August 5, 2019

August Project: Chicken Yard

We're still whittling away at our summer to-do list.  We've crossed a lot off that list, and it feels good to be productive and make progress. This month I'll be busy with picking and preserving, while Dan has set his sights on the poultry yard. The chickens have been confined there since last year when we started our pasture improvement project. Previously, our chickens free-ranged but because chickens are rough on seeds, mulch, and seedlings they need to stay off the pasture. It's a large yard, though, but as with all things it eventually needs care.

The chicken yard originally expanded to Dan's workshop (on the far
right).We moved the fence to add a lane and gate for the tractor.

Duck pool and grazing bed with compost bins in the background.
The water in the pool looks odd because Dan painted the bottom.

Composting with chickens has worked out really well. 

Another grazing bed. Dan laments the bare ground, but that's what
chickens do. They scratch and hunt for grubs and worms. They do 
like fresh greens, though, and the grazing beds meets that need.

Close-up of the plaque above the chicken door.

We have 6 hens, a rooster, and 2 Muscovy ducks. The
yard is large enough to give them plenty of room to roam.

The yard expands behind the chicken house. The t-posts mark
where the old chicken yard fence used to be, before we expanded it.

Dan's chicken yard project list looks like this:
  • move compost bins
  • make more grazing beds
  • build a duck house

Progress with more pictures soon!


Michelle said...

Your chicken yard is PALATIAL!!!

Retired Knitter said...

I agree with Michelle. I know nothing about chickens, but these guys are sooooo lucky to have this much space. I bet the eggs are amazing. Happy chickens, amazing eggs.

Ed said...

I have many memories of collecting eggs for the 100 hens my parents raised when I was younger. They were free range so I also have memories of finding remains (mostly feathers) of the ones coyotes took or that were run over on the gravel road. When my parents got rid of them, I think they were down to less than ten.

Leigh said...

Michelle, I'm just glad we have the room for them to have a large yard!

RT, I've never been comfortable with the space/chicken recommendations of most books and websites. I think they overcrowd. Dan still wishes they could go out on pasture, but for now, they seem very happy and healthy.

Ed, that's a pretty heavy toll! It's nice when they can free range, but it does make them easy pickings for predators. And for some reason, they all love chicken. Or at least prefer it to rabbit and squirrel.

Quinn said...

I went the free-range route most years with my little flocks, and really enjoyed watching them establish routines and favorite places for various times of day. And when I worked in one spot for any length of time, I would soon have company :)

Toirdhealbheach Beucail said...

The composting with chickens is genius.

Leigh said...

Quinn, chickens make good company. And always willing and able to help anytime a rock gets turned over or a hole gets dug!

TB, thanks! You reminded me to put my Composting With Chickens up as my featured book. :)

Rain said...

That's really cool Leigh. They do have a lot of room, and I understand Dan's lament! :)

Leigh said...

Rain, thanks! Dan doesn't like seeing the bare ground, but on the other hand, that's what chickens do! Scratch to the bare ground in search of bugs and worms. They do love fresh grass and greens, but they also love them bugs!

Ann said...

Lucky chickens!! I agree with you that the recommended space is not enough, and right now our chickens are even more crowded and we can't figure out how to expand their space. (We expected some of our new babies to die as usual and they didn't, hence the too-big flock.) I try to find new entertainment for them as often as possible - a big plop of hay, ends of zucchinis, grass & weed clippings, etc. I have a couple of questions if you don't mind.

Do you have any more info on the grazing beds? Mine would love that although I'm not sure where to fit it. I've often thought someone should open an eco-land clearing service using chicken tractors, kind of like people hiring out goats to clear brush.

Do you do anything special with the compost the chickens can access? I keep reading about foods you can't give your chickens that we have in our compost - coffee grounds, beans, etc.


Renee Nefe said...

I must have missed when you got ducks back again. Do these stick around better than your last flock? Can't wait to see the upgrades.

Leigh said...

Ann, I love your idea of chicken tractors for hire!

It appears I haven't blogged about the grazing beds so far, but I am planning to do so when Dan builds some new ones. Basically it's a frame with a wire top. Grass seed is sown in the bed and the chickens graze it as it grows through the top but can't scratch it up. We move ours when the grass gets worn out and they love scratching through that. Some people keep the chickens out until the grass grows a certain height, but we've never done that. I'd like to have several dozen of them!

Regarding things that chickens aren't supposed to have, I honestly don't worry about it. I wouldn't put coffee grounds, onion skins, etc into their feeder, but with the compost they dig through and only pick out what they like (which isn't onion and garlic skins). I also add things we aren't supposed to put in compost, like meat scraps, because the chickens eat that first so we've never had problems otherwise. We keep a shovel nearby and turn the compost every couple of days so what doesn't get eaten gets buried and decomposes. Honestly, chickens make compost better and faster than decomposition alone.

Renee, those are the only two ducks who managed to escape the great giveaway. We've discussed finding them new homes too, but Dan really likes them so they stay. What we don't have at present is a drake, so the population stays at two for now. :)

Chris said...

Ah, chicken coops. I've got quite a few projects, to do with those, myself, lol. They're always evolving, aren't they? Especially when we experiment enough to determine what's worth developing further, and what's a waste of energy.

Leigh said...

Chris, exactly right!