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The power cord on our EcoGlow
chick brooder broke at
It's that time of year when
our little chicks are growing into tween chicks.
We ordered 25 unsexed chicks
from Cackle Hatchery this year.
Our dog Lucy chewed a hole in
netting when it was turned off.
A month ago, I started pondering --- why shut our chickens and ducks up into rotational pastures in the spring if they can just free range
all year long? My memory is terrible, so I'd forgotten just how much
trouble poultry get up to in the growing season if left to their own
The chickens were causing
problems too, but in a different way. It all began in February, when
the first hens to pick up production decided that their current coop
wasn't worth laying eggs inside. Instead, three bad hens opted to jump
over our perimeter fences, scratch up the garden, and then lay eggs in
But then came the
bad-duck night, and the next morning our waterfowl found a hole in the
perimeter fence and ended up beside the secondary coop at the same time
that our chickens found a different hole and ended up in nearly the same
place. I figured our girls knew what they wanted --- to be back in a
rotational pasture attached to the backup coop --- so Mark fixed the
pasture holes while I shut the girls in.
You'd think that free ranging would be what our poultry crave, but the truth is that a managed pasture offers more tasty tidbits at this time of year than an overgrazed barnyard. To illustrate the point, the photo here shows the bit of sacrifice pasture I use to let the flock out of their coop and into the woods during the winter months. To the right is untrammeled pasture, just starting to grow up in grasses and clover after a winter of dormancy. To the left is the chicken-scratched and duck-trod-upon ground, which is bare except for some smartweed seedlings (which chickens won't eat). Even the nearby woods looks pretty picked over after a long winter of poultry action, so it's no surprise that our girls would prefer to go back to a smaller but fresher salad bar.
And me? I'm relieved to be able to stop wrangling pesky poultry who are feeling their spring oats. The ducks are now laying in the coop and are coming home at night (because they can't range far in the pasture and don't have a tempting body of water to bed down in) and the chickens aren't flying any fences and are laying in the nest box they sleep beside. And that's the long reason why I stick to rotational pastures even though we have acres of woodland for our poultry to explore. Now let's see if I can remember why it's a good idea to shut the girls into a pasture at this time next year....
We haven't tried to actually
mix our chickens with goats yet, but today we let two hens forage in
one of the empty goat pastures.
Casey B. built this nice milk
jug chick waterer
from one of our kits.
One of those pretty Round Top Backyard coops has
just enough space to accommodate a 120W Siemens solar panel.
We've been writing a lot
more about ducks than chickens for the last month or so, which isn't
because we love our chickens less. In fact, our land fowl are much more
malleable, while our waterfowl seem to require much more supervision to
make sure they come home for the night and lay eggs. On the other hand,
ducks are quite interesting.
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