Chicken Paddock Shift System
My chicken pasture is approximately 1350 square feet. While I thought this would be plenty of space for (5) chickens, under constant grazing there has been degradation of the pasture. There is still plenty of green, but I would like my chickens to get more of their calories through foraging, and less through feed. I would like to devise a grazing system to serve their needs, as well as my garden and orchards needs.
I decided it would be best to give them more space, and rotate them through the pasture, in a paddock shift system. I just finished setting up part of my chicken paddock shift system. I have four paddocks of approximately 700 square feet each, totaling 2800 square feet. I also have winter time paddocks where they graze my gardens for bugs, weeds, and leftover produce. This really helps break the pest cycles in the soil and they also provide all that great fertilizer. I do have four more paddocks to setup, but I won’t need to set up those paddocks until I raise the new flock which won’t be for a year or so.
The idea is to have at least (4) fenced in areas where the chickens graze for 7 days. They will spend 7 days in paddock #1, followed by 7 days in paddock #2, then #3, then #4, and then the process is repeated by starting back at paddock #1 again. The big benefit of rotating the grazing area for your chickens is that the vegetation will recover better, the chickens will be in a less toxic environment, and there will be more and better vegetation for the chickens to eat, thereby reducing feed costs.
Also, I plan to further reduce my feed costs by including much of my orchard in the chicken paddocks, as well as plant many chicken friendly edibles. So the chickens will benefit from the damaged fruit that falls to the ground as well as the many insects that love fruit trees, and my orchard will benefit from the great fertilizer, fruit clean-up, and insect control. Below is a list of the seed I will be planting this spring in the chicken paddocks to enhance the nutrition available to the chickens.
Chicken Forage Seed Mix
Amaranth, Quinoa, Chard, Alfalfa, Chickweed, Chicory, Clover, Dandelion, Plantain, Lambsquarters, Sunflower