Category: Pasturing chickens

Managing spring grass

First green grass

Before livestock entered my life, I never paid attention to the first green grass. But now, even when we don’t have our own chickens or goats, those tender sprouts in late February make me smile. Sure enough, a visit to our neighbor’s house revealed her flock hungrily pecking up not just worms but also every bit of greenery they could get their beaks on.

Eggs for sale

Luckily for all of us, chickens aren’t like ruminants — they won’t eat so much spring grass that they make themselves sick. But they can easily overgraze the first flush so much that their pasture becomes spotty and rank for the rest of the year.

In a free-range setting like this one, there’s not much you can do to prevent overgrazing. And our neighbor doesn’t really need to — after all, her chickens are able to roam across several acres, so once one area runs out they’ll move on to another. But if you’ve got your flock more constrained in either tractors or a pasture, spring is the time to be plotting out your entire year’s rotation schedule so you still have green grass for the birds to enjoy in July and August.

Pasture Basics

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(epub file sideloaded through Bookfunnel)

I’ve plotted out years’ worth of pasturing wisdom in my ebook Pasture Basics, currently on sale for 25% off if you buy direct. Hopefully my tips will let your flock enjoy the spring flush…and the summer lull as well. Happy grazing!

Managing chickens with tunnels

chicken tunnel guy in front of wire tunnel section

When our chickens get into the garden they create a lot of damage.

Bruce Morgan in Australia uses an interesting system of tunnels to direct his chickens to a specific part of the garden for plowing and fertilization.

It looks like each section is 8 feet with a small wooden frame for support. This system seems like it would be more versatile than a regular chicken tractor and maybe easier for folks with uneven terrain.

Image credit goes to Youtube user Frank Gapinski.

Tweaking our chicken-pasturing system

Pastured pullets

Our chicken-grazing system usually runs like clockwork. Our laying flock lives in our northern chicken coop and grazes in the woods all winter. In the spring, I start rotating them through pastures at around the same time we hatch or buy new chicks.

Seedy pasture grassThe chicks live in their outdoor brooder in the backyard until they’re about a month old and start scratching up the garden. Then they go in the south chicken coop, which is beefed up to be mostly predator-proof. At that time, we start rotating our younger birds through those four pastures, mimicking the path of their parents in the other pasture setup.

The trouble is, this year our laying flock simply refused to stay in their pastures. The solution seemed to be to swap them over to the south (chick) coop, where they all settled down and started acting like good hens and ducks.

But that left us with nowhere predator-proof to graze our chicks once they grew out of the backyard. (The northern coop isn’t set up to keep out rats, raccoons, and all of the other annoyances that like to eat chickens before they’re fully grown.) After attempting to keep the pullets and cockerels out of the garden with temporary fencing to no avail, we moved them down to the north pasture area anyway…but kept them in their brooder.

Pullet running out of the brooder

The technique has worked quite well so far. As a plus, we can get two weeks out of each pasture when chicks are this age since we can start with the brooder at one end of the pasture then move it to the other end the next week. The photo above shows a pasture nearly completely used up at the end of the week.

Chicks on pasture

And here the flock is in the next pasture on their list. I’ve let the grass grow taller than I usually do since it was so dry in April and May that I was afraid if I cut the vegetation, it wouldn’t grow back. Hopefully our recent rain and a dose of chicken manure will get new grass growing before the flock comes back around to each pasture again.

Moving chicks to a new pasture

Move on to the next pasture, boys and girls!