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poultry:
benefits and costs

which breeds
 to keep?

our breeds

poultry for
 meat

feeding 
chooks

fencing
for chooks
housing 
for chooks

the 
chook run

breeding and
raising chicks

building our own 
incubators

pests and
diseases

buying
chooks

 

The chook run
Chooks can compact the ground close to their chook house and their droppings can bring too much nitrogen to this high traffic area and make it acidic and bare. Before we build a chook house we plan how we will use the areas around the house to avoid such a problem. The chooks are supposed to be a beneficial part of our garden design rather than a problem. Our layer flock consists of up to eighteen hens (no rooster) that lay the eggs we sell. The house itself measures three by three metres and would be large enough for more hens. To avoid soil problems and to enable the chickens to free-range and to find a good percentage of their food themselves we use a rotational system.

A rotational system:  
the house opens to a small yard of only about three by three metres. This yard is like the hub in the centre of a wheel and has gates that open to several paddocks. The chickens can free-range in one of these paddocks until they start to degrade it. Then this paddock will be closed for several months while the chickens have access to a different paddock. This system allows us to grow our own feed crops for the chickens. After the chickens have left a paddock we sow chook feed or green manure. Once the crop has grown well the chooks will be allowed back into the paddock until the crop has been eaten and the soil scratched up. The chooks have now become part of a system. They fertilize the paddock while they feed on the crop. When they have finished their work we will plant corn in this paddock and lock them out again.

 

Left: chook shed with a small yard that provides controlled access to a number of paddocks

right: chooks foraging in an area where green manure was grown as a feed crop

 

 

A grassed system without rotations:  
our Faverolles live in a fixed house with a size of 2.2m by 2.2m. This house gives them access to a grassed area of 20m x 20m. Faverolles are gentle birds and do not scratch as heavily as some other breeds. Seven Faverolles live in this area and do not damage the grass much. This seems to be the right number for permanent access to 400 square metres of grass. Several large bushes provide shade for them and shelter from predators. This area is too small to give larger birds of prey enough room to land. The seven Faverolles do not keep the grass down enough and we sometimes allow our ponies access to this area to “mow the lawn”.   

 

Right: the Faverolles run after the flock of seven has used this area for twelve months. Grass and chooks can co-exist if the right number of chooks have access.

 

Access to orchards:  
we have several orchards with fruit trees and berries. Pests can be a problem in orchards. Chooks are ideal orchard workers. They can roam around the orchard and scratch the ground under the trees. They get rid of fallen fruit that we overlooked; they scratch up grass and weeds and most importantly, they eat any insects they can find, such as coddling moth larvae. A fixed chook house is attached to each of our orchards. Chooks have access to the orchards from the time the last apples are harvested until the time the first berries are ready; they can have supervised access at other times. An orchard needs to be established for a minimum of four years before chickens can have unlimited access to it  without causing damage.  

 

Left: the flock of Salmon Faverolles in our orchard. The chooks have access from the chook house through a mesh tunnel. In a week or two the strawberries will be ripe and the chooks have to kept out until the last apples are harvested.

Right: another photo of the mesh tunnel that is closed at this time.

 

A straw-yard system without rotations:  
another option for a single yard attached to a chook house is the “straw-yard”. A straw-yard is a fenced area with a dirt floor that is covered with straw or hay. We built a 3m x 2.3 m chook house that is attached to a 9m x 9m fully netted chook run for young chooks. This area is protected against predators by bird mesh and provides a safe outdoor run for those chooks that are not large and old enough to free-range on the open paddocks. We had to build this run under trees in an area without grass. If we would leave it bare the chickens would compact and degrade it. We cover the ground with hay instead. This gives the chooks plenty of material to scratch around in and they can pick seeds from the hay. The straw-yard is on a slope. We place the fresh hay on the high side; the chooks scratch the hay downwards and eventually a layer of hay, chook droppings and soil forms at the low side of the straw yard. This is ideal carbon enriched fertilizer for the garden beds, and while the chooks are in the straw yard the freshly added hay keeps the ground dry and clean.

 

Left: the straw yard with bales of hay placed on the "high side" of the yard. The chooks are kept busy by scratching the bales apart. This is a secure area for younger birds.

Right: hay from cleaning up the chook shed and the straw yard ready to be used in the gardens.

 

poultry:
benefits and costs

which breeds
 to keep?

our breeds

poultry for
 meat

feeding 
chooks

fencing
for chooks
housing 
for chooks

the 
chook run

breeding and
raising chicks

building our own 
incubators

pests and
diseases

buying
chooks

 

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Home

Poultry & eggs for sale

Poultry info Garden 
Diary
Alphabet of Gardening Recipes Gardening 
Calender
Orchards Kitchen Garden Vegie Garden About us Contact
Resources
Disclaimer

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