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Chicken Run

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  • Chicken Run

    Uh, the setup, not the movie.

    Has anyone designed their own portable chicken 'turnout' that you can move around the yard? If so, what did you use to make it? How do you get the chickens from a stationary coop into said pen and back again at night? Also, has anyone tried this with guinea fowl? We have enough issues with coyotes, skunks, foxes, wandering cats, birds of prey, etc. I don't want to let any fowl be completely free-roaming (especially as I've been told guineas are collosally stupid and will wander off and not come back) but I'd like to be able to move the chickens around the yard.
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  • #2
    Good timing, we did our last weekend: http://nesfarm.blogspot.com/

    We have two different set ups. The layers/turkeys/ducks are in a big coop with a HUGE run on it (too big, they don't even use the whole thing) that is stationary.

    The meat birds were in a stall in the barn, and now we've moved them outside into a tractors. We (ha ha! Hubby) built it very well and we've had no issues with predation, in fact the dogs did a great "test" on it for us... (funny enough, they don't seem to want to eat the chickens, they just wanted to check out their new home).

    Generally you can leave chickens out during the day and just lock them up at night, but it depends on your fencing/predator levels/availability of big scary barking dogs. You should check local ordinances though, it's not legal to free-range birds in Ontario. (and then decide if you want to follow those stupid rules...).

    The tractor has worked really well for use though, they eat everything in one area then we can move it to a new space. Alternatively you can do a small coop tractor with electric netting and move both every few days.

    If you're moving around a barnyard, this isn't a problem, but be aware that chickens concentrated in an area do poop quite a bit, and it takes awhile for that to break down. So you don't want it in your back yard . (Unless you don't mind having an area you don't want to walk on for a few days! All that poop and scratching does great things for the soil!).
    "For some people it's not enough to just be a horse's bum, you have to be sea biscuit's bum" -anon.
    Nes' Farm Blog ~ DesigNes.ca
    Need You Now Equine

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    • #3
      While I can't speak for the guineas, I can vouch for chickens.
      Depending on location, you really can let them freerange all day.

      They will take themselves back to the coop as soon as it starts getting dark.

      My flock used to be on their own from around 6A until 7P in the warm weather.

      But my farm is on an intersection and hens decided the grass (actually the mulch) was greener across the road at my neighbors' place.

      To preserve good neighbor relations - and mostly because the road they were crossing can get busy - they are now in lockdown in their fenced yard until I get home from work.

      With just 2-3 hours to roam, they seem to stay put on my property.

      If the guineas are half as food-motivated as chickens all you need to do is Sound the Dinner Bell.
      For me that means shaking the plastic bucket that contains ChickenCrack: BOSS.
      They come running - and truly there is nothing funnier than a fat hen running - for the treats.
      *friend of bar.ka*RIP all my lovely boys, gone too soon:
      Steppin' Out 1988-2004
      Hey Vern! 1982-2009, Cash's Bay Threat 1994-2009
      Sam(Jaybee Altair) 1994-2015

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      • #4
        I built one this year... https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-C...-24-54_888.jpg

        We live in the suburbs, and as our yard is not fenced, we can't really totally "free-range" our chickens as I don't want them roaming over to our neighbors' yards. The pen is 3'x6', and I move it daily, so they have a constant supply of fresh grass and whatnot. They have a 1-gallon hanging feeder inside the enclosed portion (along with their nest box, and another roost), and right now, I only have to fill the feeder once a week.

        They DO love to scratch though-- if I don't move the pen daily, the hennies can (and do) scratch holes in my yard big and deep enough to bury moderate-sized rodents, lol...

        Almost all of the materials for this pen were salvaged from scrap I had around my house, and around my parents' farm; basically all I had to buy was paint and hardware. Even the wheels on the back were salvaged from an old lawnmower; they adjust up and down as needed.

        This weekend we're pouring a concrete slab, upon which the Chicken Tractor will "park" over the winter when grass is done growing.

        3 hens give us about 13-14 eggs per week, which is plenty for us. I love raising backyard chickens!!
        *friend of bar.ka

        "Evidently, I am an unrepentant b*tch, possible trouble maker, and all around super villian"

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        • Original Poster

          #5
          Well, the yard's unfenced and won't be getting one unless I can buy the adjacent lot (then it'll be electrobraid anyway) and while one neighbor doesn't mind wandering livestock, not sure on the others, plus there bottom of the yard backs up onto wooded land that has a LOT of predatory wildlife and the front of my lot is on a paved road. So letting them roam is pretty much out of the question. They'd be snack food by lunch the first day. That, and they'd probably run off with the wild turkeys, if nothing else.

          Heh, I wonder if it WOULD kill the lawn...my goal is to minimize how much I have to mow by killing or plowing under everything I can get away with. (As far as looks go, the rule in our 'neighborhood' is 'you don't call the township on me, I don't call the township on you.' The neighbors on one side love me because unlike the previous owners of my house, I don't care if their dogs or ducks come visiting, I don't freak out if their electric fence goes out and I find Chico the paint grazing in my backyard--heck, I tell them to stake out the pony or goat in back. And ducks eat bugs. EAT MORE BUGS. Hence my considering guineas. In return, they don't mind MY dogs visiting--little girl next door is Tucker's favorite person in the world.) I've been trying to let next door's mini and goats take it out but it grows back...and I'm trying to kill out places to put in garden plots (using the tarp method to kill off the grass, the breaking up clumps with a spade.) Chicken manure is supposed to be good for plants, right? I could just turn the manure into the soil and by spring it would be ready for planting.

          Hm, Nes, I've actually got a few lenghts of conduit in the garage from the previous owner (I've owned the place two years and I am STILL cleaning out their crap.) And tons of scrap odds and ends of wood. I'm going to have to show those pictures to my Dad (he of the well-stocked tool cabinet) and we can steal your idea!
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          • #6
            I think we paid the most for the L brackets, which was $9 for 4. We used old lawn-mower wheels too! If you are going to get guineas, go with the chicken wire for sure. We knew we'd be keeping the meat birds in the barn for at least the first 4 weeks (heat) so they are large enough when they are out in the tractor we don't have to worry about them getting through the fence.

            Under the tractor when I move it is another story...

            They don't really kill the grass, in fact with all the nitrogen in their poop you may find you have more/thicker/nicer grass! Plus all that digging & scratching really aerates the soil.

            Muscovy ducks are great! They do eat tons of bugs, they are quiet (quackless!), and they lay tons of eggs which are larger then chicken eggs. They do fly though, so you need to clip their wings; but they don't require water to be happy (ask mine! They HATE their pool!)

            Pigs are really the way to go if you want to turn over a large section of yard. You can keep weaners for 6 months, and have some lovely bacon to show for it - but they do require super-fencing. As do goats... they are just a PITA sometimes...

            Using a tarp does work, but I've heard mixed reviews. The most I've used was garbage bags in one raised bed to keep down the weeds/heat up the soil for my peppers and it worked quite well, but I still had weeds as soon as I moved the garbage bags off the soil.

            Chicken manure is excellent for the garden! But like all poop you should let it rot down a little bit. If you put too much nitrogen in the soil you'll get tons of leafy growth and very little fruit production from your veg.

            Turkeys are tons of fun to raise too and you can do them tractor style as well.

            I would only go with the guineas if they are something you want to eat/want to eat the eggs of. There is NOTHING like home-grown chicken eggs, the difference between store-bought is just night & day. They are SO SO delicious!!
            "For some people it's not enough to just be a horse's bum, you have to be sea biscuit's bum" -anon.
            Nes' Farm Blog ~ DesigNes.ca
            Need You Now Equine

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            • Original Poster

              #7
              Call me crazy but I like guinea noise.

              Funny you should mention Muscovys, someone over to Schoolcraft is selling pairs for $5 each and I was wondering how they were as egg-layers!

              And I was considering a guard goose...but I don't know what the dogs would think of that.
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              • #8
                Geese are SO SO SO LOUD!!!!
                We were thinking of getting some because you can teach Chinese geese to weed around established plants (or things like tomatoes), but I was visiting a farm the other day and just couldn't get over how LOUD they are.

                They were doing their alarm call because they don't know me, but it just would NOT STOP and I was there for like 20 minutes!!

                So I decided we don't need geese... I just can't live with that level of noise, but I bet it doesn't bother everyone that much.

                $5 is a good price for muscovy chicks, get more then a few and expect to be selling them yourself soon, they are quite prolific! Ours aren't quite ready to start laying yet, but any day now. They do get HUGE though, like the size of a cat or small dog. I've also heard they are quite delicious and eat like steak, but I've never had any.

                Our dogs don't really fuss with the chickens too much, they chased them at first, but everyone is getting used to each other and they pretty much ignore each other now. Except the meat chicks. I'm not the only one who enjoys watching them .

                I'd bet they'd never even think about messing with an adult goose.
                "For some people it's not enough to just be a horse's bum, you have to be sea biscuit's bum" -anon.
                Nes' Farm Blog ~ DesigNes.ca
                Need You Now Equine

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                • Original Poster

                  #9
                  My dogs are not the brightest bulbs in the batch--Puff is oblivious to the idea that a pony might not like you sniffing its butt, Tucker likes to chase (i think she thinks she is herding, but it's mostly just running.) And I figure geese would be an early warning system!

                  Hee, don't enable me, those are really close Muscovys...
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                  • #10
                    I'm all about the enabling

                    Our "babies" (3 months old)

                    One of the big boys (I think 5 months+)

                    As babies

                    We don't tame our fowl, but muscovy are well known for being very friendly. My 18m/o was feeding them this morning, running around patting them all

                    Moose Manner Farms has a great waterfowl keeper guide
                    "For some people it's not enough to just be a horse's bum, you have to be sea biscuit's bum" -anon.
                    Nes' Farm Blog ~ DesigNes.ca
                    Need You Now Equine

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                    • Original Poster

                      #11
                      Enabler. (I did e-mail the guy listing muscovies. Might be easier to start out with ducks...hope they like bugs...)
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                      • #12
                        Originally posted by danceronice View Post
                        Enabler. (I did e-mail the guy listing muscovies. Might be easier to start out with ducks...hope they like bugs...)
                        Do it. Do it. Muscovy are awesome. Egg laying machines. Bug eating machines. Slug eating machines. Plus they are adorable.
                        ~Rest in Peace Woody...1975-2008~

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                        • Original Poster

                          #13
                          Slugs? Ooh, MUST get ducks, I have found two HUGE slugs around the house in hte last three days. Yech.
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                          • #14
                            Not to highjack, but what eats grasshoppers?

                            I'm selecting my future poultry, was thinking mainly about ticks on the menu, but suddenly a plague of Egypt has descended this last week. Emily Dickinson, head barn cat, is doing her best and is seldom seen not crunching, but there are still so many that they hop on and off me as I chore (note to self: keep mouth closed ). If this is going to be an annual migration from now on, I'd like to be armed and ready for next fall.

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                            • #15
                              Ducks, Chickens, Geese, Turkeys ALL love grasshoppers! (and crickets).

                              However, in the last Beef thread, bluey had a good story about having turkeys in a really high-grasshopper-density area and how bad the resulting turkey was at Thanksgiving (I believe she wrote about how the dogs wouldn't even eat it).

                              So if you've got "pet" poultry that you aren't going to eat, any of those would be suitable.

                              Muscovy will go after them and they wag their little tails like dogs when they are happy...
                              "For some people it's not enough to just be a horse's bum, you have to be sea biscuit's bum" -anon.
                              Nes' Farm Blog ~ DesigNes.ca
                              Need You Now Equine

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                              • #16
                                Funny, the yellow Lab I had as a child was named Tucker! I still miss that dog. I let all my poultry free-range. If you don't, you don't get the same degree of insect control. Guineas will come home at night, just like chickens, but they have a HUGE area that they range. The chickens never make it past the driveway. The few times we've tried to pen the guineas, they nearly killed each other.
                                Ducks are a ton of fun, but everything likes to eat duck. I'm down to one lonely male. Poor Angus, it's just a matter of time. He's in the lady goat pen, and does a great job of keeping the bugs down, even eats mosquitoes.
                                "Rock n' roll's not through, yeah, I'm sewing wings on this thing." --Destroyer
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                                • Original Poster

                                  #17
                                  See, I've heard guinea are dumb as exceptionally unintelligent rocks, and unless you get them RIGHT from hatching they never really figure out where to come back to at night.

                                  I confess, I named Tucker (who is a BHT Pembroke Corgi) after Tee Tucker in the Mrs. Murphy books, even if shes' the wrong color. She's not exactly the world's greatest herding dog, but she's very good at eating...
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