Sustainable paddocks and tractors?

Discussion in 'Coop & Run - Design, Construction, & Maintenance' started by j3707, Aug 31, 2010.

  1. j3707

    j3707 Chillin' With My Peeps

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    This is an interesting subject...a previous post brought up the idea of using a paddock system for keeping chickens, a major benefit of which would be a constant rotating supply of fresh forage; this being both healthy for the chickens, good for the flavor/quality of meat and eggs as well as saving on feed costs. Small garden plots could even be incorporated saving some labor as well.

    My question....IS THIS SUSTAINABLE IN THE LONG TERM?

    Most everyone with chickens in a fenced area knows they tend to obliterate the vegetation by foraging as well as by eventual over-application of their own brand of fertilizer.

    The equation to me seems to be the same for both tractors and paddocks. It is simply a matter of square feet/bird. If you have a tractor filled with 5 birds and only 300 square feet to till with that tractor, you're going to obliterate the vegetation in that area. Same if you had 5 birds and 4 paddocks of 75 square feet.

    If it is a matter of square feet/bird, what's the magic number to allow a paddock or tractor to be a success?

    Anyone have experience with long term sustainable management of these systems?
     
  2. Olive Hill

    Olive Hill Overrun With Chickens

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    Yes, it is (can be) sustainable. Many small farmers raised their pastured poultry in exactly this method and have been doing so for years. The magic number you're looking for 1) isn't a magic number as the region you're in, type of pasture you have available, type of birds you're raising, and weather conditions during any given period of time all greatly affect the outcome of pasturing any animal on a piece of land for any given amount of time and 2) depends more on the overall land you have compared with the number of birds (and other considerations as above) than the number of birds in any particular size tractor as a small tractor moved more often can be as much or even more effective than a larger tractor moved less often with the same number of birds and under the same exact conditions.
     
  3. calista

    calista Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Paul Wheaton has some great information, diagrams, and pictures on this subject at his website:

    http://www.richsoil.com/raising-chickens.jsp

    raising chickens in paddocks

    Ahhhh .... now this is the ultimate solution for raising chickens. At least, it is the best (IMOO) that I'm currently aware of.

    There are two basic approaches:

    * 1) Four or more fenced areas. Put the chickens in an area and after 7 to 10 days move to the next area. Each area gets at least 28 days of rest until the chickens return. The more areas you have, they can be smaller and the time spent in an area can be less. If the chickens consume more than 30% of the vegetation, you have too many chickens or too small of a paddock.
    * 2) Get the same effect with portable fencing.

    Paddock shift systems often improve the paddock. Some folks report five times more vegetation when using paddock shift like the one suggested here. This is something that vegans do not consider when designing gardens with no animals. So ... imagine .... your garden without chickens produces less than your garden with chickens where the chickens eat 30%.

    Joel Salatin calls this system the "egg-mobile" and often has the chickens following cattle in a paddock shift system.
     
  4. j3707

    j3707 Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Olive Hill - I demand a magic number [​IMG]



    calista - thanks, that's a great article...I'd seen it a while back, looks like he's been adding to it.


    I'm interested in hearing from some folks who have tried these methods and have a sense of what minimum bird/land ratio is (or would have been) sustainable in their situation.
     
  5. Olive Hill

    Olive Hill Overrun With Chickens

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    Quote:I said no! No means no! [​IMG] [​IMG]

    If you post this question in the meat forum you will find the producers there are generally pretty happy to share what works and what doesn't in their situations. You might also try the search function as I'm sure those stats have probably been posted before. I wish I could help you but we free range rather than pasture so my numbers wouldn't be an accurate reflection of the system you're interested in.
     
  6. brummie

    brummie Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I know this is an old thread but I wouldn't mind knowing some rough figures/estimates if anyone has some.

    For example, could a 2 paddocks system work for 8 birds? If 8 birds were kept in 500 sq foot for two weeks, and then moved to the other paddock also of 500 square foot for 2 weeks, would that keep grass growing fresh in both paddocks? Could a 2 paddock rotation system of 500 square foot each support 8 chickens? Could it maintain more than 8 birds?
     

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