Managing Chickens in Mobile Coops on Pasture

| 5/23/2016 11:08:00 AM

Hens foraging in pasture

The hens hit the pasture after a morning release last summer. Photo by Megan Barnes

May is an important transition time on the farm. We’ve made it well past the half-way mark with lambing (80 little ones on the ground, with 10 ewes left to deliver), cold crops are almost all planted in the garden, the honeybees are attacking the newly-blooming dandelions, and this week baby chicks arrive.

Yes, the first batch of 100 little meat chicken fluff balls will be coming via the postal system. But there’s a problem: The hens are still in the coop! And, um, well, I tried putting 100 little ones in boxes in the basement once (for two weeks no less) because there was still a foot of snow outside — and that didn’t go over so well with the rest of the family. I still find chick dust in places I had no idea dust could travel!

Sharing Coop Space

So, the hen ladies have to move out into their summer quarters so that the chicks can have a cozy coop and our house can remain unmolested. But the summer coops still need to be cleaned because it was mid-November by the time the hens moved out and things pretty well froze in. Hmmm…I’m starting to think there has to be a hole in a bucket somewhere in this story.

We were breaking new ground for potatoes, and the soil in the fresh patch was in dire need of some organic matter. The poultry bedding looked like it had well started into the decomposition process, so we hooked up to the covered wagons with the truck and hauled them over to the patch, casting out the unwanted bedding and droppings, which had disintegrated into clumpiness and dusty powder. I tell you, we were all ready for a good shower after that shoulder-breaking job! That smell gets up your nose, and everything seems like you’re inside that coop. Cough.

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