Opinions on putting chicken coop at end of garden

2ajsmamaMay 4, 2014

I thought since we already had T posts (and put up deer netting in spring) around our house garden, that it might make a good place for a chicken run (permanently replace deer netting with wire) during the off season.

I would place the coop on the end where I have some concrete blocks planted with oregano and a small bed (not fenced) where I put dill last year - obviously the oregano would be transplanted, the soil moved and dill planted somewhere else. My plan was to place the coop with the doors facing the garden fence (so would have to cut a new door in the south end before we got chickens) so that the nest boxes were opposite the fence, facing the woods, and we could get at them all year.

During the fall/winter, I would let the chickens into the fenced garden area through the existing door on the coop (put in a gate that swings in, and attach the wire to sides of coop). Early in spring, I would close that side off, and let them out the new side door into the back yard, possibly using push-in fence posts and netting to confine them to a different area each day or so, and keep them safe from predators.

What do you think?

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digdirt2(6b-7a No.Cent. AR HZ8 Sun-35)

Sounds like a good question for the Homesteading forum here where all the raising chickens discussions are normally found.

Given all issues with fresh chicken manure in a vegetable garden our chickens have free range of everything EXCEPT the food gardens.

Dave

Here is a link that might be useful: Homesteading Forum

    Bookmark   May 4, 2014 at 6:23PM
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terry_neoh(5b)

I'm sure some people would be concerned about contamination from salmonella, listeria, etc., but those are usually institutional problems. On the farm where my wife grew up, chickens would run through the garden area all year without causing problems. And they probably consumed a few bugs. In short, your idea sounds good to me.

    Bookmark   May 4, 2014 at 7:25PM
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nancyjane_gardener(Zone 8ish North of San Francisco in the "real" wine country)

I can't find the link, but go to backyard chickens and look up chicken tractors. They are movable chicken coops you can move from place to place. Nancy

    Bookmark   May 4, 2014 at 7:36PM
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2ajsmama

I specifically posted here b/c I wanted opinions on putting the chickens there to fertilize the garden. I would not have them in there within 3 months of planting, in fact may grow leafy greens elsewhere or not at all if I couldn't get them set up somewhere else early enough in the year.

We currently only use composted manure that's over a year old in our tomato area, and haven't used manure at all in the house garden where we grow leafy greens, cukes and squash.

If this isn't a good idea we could set up the coop somewhere else (were trying to think of a more sheltered area south of the house, but no good foraging there so they have to go in the back yard anyway. Do you think having the coop at the end of the garden with access from the other side is a bad idea just b/c of the proximity during the growing season, even if the chickens aren't allowed access?

And we were thinking of building a chicken tractor at some point, I'd love to get them in the old hay field, but the coop is going to not be moveable.

    Bookmark   May 4, 2014 at 8:07PM
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gardenper(8)

I also let chickens have the run of the area, including garden. They are welcome to go there and eat bugs, as well as a few of my greens.

I have even seen them eating termites, so they are a bonus animal life to have in my yard.

    Bookmark   May 4, 2014 at 9:10PM
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glib(5.5)

they will provide tiny, insignificant amounts of fertilizer. but they will provide large amounts of organic pesticides, herbicides, micecides, etc. They will eat everything and leave you with a clean slate in spring, which is fantastic when you think about it. I get always a bit discouraged when in spring the first things up are weeds. you can say goodbye to your winter garden of course. Infected manure is a CAFO problem, we evolved with chickens for 10,000 years.

    Bookmark   May 4, 2014 at 9:39PM
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2ajsmama

A neighbor who is a veterinarian has a coop for sale, DD really wants chickens (or a cat, but she's allergic) and I don't mind the eggs. The wild turkeys are tearing up the yard anyway, so we figured we might as well get chickens and have the eggs.

I was thinking more about it, we usually have a fair amount of snow in Jan, Feb and sometimes through March, so most likely the chickens will stay in the coop and not want to come out at all after New Year's (or whenever the first significant snow is), I wouldn't put them out in the garden in March if I want to plant lettuce, peas, etc. in April.

It would be convenient since we already have the posts in place, but they'd probably only use that area as a run from some time in October through the end of Dec.

We do need to find a fairly level spot near the house to put the coop, so it pretty much needs to be the back yard since our tiny front yard isn't level, and we really don't have side yards (to the north and south).

    Bookmark   May 4, 2014 at 10:47PM
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glib(5.5)

A chicken eats approximately half a square yard of grass per day (unbelievable I know). They will clean up your garden in ten days or less. Yes, they have no shoes, and they refuse to tramp through snow.

    Bookmark   May 4, 2014 at 10:58PM
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digdirt2(6b-7a No.Cent. AR HZ8 Sun-35)

I guess we are over-reactive down here since it is Tyson Country and we have to deal with all the CAFO problems their big farms all around cause - masses of flies and the smell from over 2 miles away, the stockpiles of chicken litter, the noise, country roadsides littered with shed feathers, etc.

If that is your only option for location then that is what you'll have to do.

Dave

    Bookmark   May 5, 2014 at 8:49AM
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2ajsmama

I told DH this morning that it wasn't worth it for about 3 months out of the year. We just went to look at the coop yesterday and I came right back and posted after we had measured the coop and looked at the yard. We're talking 6 chickens max (coop w/o the 3 nest boxes is roughly 4x3) so I don't think (fingers crossed) we'll have problems with smell, feathers. But if they're going to be "cooped up" in there and not want to come out from New Year's (or earlier) until mid-end of March, and I don't want them in the garden from March - Sept, it doesn't make sense to put the coop there and work around it all season.

Right now we're thinking over by the swingset on the south edge of the back yard, within 100ft of receptacle so we can run an extension cord for a light in the winter, fence off the lower edge that gets a lot of shade, close to stone wall and woods, where the wild strawberries used to grow (don't know what DH did to them, I had taken from there to transplant, they're doing much better now in more sun but seem completely gone from original spot).

Not the sunniest location, and close to woods but may be better than on the north side near the garden, berries, compost bins, and trash cans - the bears always seem to be coming from the north though I have seen them near our tomato area 1000ft to the south, and farther south along the property line with my uncle/cousin. We're going to have to put locks on the doors to keep out the bears (neighbors have chain link fence) but the coop seems sturdy enough that hopefully it can't be torn apart (don't know about roof but sides are 2" thick T&G pine).

Seems best to just let them run in the yard (and build a tractor to move to hayfield and maybe other areas) and compost the coop cleanings with the ones I get from my cousin. I didn't even get any last year, it was so wet that I didn't spread the composted stuff from 2012 in the garden either so I've got to do that soon, after 2 years not sure how much N is in it but at least it's OM.

    Bookmark   May 5, 2014 at 9:09AM
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lazy_gardens

If you have an alternative place for the run while you are gardening, it sounds like a great idea. They can clear out the leftover foliage, the weeds and bugs, then you plant.

But you can't have chickens IN a garden - they eat everything.

One idea I saw had the garden beds protected in wire-covered hoop houses and the chickens had the free run of the paths for bug patrol. When a crop was finished, they opened the wire and let the chickens eat the remains.

    Bookmark   May 5, 2014 at 10:34AM
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sunnibel7 Md 7(7)

I made a lightweight pull pen for my chickens to be able to get them into spots where they can be helpful while keeping them under control. I put the pen in the garden during cleanup season in the fall and again in the spring to help catch the early weeds. If you also have sandy soil, be prepared to be surprised at how much they dig. They leave chicken-sized potholes everywhere they are. I just take a rake out when I move them and rake it back to something resembling smoothness if it is part of the garden. They do love grubs and moth pupa and will scratch up a good portion of weeds evennif they don't eat that particular type.

    Bookmark   May 5, 2014 at 10:51AM
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planatus(6)

My four hens range in the garden and I use poly poultry netting to keep them out of sensitive areas. However, I think the best win-win is to make a tunnel-like chicken wire "chicken moat" around the outside of the garden. You get the pest control benefits without the poop and scratching in your beds.

My chickens hate bright sunshine. In summer they strongly prefer shade. You will know when bears are about because the chickens will sense them and refuse to come out of the coop, even in the daytime.

    Bookmark   May 5, 2014 at 11:28AM
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Kippy(SoCal zone 10. Sunset Zone 24)

Ask on backyardchickens dot com and check on "chicken moat" Tons of great ideas on how to use the chickens to clean up the bugs.

We have hens and a big veggie garden. Because we have plants we want and will over winter, we usually only allow them in a few days a year like at the end of the summer garden and beginning of the winter one and vise versa. You would be surprised at what they will eat and what they will leave alone. Our hens have the run of the yard on the outside of the veggies. I think we have far fewer snails, slugs and have never seen a tomato horn worm in decades :)

    Bookmark   May 5, 2014 at 11:37AM
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zzackey(8b GA)

With 6 chickens you will smell them and you will have feathers all around when they molt. We free ranged ours for a few weeks and the neighbor's dog killed 4 of them. They do love weeds. You will have to feed them when they molt and aren't producing eggs. Also if you buy them young you will be feeding them for months before they produce eggs. Just some things for you to think about. I love having chickens and fresh eggs but they can be alot of work sometimes. If you go on vacation, you need someone reliable to take care of them.

    Bookmark   May 5, 2014 at 1:41PM
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insteng

When we used to have free range chickens they roamed through the garden all the time. Once the plants were started good they didn't eat enough to do them any harm and they kept the garden free of bugs. They had plenty of grass and weeds to eat all over the pasture some they really didn't bother eating the garden much.

    Bookmark   May 5, 2014 at 1:42PM
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2ajsmama

My uncle 1/2 mile down the road has chickens, we seldom go on vacation but he would take care of them if my dad wouldn't/couldn't (my dad usually stops by once a day while we're gone to take care of our parrot - who sends bits of fluff all over the house, DD sheds hair all over). His son also has 17 (give or take) hens and any time I've been to their house I haven't really noticed the smell, except if he's just cleaned and has cans of litter for me to take to compost. I think you just have to keep up with it.

We're looking at older chicks and hens, not really into raising chicks (I did that with the parrot and I don't want to have to do multiples at the same time).

Predators - we'll have to do the best we can. Just a fact of life around here, dogs aren't a concern, but bears, coyotes, bobcats, skunks, and racoons (haven't seen any coons but I know they're around) are. That's why we're not getting goats ;-)

    Bookmark   May 5, 2014 at 2:23PM
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zzackey(8b GA)

That all sounds good! We came home one night at dusk and found a possum in our chicken tractor. The poor chicken was played out. She had her wings spread and was ready to go. Thankfully we had a gun.

    Bookmark   May 5, 2014 at 2:35PM
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terry_neoh(5b)

You could get a Banty rooster, just to give the predators something to regret.

    Bookmark   May 5, 2014 at 8:50PM
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terry_neoh(5b)

You could get a Banty rooster, just to give the predators something to regret.

    Bookmark   May 5, 2014 at 8:55PM
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