How often should I rotate my chicken pasture

Chicken pasture

Once you figure out how
many square feet you’re going to allot to your chickens
, the next step is deciding
how many pastures you’ll divide that area into.  I highly
recommend that you create more than one pasture so that you can
your flock
, but do
you want two pastures, five pastures, or twenty pastures?  Should
you move your chickens to new ground every day, every week, or every

With ruminants (like
cows), you’re better off making as many small pastures as you can
handle.  Pros use electric fencing for their cattle so that they
can fence off just enough room for their cows to graze through in one
day, forcing their herd to eat even the plants they don’t like but not
giving the cows time enough to kill their favorite foods.  The
next day, the cattle are rotated into another small paddock, again just
large enough for that day’s grazing.

Chicken under tree

Since chickens get the
majority of their pasture nutrition from insects rather than from
plants, your rotational chicken pastures shouldn’t completely mimic the
cow model outlined above.  Instead, the pasture needs to be large
enough that there’s sufficient diversity
of habitat
to keep the flock hunting for food all day.  In my
pastures, that means there’s room for a compost pile (food scraps),
trees or shrubs (worms under leaves), and a grassy area
(grasshoppers.)  New worms and insects will make their way into
the pasture daily, so there’s not as much need to rotate the flock if
they’re not demolishing their favorite food plants.

Bare spot in pasture

That said, if you keep
too many chickens in one pasture for too long, the ground gets
scratched bare, which means your chickens have little to eat.  In
June, I had to keep various sets of chickens separate and wasn’t able
to rotate, so my pastures became badly degraded.  Luckily, there’s
a solution for degraded pastures — quicker rotations.  Instead
of moving the flock every three weeks the way I had been doing, I began
to open up a new pasture every five to seven days.  The quick
rotations are working wonders at allowing plants to grow back, although
there are some permanent bare spots in the heavy use areas around
compost piles.

Hen and chicks

I can’t give you solid
numbers on how long to leave your chickens in each pasture since the
optimal time will depend on pasture size, number of chickens present,
and on all of the
that affect chicken pasture size
.  Instead, I highly
recommend you spend a bit of time watching your chickens graze every
day.  Do they seem to be finding plenty to eat, or are they down
to the plants they don’t like as much?  If the photo above hadn’t
been taken at the edge of the compost pile, it would be a sure sign of
a pasture long overdue for rotation.

Our chicken waterer makes rotation easy — just
make a bucket waterer for each pasture and forget about watering your
chickens for months at a time.

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