What if you live in a suburban or urban area on a small lot?
A lot of those the chickens living in those areas live in degenerative systems, spending their days on mud runs and dirt patches that are more of a net negative than a net positive.
What can be done to avoid this issue?
This is where we turn to the techniques that are used on broadacre properties and look to scale it down, rotating birds over a portion of an acre versus multiple acres.
It’s an idea and concept that I have been playing around with my 3/4 acre property here in San Diego and it’s one that I think holds a lot of promise, and it’s the subject of today’s show.
Earlier this year I was contact by a Canadian name Shaw McCarty.
Shawn raises his 16 layer chicks on his property which is just under an acre. He rotates the birds through several small paddocks on that small suburban lot.
His overall goal is to advance the system while giving the chickens access to as much fresh forage as possible.
And so far it’s worked.
As Shawn stated..
“I thought the chickens would help me by ‘mowing’ the pasture but their actions have caused it to grow faster, and thicker than it has in the past. With 16 chickens I still need to cut the grass in each paddock a couple times a year to keep it fresh and palatable, once it gets too long the chickens will choose other forage.”
Shawn’s system is one that could be implemented on most small plots, it shows you what’s possible.
The goal here is to get you thinking.
Too many chickens in small urban lots live out their lives on dirt patches.
Here’s a system that might inspire you to change that…
Connect with Shawn:
Chickabee Farm: www.chickabee.ca
Mortar and Pestle: www.themortarandpestle.ca
Shawn’s Notes on Cold Weather Layer Chickens:
- When choosing a layer breed we need to consider more than just eggs per week and feed consumption, it comes down to regional needs, chosen cultural methods, and personal desires.
- When choosing breeds 5 years ago I had very specific criteria, I have no heat in the coop and the winter temperature gets down to -25*C in the winter.
- Second I wanted an excellent forager without heavy impact on egg production.
- I wanted calm birds that wouldn’t spook when visitors come calling or my dog wandered by. (I live in a small village with fairly close neighbours).
- I started with 2 of each breed, leghorn, Sussex, Austrolorp, Chanticleer, Orpington, RIR, and americauna. The chickens eat over 60% of their feed from rotational paddocks and receive an organic grain ration. (16 birds get 1 1/2 lbs per day)
- The leghorn dropped to 3 eggs per week and both died within 2 years, one of the RIR , sussex, and Orpington died in year 3, the remainder thrived on pasture especially the austrolorp laying 4-5 eggs per week. Even the heaviest breed the Chanticleer continue to lay 3-4 eggs per week at the age of 6.
- Allowing the better layers thriving on pasture to breed I have been creating a backyard breed that suits my needs and thrives under my chosen culture.
- One of the issues has been broodiness, only the chanticleer have been reliable mothers going broody every year and diligently raising the chicks past the 16 week age while the Austrolorp, sussex, Orpington and RIR have never gone broody. The RIR red and her daughters can be flighty jumping over the fence for the ‘greener’ pasture so I had to trim their flight feathers.
- I originally expected my cultural methods and regional needs (it gets cold!) to cull my flock to 2-3 breeds that thrived but have been pleasantly surprised with the outcome.
- At 6 years of age the austrolorp has won hands down, calm, great foragers, winter hardy and still laying 3-4 eggs per week. The Chanticleer have also been a great breed laying 3-4 eggs at age 6 but additionally are great mothers. The RIR, Orpington, and sussex have been steady but have never had any particular high points to grade upon. The leghorn was a dud.
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