alone and let her enjoy her birds. They sound just fine, she's doing what she can. Your preaching would get a very un-neighborly response here.
     
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