September 7, 2019

Chicken Yard Project: Grazing Beds

Last time I showed you our new compost bin, this time I'll show you the grazing beds. Grazing beds are an excellent way to provide fresh greens to confined chickens. These are simply frames covered with heavy-duty chicken wire. Seed is planted in the beds and after it grows the chickens eat the fresh greens through the wire. The wire prevents them from overgrazing the bed or scratching up the grass and killing it.

New grazing beds where the old compost bin used to be.

Dan made a couple of these previously, and found that the 2-foot by 8-foot size easiest to manage. We already had two, so he made four more.

He planted wheat and oat seed in the beds. Both grow quickly and the chickens love the grass. Lettuce or herbs can be planted in the beds too; anything chickens love to graze.

One week later.

When the grass wears out the frames are moved to a new planting spot and the chickens enjoy scratching up what's left. By rotating planting, we should be able to keep a steady supply of fresh grazing for them.

Ready to graze.

Some people keep the beds fenced until the grass grows about 4 to 6 inches above the wire and then let their chickens in. That's an extra step we haven't gotten around to.

The chickens get their fresh greens without leaving the yard.

Dan plans to build a few more from time to time. We'd like to see the entire chicken yard filled with these eventually. The idea will be to rotate planting to keep a fresh supply of grass at all times. The chickens are happier and Dan is too. He hates seeing the ground so bear in their yard. Maybe someday we can let them out to pasture again, but for now, this works very well.

The last subgoal on the chicken yard project list is a duck house. That's in the works now, although several other things have pushed their way to the top of the to-do list. I'll show you the duck house as soon as it's done. Next time, I'll share the plan we've come up with for my solar backup project for the fridge and freezer in my pantry.

21 comments:

  1. Ingenious way to build them and keep moving them to keep a supply of fresh food. You have a wonderful homestead. - Margy

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  2. Of course we don't have chickens yet, not until we are there full time, but wow, what a great idea. I love this idea and will have to remember it. Thanks for sharing you guys have created such a neat place. You inspired others!!

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  3. That is such an awesome idea; David and I have been toying with how to make more greens available for our new chicken yard and this is something that we are definitely going to try!

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  4. What a great idea! We free range our chickens, but a fox killed all but 1 this spring in just a few minutes. I like this hybrid method!

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  5. At first I thought each one is a little raised bed, but then I realized maybe they are just frames and you are seeding the ground beneath? That's such a good idea!

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  6. Margy, thanks! We're always trying to think of ways to take good care of our critters.

    Nancy, your chickens will love it!

    1st man, thank you! You guys are really good at collecting ideas. By the time you're full time on the farm you'll be ready to go!

    Hannah, hello and welcome! I think this is one of the easiest ways to get fresh greens in their diet. And to keep them going. Chickens can really tear up the ground and this way they can't. I know they appreciate the extra greens in their diet.

    Meredith, oh no! What a hard way to lose your chickens. It can definitely be safer to put a fence between them and predators. Between our compost piles and the grazing beds, though, our chickens still get good things to eat.

    Quinn, that's correct. They aren't raised and the seed is sown directly on the ground. We do cover it with a bit of soil or compost. Then the frames protect the grass from being scratched up. Pretty easy, actually.

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  7. Gosh, what a great idea for the chicks. I thought you just thew seed out for them. That is all I ever saw in the movies (haha). Happy chicken makes great eggs.

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  8. Now that is pure genius. They must be so happy with the greens.

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  9. RT, we do that too! Tossing chicken scratch at least once a day is a good way to get a head count. They do love the variety of the seed, greens, and compost.

    Fiona, they love the greens and keep them trimmed as closely as they can. :)

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  10. Brilliant idea Leigh. I'm sure the chickens love them and they also look really nice lush and colourful! :)

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  11. I am imaging that the wire is stapled to the frame over the top? Also how difficult is it to replant? If the chickens are used to getting greens do they continue to peck at the area when it is not grown enough to reach through the wire?

    That is a project I can do and will add to the list. My new coop and run area will be done by end of September. These will be a nice addition!

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  12. Rain, it's really a treat for them. Greens are what help make the yolks of their eggs orange instead of pale yellow. :)

    Goatldi, the seeds can either be sprinkled through the chicken wire or the area planted first and the frame placed on top. Once the grasses peter out they lose interest. Then the frames can be moved and they can scratch through the remains. They love that too. :)

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  13. This. Is. Brilliant.

    That said, do your foresee any issues with chicken poop building up on the frames or smothering the greens?

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  14. TB, actually, no. We've been experimenting with these since early last summer and the biggest problem has been leaves and small sticks falling onto the chicken wire. So they do have to be cleared off occasionally. :)

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  15. I guess since back when we had chickens, they had around 10 acres of farmstead to roam around on, doing this never crossed my mind. It wasn't necessary. However with a more confined setup, I definitely think it works pretty well. Perhaps one day you might go to the next step and make a chicken tractor so you can just take them all over your yard and don't have to bother with the planting/moving screens, etc.

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  16. Ed. we've discussed a chicken tractor quite a bit lately. The decision always revolves around what methods require the least amount of monitoring and maintenance on our part. A chicken tractor would have to be moved frequently, which usually ends the discussion. Not that we've ruled it out, but it would be one more thing to add to the daily routine. We want to keep that routine as simple as possible! But who knows, Dan may decide to give it a try anyway.

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  17. I love this idea! They do tear things up if left at will. What a great solution for getting them some greens and probably an additional bug or two.

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  18. Lady Locust, the chickens love it too. :)

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  19. I think you need a lot of land, to let chickens free range successfully. And certainly not in a dry climate. Otherwise they decimate everything growing. Small operations are best in stationary spaces, for peace of mind. If you have the vigor or use of machinery, chicken tractors are the next best option. Otherwise, I'm a fan of enclosed poultry areas. They're just too destructive.

    I'm dealing with brush turkeys at the moment. Exposing the roots of established plants. It's dry and nothing much for them to eat. So they're forced to dig further down. It's a pain.

    But good work on the grazing beds. I look forward to see how they go!

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  20. Chris, having had chickens kill quite a few things in my permaculture hedgerow from digging the soil around the roots, I feel your pain! I see your point about dry climates. It's been though on us this summer with so little rain. The vegetation never gets enough moisture to recover. What is growing in the pasture is all the things I'm trying to eliminate!

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