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Mob Stocking: Chicken Style – Carbon and Crap Make the World Go Round.

June 15, 2011

I only do one batch of chickens per year these days.  And we’re in week six.  Almost there.  That means the dwindling supply in the freezer doesn’t look so small.  With that in mind I cooked two chickens Sunday, Oven Fried for dinner and the usual Sunday Chicken.

I still raise the chickens the same way I did when we sold chickens.  Now here comes the scolding… I think the single biggest mistake chicken wranglers (newly minted and old timers alike) make is not utilizing the fertilizer that comes out the back of a chicken.  Or any livestock for that matter.  It doesn’t matter what breed you choose to raise, not making good use of that chicken shit is bullshit.  I can’t say it any plainer than that.  A pasture is like a marriage, if you don’t take care of it and work it in the proper way you end up with, well.  What do you end up with?  Not much.

People really shy away from Salatin’s floorless pasture pens for chickens, but I think it is the best way.  It is mob stocking just like you do with cattle.  The animals apply the fertilizer, eat a little grass, and trample the rest which is your carbon.  Carbon and crap are the soil builders, not you and your tractor and the amendment bag.   It is so simple, yet people make it so complicated.  You have to look at the big picture.   Many people start to grow their own food for a myriad of reasons, saving the earth, saving money, saving_______.    If you look at your food raising endeavors in holistic way, you must have complimentary factors.  If you’re growing vegetables only (soil depleting) without livestock to help with your inputs, you are using up resources from somewhere else.  Having a total closed system is nigh impossible unless you’re the barest of bones operation, but letting animals help you enhance your food system is a great way to go.  Going whole hog isn’t the answer, lessening our impact is.  Every decision you make has a pro and con.  As a society we are so good at anthropomorphizing that we no longer want to control, castrate, euthanize, de-horn or farm and eat our friends.  Free the Dumb Rangers is the cry, too many chickens are cooped up, let them out.  But, it’s a freedom we can no longer afford.  We need to be frugal with resources that are at our disposal, and if you keep livestock one of the best resources you have is prodigious amounts is manure.

Management is the key with manure.  Too much of a good thing is bad, not enough is almost as bad.   Both have a long recovery period.  One is too strong, the other is too weak.  Unfortunately all we hear these days are the doom and gloom, we are damaging the earth, depleting the minerals and natural resources, and on and on.  I don’t dispute any of that, but then why the lax free-range mentality when it comes to really enhancing our landscapes?  Guilt?  Do I not have that because I was raised on a farm?  I don’t really get it.  Depending on the size of your “range” it gets pretty stale after a few days, and parasites can set up shop since they will have a ready host for infinity.  So what is better?  A fresh patch of rested range every day or just for a few short days of your short life.  Think of your own meals.  Do you want your weeks worth of meals all put out on the same day or do you want a new meal every day at meal time?  After a week of picking at the salad bar the pickings would be pretty slim, yet that is what free range chicken raising is.  Sometimes even to the point that the free range is a mud hole or dirt bath.

I am raising my own meat, but if you’re a buyer ask to look at the chicken’s living quarters, pasture or range.  And really look at it, don’t just fall for the marketing spiel.  And if you’re here in the Pacific Northwest, shy away from people who have their chickens on pasture year round.  We have too much rain during the winter and if you want to talk about pollution?  Well there you go.  The soil is cold and dormant during the winter, adding nitrogen in the form of livestock manure is a huge waste.    Better yet, find someone who utilizes deep bedding in the winter and keeps their chickens in for the winter, on deep bedding.  There is not much vegetation, let alone insects to be had in deep winter.  Better to be shepherding all that output and using that as your input.  The same with pigs – if you must keep pigs in winter, please follow Salatin’s (and others) model and keep them in during the winter on warm dry bedding, you will reap the rewards in additional material to replenish what you take from your land, and your pigs will be healthier.

I don’t have time you say?  We move our animals every day unless they are on deep bedding.  Anything other than that is too long in one spot.  I spend 15 minutes a day to service this pen of chickens twice, morning and night.   I spent the same amount of time doing chicken chores when they were in the greenhouse/brooder.  So for 14 hours of my time spread over 2 months, not counting butchering, I will have chickens to fill my freezer, and I will have gained lots o’ manure for the garden and the pasture.  The more pens you have, the more ground you can cover, the more grass you can grow to feed something else.  That is healing and this is what Salatin preaches and so many get wrong.  You must put in the effort.  It sounds crass to say I see the chickens as a tool, but they are, as Holistic Resource Management teaches.  In good conscience I can’t let these chickens free-range, I need to keep them safe from predators, and provide them with shelter, food and water.  In turn they provide meaningful work for me and food for my land and my family.

All the environmental stuff aside, I have to be frugal with my money and resources too.  The chicks cost money.  It boggles my mind that you can go to Fred Meyers and buy a cooked chicken for about $6.00  A chick costs around a $1.50, the food to get the chick to butcher weight maybe $7.00 or double that for organic feed.   That does not count my time and worry to get the chicks from day-old stage to dinner-ready stage.  Homegrown food is great, but it is not cheap.  How do I mitigate these costs?  By making sure I use every bit of that chicken from the poop to the bones.  I don’t see sickly, poor chickens when I do my chickens chores, I see a hungry, worn out piece of pasture being rejuvenated before my eyes.  The chickens know the drill, yes even the Cornish Cross, the routine is the same.

♣ Take out feeder(s).

♣  Insert dolly.

♣  Move pen ahead to fresh grass.

♣  Fill water bucket.

♣  Replenish feed & grit, place feeder(s) back in.

♣  Repeat in evening if necessary.

Not hard at all, and the chickens are well.  They feel safe, and they are well fed.  Not that you can’t have problems, and we have had our share of problems over the years.  But we got good at raising chickens.  But like everything it takes practice and keen observation.

I love the chickens, Mom.

Poultry in motion.

As soon as the fresh grass is revealed during the pen move, the chickens get to work.

In mob stocking its every avian for himself.  The early bird gets the worm, or clover so to speak.  You get my point.  A young meat bird will only forage for about 10% of its diet, so it’s my job to allay my costs and make a healthier bird (it is my food after all) to spend my 7.5 minutes morning and night making sure that happens.

The other 90% is feed provided by me.  I learned a long time ago, that if I am going to raise meat birds I can’t mess with the food too much.  They need high protein and energy feed and that’s what I provide.

You’ve heard the saying, “Scarcer than hens teeth.”  Fowl don’t have teeth.  They have gizzards, and despite popular belief, the gizzard isn’t just in there to make giblet gravy with.  The gizzard is the grinder that grinds the feed and forage.  It must be filled with rocks.  Since I am not pasturing my chickens in the driveway,  but in the pasture, I need to supply grit to them.  You know, that pesky nurture stuff.  Cheap insurance to insure that they make the most of their feed.

And fresh water too.  I don’t let them run out.  They drink a lot.  Would you believe me if I told you that my herd of 20 cattle on a rainy day might not drink 5 gallons of water, and this pen of chickens will drink 10 gallons?  That’s why I never believe those wild figures about how much more environmentally sound chicken is compared to beef.  It’s not true, but it sure has been repeated enough to make it set in stone.

And of course the great outdoors with a little CAFO mixed in.

And then chicken dinner.  The cycle is complete, and even though they lived the short life that is the meat bird’s destiny, I will remember them every time I see their healing effects on our patch of earth.  In twelve hours these birds will have left a legacy of feeding the soil that will last for several years.  I wish I could make such an impact as one of these simple guys.


One fryer, cut up
1 cube (4 oz) butter, melted
1 c flour
1 t salt
2 t pepper
2 t paprika
1 t garlic powder
1 t sage
1 t marjoram

Preheat oven to 375°F.
Place melted butter in roasting pan.  Combine flour and spices in a large paper bag.  Roll chicken pieces in melted butter several at a time, then drop chicken pieces in the sack and shake to cover. 

Place chicken in the roasting pan, skin side down.  Bake for 45 minutes.  Turn chicken over and bake 10 minutes longer or until crust is bubbly.  Use the pan drippings and leftover dredging flour to make gravy for…

56 Comments leave one →
  1. June 15, 2011 6:43 am

    I am starting to really consider raising meat birds, and I want to do it “your” way….but for some reason it seems too hard. We don’t have very many flat areas, and providing water far away from the house is such a chore. How do you handle the water thing? Do you just have really long hoses everywhere?

    • June 15, 2011 2:55 pm

      Kristen, with one pen a year I can keep the chickens pretty close to water, (just two hoses) since it’s only for a few weeks that they are on pasture. But I agree the water is a pain, we kept a water tank in the field when we were selling chickens because they were too far away for a hose. I keep the food close too, to eliminate unnecessary bucket carrying!

      • June 15, 2011 5:35 pm

        That makes sense. I keep forgetting it is a short term thing…not like the year round laying hens of mine. Hauling water is one of my least favorite farm chores! I am trying this chicken recipe tomorrow for dinner! 🙂 thanks for sharing!

        • June 15, 2011 6:23 pm

          Kristen, me too! I am lazy! I swear Jane knows I am packing water to her delicate little self so she drinks even more 😉 Or spills it as soon as my back is turned!

  2. Heather in Oregon permalink
    June 15, 2011 6:50 am

    One of my favorite Wendell Berry quotes-

    “Once plants and animals were raised together on the same farm — which therefore neither produced unmanageable surpluses of manure, to be wasted and to pollute the water supply, nor depended on such quantities of commercial fertilizer. The genius of America farm experts is very well demonstrated here: they can take a solution and divide it neatly into two problems.”

    The Unsettling of America : Culture & Agriculture (1996), p. 62

    I don’t have chickens at the moment but my mom has horses and we have friends with chickens. We make regular trips to plunder their manure stores. Since we only have a quarter acre a little goes a long way. Maybe someday our town will lift their silly chicken restrictions and we can have our own supply as well as the eggs from them. I hadn’t thought about the damage that the chickens would do when pastured in the winter. I think that at least one of the places that we have bought our chickens from has different practices for Summer and Winter but I had never thought to ask precisely what they were.

    • June 15, 2011 2:58 pm

      Heather, I love that quote too!

      If you’re a pirate you could raise some meat chickens in your backyard, they are butchered at a young age and never make any real noise. Although it depends on how much you want to flaunt the law 😉

      A pen on deep bedding, moved every couple of days (by hand) would make some roaring good garden beds!

  3. Celt permalink
    June 15, 2011 7:08 am

    Hey, I am raising chickens purely for the eggs. I have had them completely free-range for several years now, and I am wondering if I should implement the floorless mobile idea for layers. I was under the impression that the mobile thing as you have here in your blog as being more of a ‘meat raising’ strategy.

    • June 15, 2011 4:21 pm

      We use the mobile pen for layers. Just collect your eggs before you move it, if they deposit them on the grass. Most of the time, they use the boxes. And they love the grass…

    • June 15, 2011 4:33 pm

      Celt, it is our meat raising strategy. We tried the egg layers in small portable pens for awhile, but the pens with nests were too heavy, or heavier than we wanted to move every day. It does work though as Sandy E has commented above.

  4. June 15, 2011 7:10 am

    Very thorough and informative, as always. Thank you for taking the time that you do on these! I wondered if you had ever considered raising Freedom Ranger chickens, the french meat bird? I’m hearing from local growers that they are voracious foragers, unlike the Cornish Crosses, though they do end up smaller birds, but thought that the economics might pencil out if you didn’t have to feed as much.

    • June 15, 2011 1:38 pm

      Sue, I haven’t raised the Freedom Rangers, but have raised the Black and Red Cornish. It didn’t pencil out for me to go that many more weeks, even with the difference in foraging which was negligible. I hear lots of conflicting stories, about both. A lot depends on the chicken wranglers, usually the high mortality rates with the Cornish are directly tied to the raising methods. I think people need to raise what breed they are comfortable with and use the method they are the most comfortable with. I don’t take much of a passive approach to my pasturing with any animal in my care so that’s just what works for me. 🙂

      ETA: Turkeys are voracious grazers! And they make CLA too like ruminants unlike other fowl. The effects on the pasture after a pass with turkeys in the floor less pen is nothing short of amazing. Not the same as chickens at all. My experience has only been with the Broad Breasted White, all I can say is amazing graziers, and fast growers too. Ours always dressed out a pound per week equivalent minimum, and many much larger than that.

  5. Montana permalink
    June 15, 2011 7:21 am

    Wow! Amazing post.. I vote for a blog post on butchering day, with a tutorial on your method.

  6. June 15, 2011 7:47 am

    I understand you’re keeping pigs now; may we see your pig pen?

    • June 15, 2011 12:57 pm

      I am not this year, but have posted it before, we use the pigs to turn the bedding in the cow feeding shed. And in the past have housed them with chickens in a hoophouse during inclement weather. No free-ranging or pasturing pigs here. It would make too much mud.

      • June 15, 2011 9:28 pm

        We tried putting our chickens in with our pigs this year. It lasted all of two minutes, before one of the pigs started making serious attempts to eat the chickens. No dice. These pigs are way too uppity for that.

        You’re right about them making a mess of the pasture, though. We tried a method where you rotate the pigs through an area, planting fast-growing edibles behind them as you go. The idea is that, with a 4-6 week rotation, you can keep them in forage without having to turn them out to field. No dice. They packed the ground so hard that nothing would grow. They make quite a mess of the ground, pigs do.

        • June 16, 2011 5:12 am

          Joshua, we squeaked by for quite awhile with the birds and pigs combined, but I liked them separate much better from a chore aspect.

          Pigs are great for sealing a leaky pond, or clearing brushy areas. i wish I had a place to raise our pigs in the woods, but our woods are deep, dark and almost all conifers, no acorn fed pigs here!

  7. June 15, 2011 8:53 am

    You beat me to it! And did a better job! We are growing out some replacement layers in chicken tractors just like Joel’s this year. ( We also got some extra Buff’s for either meat or live sale. I think when we do meat birds again, we will go with Cornish Cross, your arguments for them just make too much sense.

    I was wondering if you have posted (or could post) a picture of the dolly you use… I have been making due with wooden Ski’s to slide them along, but I know it could be easier… Also, it looks like your tractor is build with 1x not 2x material… Wish I had thought of that.

    As far as winter quarters…. Now more than ever I want to put together a hoop house and some kind of mobile egg-mobile… Yea, how do you handle the egg hens? I would think you want them to poop where you want their poop to end up, right?

    • June 15, 2011 1:29 pm

      My dolly is just like Salatins, it’s what makes the pen move so easy. Here is an old post about the dolly and moving the chickens.

      The pen needs to be light, so it can be moved easily. Otherwise, you’re tempted to not move it enough. I got this one from a friend who was going to a more passive system. It’s 10′ x 12′ and is about right for 70 Cornish. When it gives up the ghost, I’m going back to an 8′ x 8′ (50 birds) which is much easier to maneuver to store and 8′ boards are easier to come by.

      I keep my laying hens in a 20′ x 20′ hoophouse on deep bedding and bring greens to them. Not a free-range or pastured set-up, but a great way to generate copious amounts of compost and have eggs everyday too. But a system like that really turns the free-range fanatics off.

  8. Charlie Maverick permalink
    June 15, 2011 9:34 am

    I couldn’t agree more with this post. I have always wanted to have a ‘chicken tractor’ setup. I have a really dumb question though, how do you keep your chickens in when you are moving the pen?

    • June 15, 2011 1:16 pm

      Charlie, the pen is only a few inches off of the ground when it moves so except when they are really tiny they kind of won’t fit through the gap.

  9. Linda Zoldoske permalink
    June 15, 2011 9:37 am

    Great post!

  10. June 15, 2011 9:43 am

    As much of a convert as I am to “your” philosophy of manure management, I can’t bear to deep-bed or intensive-graze my chickens. I just adore having them running around the property too much. Sometimes they peek in the kitchen window or the back door at me. They come running when I go out in the garden to work, and I throw them some scratch. Maybe next year’s meat birds, which are going to be in confinement anyway… this year, I did deep bedding on them, and got some great compost, but that’s for the garden, not the field.

    • June 15, 2011 1:14 pm

      Joshua, I completely understand, if I let mine free-range they would be toast from predation or if I caught them in the garden 😉

      • June 15, 2011 9:33 pm

        We’re pretty fortunate so far with predators. The only thing that ever killed my chickens was a neighbor’s dog. I never did get around to catching it in the act, or I would have taken care of it myself. I had multiple conversations with him about it, but it didn’t stop until another one of his dogs got onto my property and actually bit me (not seriously). Me and that dog had a serious conversation that ended with animal control coming and taking it away. After that, I haven’t seen any more of his dogs around, although I also put up an electric fence all around my property, so that probably helps. If predation became a more serious issue, I would reconsider. When the dog was coming around, I had the chickens in a run set up with electric-net fencing. I always was sad to see them cooped up in the barren run, instead of having nice greens and bugs to eat, but I’d rather have sad chickens alive than dead ones.

  11. Sheila permalink
    June 15, 2011 9:57 am

    Every time I read one of your posts about pasture management, I am intrigued. I love the idea for meat birds. I have a question though. I have heard it said that predators will dig under a floorless pen. Have you had any problems losing animals to a digging predator? Our biggest concern here are raccoons and coyotes. Our neighbors lost many a chickens to raccoons (her guess). Of course she did leave her coop door open at night.

    • June 15, 2011 1:13 pm

      Sheila, they can dig under although we have never had a problem with the pens. Only once with a bear (on top) and as for the coons and coyotes, our dogs are out at night so that keeps them at bay. Owls and bobcats were our biggest predator problem with our layers being out on pasture.

  12. June 15, 2011 10:19 am

    I just LOVE your blog!!!!
    this entry is perfect.
    from the poop to the bones,corn to soil.
    Right down to that beautiful fried chicken-
    your life is my dream

  13. June 15, 2011 10:29 am

    We’re not on a rural homestead yet, but when we are I plan to utilize all the manure we get to the max!

  14. June 15, 2011 11:01 am

    Just wondering about the 10 percent/90 percent figure on the feed. Is that based on your personal (extensive) experience, or did someone look into things more officially? Do you think it is possible to raise the 10 percent? (Allowing that it may not be the most economical…) Do you ever have problems with “burn out”, where the concentration of chicken poop is too much for the pasture?

    • June 15, 2011 1:07 pm

      Melanie, that’s the figure that APPPA (American Pastured Poultry Producers Association) puts out. The figure I’ve seen bandied about for laying hens is 30% so 10% is probably pretty close. I’ve never seen any problems with burnout, just like with the cows, what you do in one day won’t hurt, it’s when you start leaving them longer that the damage is done. When we sold pastured eggs we moved our hens every third day. They were contained in about 1/3 of an acre.

  15. June 15, 2011 11:03 am

    Beautiful as usual! I don’t yet do the tractor/pasture thing with my meat birds – but they do have a huge outside run with sun and shade and they do get buckets of greens every day. My layers get let out mid-afternoon to forage for greens and bugs (they are they only reason we’ve had good gardens the last couple of years due to their grasshopper consumption). We clean out the various chicken houses a couple of times a year and put the stuff (poop, feathers and sawdust) on the compost pile to go on the gardens in the spring – a bit more labor intensive than your method. I think my meat birds are about the same age as yours – how much longer will you let them go? It also looks like you have quite a few more than me (15) …. do you butcher them yourself? Two more unrelated (to this post) questions..Isn’t Jane due pretty soon for her big “date”? And are you concerned about the current radiation issues/scares in the northwest regarding gardens and milk? (Sorry this is so long – haven’t “talked” to you in a while!)

    • June 15, 2011 1:02 pm

      Marcia, my hens are on deep bedding year round and that is labor intensive to move when I clean it out, but unlike cow manure it is light 🙂

      Jane’s big adventure may be in late August. Can’t decide who will be the suitor, a real fella or the AI guy.

      I’m not sure what to say about the radiation, who really knows if it is here or not. We already live downwind and down river from Hanford… I keep busy enough not to worry about it, since I can’t do much about it anyway. Shrug.

  16. June 15, 2011 11:16 am

    At What age are they cooked?

  17. Shirley W. permalink
    June 15, 2011 2:12 pm

    Thank you , thank you, thank you for the rhubarb curd recipe you posted a few days ago. I was wondering what to do with all of the extra eggs and rhubarb that I had. Just put 8 half pints of curd into my freezer and will have the last jar on some angel food cake that I made today. I will be trying your fried chicken recipe tomorrow. It is nice that somethings are doing well in this cool, wet spring that we are having.

  18. Carrina permalink
    June 15, 2011 4:15 pm

    I absolutely love your blog. Thank you for continuing to provide such solid information. We have laying hens and have gone so far as to layer straw in the run and muck out the pen so we can use every scrap of manure. We would love to use some Salatin style pens but our ground is steeply sloped and uneven and the mink and racoons are voracious since we are close to a stream. Do you think we would be able to keep the critters out? I’ve been scared to risk it!

    • June 15, 2011 4:37 pm

      Carrina, skunks are voracious about getting at eggs, they don’t seem to bother the meat birds though. The floor less pens are a pain on uneven ground with too many gaps to close up, or on slopes too. I don’t blame you for being chicken!

  19. June 15, 2011 5:25 pm

    I made your chicken recipe up there for the clan Gleeson tonight and it was a big hit! I’m all out of pastured birds though, and likely won’t get any more this year, ah well.

  20. June 15, 2011 5:27 pm

    You inspire me! I believe in making the best use of every little bit of beast, plant, land and resource that I am given, and you have fine-tuned so many of the processes so well. You always teach me something new and give me something to think about!

    • June 15, 2011 6:25 pm

      Michelle, thanks so much! Gosh anymore we can’t afford to waste what comes our way. Although my dogs now have the official name of Chicken Crap Breath! They don’t need to be THAT frugal 😉

  21. A.A. permalink
    June 17, 2011 3:22 am

    We’ve run some chickens around the garden this year and the way the dandelions grow later is simply amazing. Some of the flowers almost reach up to my hip and the leaves are so broad and have such deep color. I keep thinking if I could only get /all/ the pasture to grow like that. I’m also compulsively thinking tethering a cow in the garden for a day to eat up all that great-looking salad. That’s probably one of the worst ideas ever, but I keep thinking if I could only teach a cow to eat nice in straight corners and lines, to never step on or eat seedlings, and… That cow would have such a great time, it could work, I swear! Next year though I plan to have some cockerels in a field pen so I can cover some fairly poor strips of pasture that could use come precision manuring.

    Food seems to be such a great topic to pick a fight about. Not that you are doing that, Nita, I think your raving is measured and plenty nice enough 🙂 I just find it often a dead-end topic to talk about, even though it’s really fascinating when people are open about it. Food is very personal and easily emotional and has a dirt/purity paradigm forced all over it. Most people really don’t have much choice when it comes to food yet they’re bombarded with messages to make “choices” and cheer for the winning team lest they be probably ugly and diseased and die soon. So people mostly either ignore the whole thing and have little interest in what food is before it’s on your plate, so it’ll simply stay a topic you don’t talk about, like one’s great enthusiasm and interest in the fascinating world of stamp collection. Or, if they are concerned, they will try to form some kind of an opinion that says they are making actual, healthy choices that shield them against danger. When in that state, if you talk about “alternatives” as if they weren’t already choosing from all that can be and making choices that will keep them safe and clean, you might as well say you have a very contagious flu and try to convince them to let you cough extensively on their plate, because now you’ve got some of that disease they fear. However, in my limited experience, I’ve not met anyone who’d be interested in following a couple of days of field pen work and chicken life in a field pen, and then have some strong or principled objection about it. To the contrary, people will have questions and when they offer ideas, it’ll be in good faith that would this or that be an improvement. They’ll gladly hear my explanation if I’ve already tried it or if I’ve come to avoid an idea for some reason, especially if they sense that I’m also open should a new idea come up. They will actually start to tune in to listen to the animals, and that’s the first thing to do if you’re to have an idea how well they’re doing, obviously. Some have asked if the field pen’s too low for the chickens to fly in, but it’s been a genuine question, not “an expression of solemn concern” as I’ve also heard from people who then don’t care to show up or know how things turn out. If I simply ask if the birds look happy in there foraging and scratching on their feet, and explain that chickens mostly jump up to a roost if they can and that they really fly just when they panick and try to get away from danger, that’s explanation enough.

  22. David Vanier permalink
    June 18, 2011 10:45 am

    Great post! I have my first batch of meat chicks coming on Thursday… can you give me some guidelines on how many birds fit in how much freezer space? I’m not sure what size freezer to go with for 5o birds. One thing I read was 2 chickens per cubic foot…

    • June 22, 2011 5:01 am

      David, that estimate is pretty close, depending on dressed weight I can get almost 50 in a 21 cubic foot freezer. You’ll have the best luck with long term storage of frozen foods with a manual defrost freezer, if you can find one.

  23. June 19, 2011 7:03 pm

    We raised meat birds last year in the movable pen. We loved it and the chickens helped us with our parasite problem. We put the pen in what was our lambing pasture and had no parasite problems with the 2 rams we kept there. I am thinking the chickens ate the snails that carried the liver fluke which were infecting our sheep. Just another added bonus.

  24. July 16, 2011 6:16 am

    thanks, this one is really timely for me too! Got a few hens and a rooster a few weeks ago, which led me to finally learn how to put up some fencing (3 tries) and to build a chicken tractor – but didn’t want to put my hens in it because of the egg thing. Thought abt. attaching it to their current too-heavy tractor that only moves by act of congress, but right now that’s sitting in the middle of their fenced area – which is a new garden bed I’ve tilled 3X and is still filled with weeds. Reading this, it’s clear I fenced too big a space. When I’m ready to move it, will give them 1/2 or 1/4 the space, and leave them a shorter time on each section of the bed. The tractor is 4X8 because my garden beds are 4′ wide, I’ve been scrambling to get set up and get my first batch of meat birds. Will do Freedom Rangers this time, mostly because they’re hardy and strong and I’m a newbie. By the time they’re larger, I’ll have a second 4X8 tractor built and can split the group between 2 pens. Am thinking of doing my layers in a coop at the center of the garden, with pop holes on 4 sides and a 4-year rotation. Because they’re right there in the garden, it should be easy to keep them in greens.

    so much to think about in planning this, your posts are such a bonanza of information! learned what I know all from you (and have surely missed or misunderstood half of what you said.) BUT – what pushed me to finally get moving on the meat birds are two needs: help clearing the still -unplanted garden of grass and weeds, and the need for manure.

    (today got 250 bales of hay, so will finally have enough to deep mulch as I clear garden spaces. Need the chickens to help clean out the weed seeds, too!)

  25. June 22, 2012 10:20 am

    Hi Nita,

    I’m re-readi your pasture health posts for the 50th time (maybe not quite!) and a question occurred to me: how long after running your pastured chickens through do you let a paddock rest before letting cattle graze there?

    I don’t know how well we could make the chickens and cattle work together on our itty bitty land (2.94 acres), but I’m thinking about it. Our Highlands are home over the winter (about late November through mid-April) before mOvim to leased summer pasture…so there are no mouths eating plants at home from April-late November. Enter brush hog. 😦 But, it seems to have worked fairly well to feed the cattle their hay on pasture to spread fertility and seeds (like you did this past winter) would running broilers through during the summer and having the cattle on pasture while the grass is dormant be too much?

    • June 24, 2012 7:51 am

      Amy, I usually wait until the grass has been totally rested, maybe a foot high or so. I don’t think it would be too much at all to do broilers and then cows – my only concern would be the pugging issue when the cows are there in the winter. If I remember right your land doesn’t drain as well as ours. But the cows are there anyway in the winter right. Adding another species will only strengthen your sward as long as you don’t over do it. I think you’re on the right track though. Adding a different type of animal on grass will give your more plant species in your pasture too, due to the extra fertility.

  26. August 25, 2013 4:15 pm

    Ok so far so good.. c

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