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Chickens for Ground Clearance

Posted: Tue Mar 04, 2014 6:16 pm
by Tarrel
We're clearing some areas ready for re-planting with coppice species over the 2014/15 winter. I have in mind putting some chickens in to do the work. The plan would be to use a moveable coop and to surround the "target zone" with electric chicken netting to keep out the predators.

The idea would be for the chickens to rough up the ground, clear some of the vegetation and add some fertiliser prior to fresh planting. In the spring I'd move them back to the same area to keep the new growth vegetation from competing with the trees. (Over winter I'll have them clear somewhere else)

Does anyone have experience of this? I have done some research already, but am seeking to add to the knowledge.

Two specific questions I'm looking for answers to are:

1. I'd like to have an area "dealt with" by the chickens in about a month before moving them on. Any idea of the "chickens per square meter" ratio that would be needed to achieve this?

2. I'd like to keep feed-input to a minimum. Again, any idea on the area per chicken needed for them to be almost self-sufficient if we are going to move them to fresh pasture after a month?

This will help me to know how many we need to get, and how big a coop will be needed.

All input, pointers, etc most welcome, as we've never kept chickens!

Posted: Tue Mar 04, 2014 6:28 pm
by nexus
It depends how dense the vegetation is but I'd reckon 1 chicken could clear 1m square in a week, they really do go for it. There are some weeds they love and some they hate, and it can vary from one bird to another.

In terms of self sufficiency they do need variety in their diet and just eating greens can essentially give them the runs. They particularly need plenty of protein. We used to put log piles in the run which would attract insects which the birds would devour, so that gives them some protein and you can supplement with meal worms or some such.

They also need grain but you can buy bags of wheat cheaper than layers rations, having said that you need to be careful not to overfeed with grain and overall you do get better egg production with a good layers ration.

Posted: Wed Mar 05, 2014 10:00 am
by emordnilap
nexus wrote:and it can vary from DODGY to DODGY.
:lol: :lol: :lol:

We have a few geese and ducks. Both of those birds keep most vegetation down, if for no other reason they trample it to death!

The geese are brilliant at keeping grass down - when confined to a particular area - and providing it isn't too long or tough to start with. Ideally, flocks of geese would be shared amongst near neighbours who wanted to to clear specify patches of ground.

For us, these birds are pets really, it's great having life around the place. The eggs get given to workmates or a dog or two might get them.

They're easy to look after, ducks spending a lot of time looking for insects (they adore slugs!) and the geese graze away happily for hours - a few layers pellets fill them up so it's not expensive to keep them.

Just another option.

Posted: Wed Mar 05, 2014 5:33 pm
by nexus
erm, what happened to my post, I think the words chicken and hen have been replaced....

Posted: Wed Mar 05, 2014 6:56 pm
by BritDownUnder
nexus wrote:erm, what happened to my post, I think the words chicken and DODGY have been replaced....
Insects attracting AVOID SCAMMERS also. Very interesting.

Posted: Thu Mar 06, 2014 1:54 pm
by lancasterlad
Pigs would do a marvellous job!

Posted: Thu Mar 06, 2014 2:19 pm
by emordnilap
lancasterlad wrote:Pigs would do a marvellous job!
Yes. And imagine a few of them living in a community, where the costs of decent portable fencing could be shared. No doubt it's been tried somewhere.

Posted: Thu Mar 06, 2014 2:47 pm
by Tarrel
Agreed. I visited a new woodland establishment last year, being organised by a community group on the west coast. They had put five wieners into an area to prepare it as a nursery. After six weeks it looked just like it had been forked over and carefully weeded.

By going to this type of livestock however, we would be crossing a rubicon. Pigs have to be tagged and registered with DEFRA. Keeping them in is more of a challenge. Then there's disposal. Do we slaughter and butcher the animals ourselves (we have limited space to store the meat) or pass them on to a slaughterhouse, in which case we have to jump through the hoop of becoming a Registered Food Producer. Then there's the cost of feed..

Chickens are the less effective option for ground clearance, I know, but they tick a lot of other boxes. No need for registration. Eggs can be sold "at the gate" without being a Registered Food Producer, lower feed costs and easier to contain. On balance I think they'd be the better option for us.

Posted: Thu Mar 06, 2014 3:25 pm
by lancasterlad
Last year, rather than look after the pigs myself, I formed a pig club with friends and neighbours. We essentially had a pig each which were kept on my land and at the end I took them to the abbatoir and we enjoyed some fantastic meat and suasages. It helped me as I could take time away with willing helpers to feed etc. and the costs were shared equally.

Getting a CPH number and Herd number is a piece of cake (don't know about Scotland) and if the meat is for your own consumption (or the clubs) there are no hurdles to jump through.

Pigs only have to be tagged when they go to slaughter. The tags and applicators aren't overly expensive. In theory they can be tatooed but most abbatoirs insist on metal tags that will go through the slaughter process.

Image

Posted: Thu Mar 06, 2014 3:39 pm
by Tarrel
Thanks LL, for the useful info. Like the idea of the club.

(BTW, the pigs in the picture look incredibly pink and "pig-like"!)

Posted: Thu Mar 06, 2014 3:44 pm
by lancasterlad
British Lop - rarest breed in the UK. People tend to go for nice looking pigs like Old Spots and Tamworths and overlook the BL thinking it looks too much like a commercial pig.

This is real slow grown food, lean meat and full of flavour. Don't be fooled by the appearance.

Posted: Thu Mar 06, 2014 3:54 pm
by emordnilap
Ah. I wasn't thinking of killing them; giving them a job (for life) in a community actually. But most people don't think like me. :lol:

Posted: Mon Mar 24, 2014 5:30 pm
by adam2
nexus wrote:erm, what happened to my post, I think the words chicken and DODGY have been replaced....
Chicken is fine, but the other word sometines used instead of chicken gets auto edited as an anti spam feature.
I haved edited your post such that it still makes sense but wont get auto edited.

Posted: Mon Mar 24, 2014 5:31 pm
by Tarrel
Clearly on a "chicken-editing" mission today Adam. :)

Posted: Mon Mar 24, 2014 5:35 pm
by Tarrel
emordnilap wrote:
nexus wrote:and it can vary from DODGY to DODGY.
:lol: :lol: :lol:

We have a few geese and ducks. Both of those birds keep most vegetation down, if for no other reason they trample it to death!

The geese are brilliant at keeping grass down - when confined to a particular area - and providing it isn't too long or tough to start with. Ideally, flocks of geese would be shared amongst near neighbours who wanted to to clear specify patches of ground.

For us, these birds are pets really, it's great having life around the place. The eggs get given to workmates or a dog or two might get them.

They're easy to look after, ducks spending a lot of time looking for insects (they adore slugs!) and the geese graze away happily for hours - a few layers pellets fill them up so it's not expensive to keep them.

Just another option.
Hey Emord, I missed this reply earlier. Do you have a body of water for your ducks and geese? Also, do they stay put or fly off occasionally?