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I would like to find a way to expand the free range area for my chickens and improve my pastures at the same time. I thought I’d share my idea here and see if anyone can give me advice.

I’ll start by saying we have a big problem with small predators and snakes - foxes,etc - but not usually coyotes. The pasture has field fence but I want more security at night. Also, I have a secure barn that I can use during the couple of winter months.

I have a portable barn that I’d like to move to different sections, surrounded by electric netting with a solar charger since we don’t have power out there. Is anyone else doing something similar? Will this even work or is it just another one of my hair-brained scheme? I looked through old posts but couldn’t find anything specific to chickens.

Thanks!
 

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Use the poultry netting. It works. We did it with pallets, screwed together as a frames with a tarp over the top and some roost poles sticking through the horizontal slats of the pallet. Most birds roosted on top though. Keep anything they can perch on away from the fence, in the center. Works on meat birds and heritage large breeds, leghorns will fly right over. We only ever did growouts in the summer. Every once in a while one will get tangled in the fence, maybe pulling a post down if it's really muddy. It will pretty much zap them to death when it happens, if they are there for very long. If you do long and narrow it is less attractive to hawks.
 

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My brother does it with the poultry netting. He's well pleased. Chickens, ducks and turkeys
 

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I'm not so sure free ranging chickens in pasture will do anything to improve it. They scratch thru the turf to get at bugs. People use chicken tractors to protect the birds from predators while being able to move them frequently before they denude the plot of vegetation.

I free range 2 dz hens in a hickory grove. The trees provide good protection from raptors, while the dogs (I guess?) keep the varmints away. The birds only range about an area of 100 ft radius or so from the coop, but they pretty well denuded that area of herbaceous plants....They could wander farther from the trees, but are pretty smart about staying under cover, out of the open.
 

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I use the poultry netting for my girls during the spring, summer, and fall. They are able to get into their coop at night still because I do have large predators that love my place at night (bears, wolves, coyotes, foxes) I love the netting. I just move it around and the chickens do their thing, then I move it again. I especially love to put it around my garden in the spring. I don't have to till much because they clean it up and scratch it up for me.
 

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If you move the birds before they can root around and damage the sod they should do fine for the fields. If I had my way I'd do something similar with a LGD.
 

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I'm not so sure free ranging chickens in pasture will do anything to improve it. They scratch thru the turf to get at bugs. People use chicken tractors to protect the birds from predators while being able to move them frequently before they denude the plot of vegetation.

I free range 2 dz hens in a hickory grove. The trees provide good protection from raptors, while the dogs (I guess?) keep the varmints away. The birds only range about an area of 100 ft radius or so from the coop, but they pretty well denuded that area of herbaceous plants....They could wander farther from the trees, but are pretty smart about staying under cover, out of the open.
The real thing denuding vegetation from your hickory grove is hickory trees. Vegetation requires sunlight. Hickory trees block that sunlight. Two dozen chickens couldn't keep up with the vegetation growth in a typical yard.

The real impetus for tractored poultry is the heavy slug of nitrogen they leave in their wake. You can grow out broilers or replacement egg layers in a static coop, but it will eventually amount to shoveling poo. This poo will need to be composted with other vegetative matter maybe a couple of years, and then safely spread on grassland, or else it must be spread mighty awfully thin. Too thick equals dead grass. By tractoring, the birds themselves spread the poo, and mix it into the soil, potentially eating weed seeds, breaking up cow paddies, eating insect pests, etc, and then you move them before they put down enough nitrogen to burn plants. And if they do burn a spot, you skip it next time through. So you are using farm input of chicken food, to add N to your grazing land, more than you are actually using grass to feed chickens, typically you put the chickens in after the cows have been there. With your Saladin type model, you use tractors amounting to a roof and walls, or a bottomless cage. Trouble with that, without interns to move such contraptions, they are small, won't fit many birds, so you need a lot of them moved constantly with a helper. The netting makes this system much more feasible, and mobile for a single operator, and can make moving intervals even a little longer.
 

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Apparently my chickens don't read the same homesteading periodicals as you-- Before I had the chickens, the area under the hickories was covered with weeds. Now it's mostly bare dirt for the 100 ft radius that the hens range.....

...and they don't "add" any nitrogen-- They just return the portion they don't retain...Net nitrogen balance is negative. Animals' manure only increases the N content of their area when they're fed food grown elsewhere. It's a transfer of N from one field to another.
 

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I have seen no reason to use electric fence if they have a nighttime enclosure. I use an automatic door that opens and closes on its own. Maybe it's my location, but all incidents happen at night. No worries during the day.
 

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...and they don't "add" any nitrogen-- They just return the portion they don't retain...Net nitrogen balance is negative. Animals' manure only increases the N content of their area when they're fed food grown elsewhere. It's a transfer of N from one field to another.
That does make sense, conservation of mass and all that. I wonder why people tote having cows et al as improving soil-- must be from the other components of poop.
 

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Tractoring poultry usually means growing broilers being fed bagged food by the hundred pound, so nitrogen is added. Anecdotal accounts of a few hens eating the only weeds that can grow in an area shaded out by hickories does not add much to the conversation.
 

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My comments have direct applicability to the OP's questions-- He does not need to confine his flock at all during the day if they have adequate cover from trees & shrubs near the coop, and they will have minimal effect on a large pasture (measured in acres) or be detrimental to smaller areas of turf if confined. ....They don't eat the grass & weeds. They scratch it up and destroy it as they look for bugs & worms.....The only way the flock would be safe in a large, open field would be to confine them in a tractor, and that would require frequent attention & moves to prevent them from destroying the turf.
 

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I used to have a fair sized pastured poultry business. I raised thousands of birds on grass using electric net. I wasn't too impressed when I first saw it, but figured I ought to try it. Best. Thing. Ever.

I lost a total of three birds to predators and that was because my kid forgot to turn the charger back on. I'm not sure how good the solar ones are. I used one that used a battery and it was fine.

I had a bunch of movable pens inside my net. I would move the pens daily and moved the net about every 10 days. I would mow the grass where the net would be and I think that helped keep it nice and hot.

The chickens definitely improved my pasture.
 

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I love my electric poultry nets. I have 400 feet of them. I keep my grass very long and run a very strong charger. The longer grass handles the manure load nicely. I do have some spots of pasture that I'll let them turn to dirt and the grass has spread nicely over it. I can't imagine owning poultry without it.
 

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The electric poultry nets work well with the charger for optimum zap. The solar ones are weaker and a good predator will get past the mild charge. They are worth the investment if you have predators that are hard to control.
 
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