Saturday, January 15, 2011

From My Notebook: Planning the ultimate chicken area

I've been planning and sketching my garden plan since we deer fenced an acre in the fall.  We need to move our chickens in the spring as we want a summer area & a winter area for them, so the coops can get a really good cleaning & to rest the land to prevent disease.  Building the new coop will be at the top of the list when all of this snow melts.  I like this plan.  It includes the chickens in the middle of the south half of the garden, separating the orchard and the ground crops.  This sketch is zoomed in on the area, with the runs cut off short.  We will use the orchard as rotational runs after the trees are strong enough.  It will probably be many years of continuous planting and fencing.  Each time the chickens are shut out of a run, we will put down lime & then seed with different greens & grains to feed them on the next round back.  This should keep them well fed in the summer months.  

 Beside the coop we will have our two white mulberry trees, the dropping berries are a favourite food of chickens.  I saw a farm where the chickens were kept amongst the mulberries, it was so beautiful & I promised myself I would try that one day too.  We might put in an evergreen as well in case they spend a winter here.
We will have an access road for the tractor running east to west  at the halfway point just north of the chickens.  From here we can get to the nest boxes or enter the man gate into the run.
I like the design of this coop (can't remember where I found the photo).  I'd like to try an extended & living roof (for better insulation) & a rain tank.
The bones.
The strawyard is planted with lots of elder, since they are so easy to propagate, they grow happily & abundantly here, we love to use the flowers & berries, and the leaves are medicinal for chickens.

The perimeter of the straw yard is planted with hedge rows of siberian pea shrub, a great food source for the chickens & easy to propagate, or thorny protective trees such as hawthorn.  On the garden side of the wire fence we can grow fruit & vegetable vines.
We hope that they will survive well like this, without netting protection from predatory birds.  Our resident osprey family seemed to do a good job of chasing off any big birds that would come around, plus our livestock guardian dog who loves to chase birds & look out for our chickens.  

We are planning on getting an incubator for spring & trying to hatch our own.  We would like to try Buff Orpingtons as our dual purpose bird, as well as our beloved ameraucanas, to keep up with the beautiful coloured easter eggs.

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