rotating chickens thru wet pasture?

Discussion in 'Managing Your Flock' started by kearbyad, Dec 8, 2011.

  1. kearbyad

    kearbyad New Egg

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    Dec 8, 2011
    Hi All,

    I am in the planning phases of setting up a rotational pasture system for a flock of layers...would like to start with about 50 birds, if things go well move up in scale. I have about five acres of pasture available, but some of is is wet, and that is where my questions arise.

    Some background information: The wetness is due to clay loam soil directly underneath and a hardpan of clay about two feet down...the pasture has turf and thatch and grass stems growing on it, but when you walk on it, you can hear the squish of water underfoot. During dry periods in the summer (in Maine...never gets terribly dry) the squishy area shrinks to a mere few hundred square feet...but during the wetter seasons, when there's plenty of rain and less evaporation, about an acre is squishy (an unfortunately, it's not completely contiguous....little patches here and there, spread out over about 2 acres).

    The questions:

    -can I rotate the chickens thru the squishy parts, as long as they have a dry chicken tractor to which they can retire in the evenings? Or should I not count it in my planning? Use it in the summer, but not in the winter, when wet can mean frostbite?
    -will it hurt them if they stand around in the squish (I'm imagining some kind of foot rot...)?
    -should I think about laying out paddocks that have some squish and some dry, presuming that the birds will be smart enough not to hang around too long in the squishy part, but still get some use from it?
    -will they even bother to go into the squishy stuff? Will they find stuff to eat there?
    -I imagine at some stocking level the soggy pasture would be degraded...but I'm assuming if I can keep them there a fairly short amount of time, so that they get some good out of it without degrading it beyond suitable recovery time...reasonable?

    Any other management concerns I should be thinking about in this context?

    Thank you VERY much for your thoughts!
     
  2. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner Chicken Obsessed

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    I don't have a lot of experience with that specific situation, but I'll give you what little experience I have.

    I have what I call the bog. It is an area around a wet weather spring that stays soggy during the wetter parts of the year. Mine free range so they are not confined to the bog, but they love to visit it. Who knows what they get out of it. Mud, plant life, and various insect and animal life like frogs and small snakes. I can't see that they differenciate between dry land and a couple of inches of water. Wading through there does not seem to bother them, even in the winter.

    I kept some in a tractor one summer. If it rained, I had to move the tractor a lot more often. They destroyed the area in the tractor much faster when is was wet.

    The main thing I'd worry about would be Coccidiosis. If they stay in a wet area, Cocci can be much more of a threat.

    Wet is usually not good, but if you move them pretty often and give them a dry place to go too, they would probably be OK. I'd still be a bit concerned.
     
  3. six_eclectic_chickens

    six_eclectic_chickens Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Probably better to avoid it. Chickens like being dry.
     
  4. cmom

    cmom Hilltop Farm

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    My Coop
    My birds like the wet areas too. I do limit them in it.
     
  5. CMV

    CMV Flock Mistress

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    What is it about soil in New England? I have the exact same issues, so let me share some of my acquired knowledge.

    -can I rotate the chickens thru the squishy parts, as long as they have a dry chicken tractor to which they can retire in the evenings? Or should I not count it in my planning? Use it in the summer, but not in the winter, when wet can mean frostbite? I would use it in the summer, but skip it in the winter. Chickens are so light that they can stay above the squish, but as the turf dies back their chances of staying dry decrease. They won't mind wet feet in the summer, but in the winter that can lead to problems.
    -will it hurt them if they stand around in the squish (I'm imagining some kind of foot rot...)? No. They may not wholeheartedly approve of it, but they can handle it. You may consider tossing a few pallets around to give them a definite dry surface to lounge on should they wish it.
    -should I think about laying out paddocks that have some squish and some dry, presuming that the birds will be smart enough not to hang around too long in the squishy part, but still get some use from it? This is the best idea. Variety is the spice of life, and chickens appreciate that as much as the rest of us.
    -will they even bother to go into the squishy stuff? Will they find stuff to eat there? Oh yes. My birds love the spongy areas because that is where the most interesting bugs and frogs can be found.
    -I imagine at some stocking level the soggy pasture would be degraded...but I'm assuming if I can keep them there a fairly short amount of time, so that they get some good out of it without degrading it beyond suitable recovery time...reasonable? Perfect. Just monitor your conditions and base your rotation on how well the areas are standing up to the chicken onslaught.


    Be aware as Ridgerunner pointed out that your chances of contracting cocci and worms increases as the soil moisture increases. You may consider keeping Sulmet/Corid on hand just in case, and starting a worming regimen. Worms aren't generally much of an issue up north, but with the birds mucking about in the mud constantly you may need to be more vigilant.

    My birds live half their life in a swamp. I have never any issues other than cocci. They prefer to stay in the swamp in the summer where it is cooler, but in the winter they stay on the high ground where it is dry. It works for all of us.

    Good luck.
     
  6. kearbyad

    kearbyad New Egg

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    Dec 8, 2011
    Thank you so much for the responses...very very useful. I will let you all know how it goes!
     
  7. six_eclectic_chickens

    six_eclectic_chickens Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Quote:I don't doubt that chickens will be active in wet areas but they can't have a dust bath, therefore it makes the chances of them picking up parasites much higher. And wet usually (here anyways) means cold weather and they can't lay out in the sun.
     

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