chicken forage --territory?
hanzibra at svn.com.br
Thu Aug 3 09:15:52 EDT 2000
We are trying to perfect this system, too, but with the intention of combining grain production with the chicken-system, using closely-monitored rotation pens. The idea is to favor the earthworm population. For this reason, we calculate a maximum of 5 days in each pen, and a minimum of 40 days rotation cycle ( which is the cycle of the earthworm). I am working towards a 12-pen rotation, to have a two-month cycle, giving time for annual plants to be big enough to resist the chicken´s second passage ( corn, sesame, sunflower, pigeon pea). In our small-scale systems, we have harvested high-quality corn from such pens.
I have observed, however, that in many of the existing systems I have seen, the chickens tend to hang around the hen house, digging holes in the soil, than to use the whole area. I remember that my free-ranging chickens had a definite territory, and wonder if this is the case. The other possibility is that in the existing systems, low grass has been planted, and the chickens seem loath to venture into it ( as it is higher than they are), preferring to eat it away at the edges. Fear of predators hidden in the grass? (in this case, snakes...)
In the systems we planted with tall canegrass and fruit trees, they seem to occupy better the whole area, but then we had many more head per meter than we intend with these commercial systems.
As I am now adapting these smaller backyard systems to larger commercial systems, I am looking for some clear data or personal experiences on this, because my doubt is , if we have more heads and a larger area, will they actually and effectively occupy this whole area, or just pile up ( as I have seen until now) near the henhouse, and leave the edges of the pens untouched..
I have also noticed that the short-legged races ( New Hampshire, Plymouth, etc.) have smaller territories than the long-legged varieties ( the "local" chickens, which lay only 20 eggs before going broody...)
Does anyone "out there" know what the territory size is for these chickens, and how many square meters we need to calculate per head per 5 days so that the system will not degrade ( this in humid tropics, good soil...)
We have an agronomist working on this in a landless settlement, but if I could get upfront data on this, it might accelerate the process..
Thanks for the help.
This spring I started working on establishment of a chicken forage system - an alternative to chicken tractors, that we also use. Our layers have a strong temper and do not want to be in a tractor, so this was an attempt to grow enough forage on a large enough area to satisfy needs of 15 hens and turkey-guinea tribe. Our meat chickens are still in a tractor, working different areas.
One of the imperatives for my forage forest was to combine it with a food forest and many herbs, that I use for teas and medicine.
I am in the high desert, zone 2, near a river, flood irrigation.
Here is my plant list:
White Dutch Clover
Red Strawberry Clover
Grass ( existing)
Bulbs - day lilies, irises, etc
Radishes, other brassicas (hopefully will reseed)
Saskatoon (Service berry)
Sea buck thorn
Black locust (existing 50' overstory)
The area is about 1/2 acre, shaded and protected from the elements.
For ground cover I also used lettuce, that germinated and grew better that it ever grows in the garden. A friend's idea was that in a desert survival is more important that space, so plants like being grown close together until established, and than can be thinned. Chicory did not germinate at all, neither did quinoa. Lettuce is gone by now, but clover is looking great.
Chickens started grazing it with much gusto since mid June, without a visible impact, as they are not confined.
I am interested to know what other people use for poultry forage. I would like to reduce commercial food use as much as possible.
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