Chicken Care (Total Care System)
As part of my permaculture design course, one of the homework assignments involved developing a system for taking care of laying birds. Since I was already doing this, I thought it would be a good opportunity to get another homework assignment done, and also share my system for taking care of my hens. Below in italics is the question I was given.
Discuss the advantages and responsibilities of keeping Birds
that frequently lay eggs in a Permaculture system. Design a
suitable system for your home situation. What are the options
for a Unit dweller?
The hens love cauliflower leaves. The chicken fun run pods are being used for shade until it is time to graze the garden plots.
Advantages for laying hens
-Fresh eggs to eat
-Nitrogen rich manure
-Good for eating kitchen scraps and damaged produce
-Makes a garden feel more like a garden when you have animals
-Scratching good for garden prep
Responsibilities of keeping laying hens
-They need access to fresh clean water
-Unless you have a really good system, they will need some feed
-Access to good pasture
-Predator proof housing
-Need shade in summer
My Chicken System
-5 Hens are housed in a moveable, insulated chicken coop
-Chicken coop has 2 nesting boxes, with outside access and roosting bars. Feed is hung on the door.
Inside the moveable coop Outside access to nesting boxes
-Water is kept outside, and hung in various places along fence, or in chicken run.
-Waterers are overhead systems that cannot be fowled
-Chicken Run is fenced with tight strong wire
-Chicken coop is predator proof with a door that shuts automatically at dusk, and opens at dawn via a solar cell and solar powered battery
-Chickens are kept in zone 1 for better access and security
-Their chicken run is 1350 square feet.
-I planted (2) nectarine trees, and (1) plum tree for shade and fruit scraps. Other than those trees, the pasture is made up of mostly of fescue, plantains, clover, and dandelions.
-I have observed what they really like, and I would like to plant the following in their pasture to lessen the amount of feed they consume: Chickweed, comfrey, swiss chard, amaranth
-I really like paddock shift systems, but with only 5 chickens the pasture doesn’t seem to need rest. If I had more chickens, I would break up the run into (4) sections and move them once a week. This can be done with the chicken fun run system.
Garden prep and clean-up
-I like to put them to work in the fall and winter cleaning up my annual garden beds.
-I run them through my plots with the moveable coop, and my moveable pod system, the chicken fun run.
-The moveable run is great, because I can put them exactly where I want them to graze, scratch, eat bugs, and fertilize.
-This also gives their run 4-5 months of rest.
-I put a piece of plywood under the slatted floor to catch the manure
-Once a week, I add this to my compost pile or to fallow areas in the garden
-This helps keep disease pressures down
-The coop is moved once a week
-With the slatted floor, the coop is never very dirty, but I do a good clean-up once a year in the spring.
-On average, I get (4) eggs per day. These must be collected daily. I have found that if I collect after lunchtime, all the chickens will have finished laying for the day, so I only need to go out once per day to tend the chickens.