My chickens & gardenSubmitted by ODell Equip on Mon, 01/24/2011 - 10:37
I figured that some of you that are just starting out growing your own food might like this. I saw this article about 3 years ago and improved on it.
What I did was use an old utility trailer with a mesh bottom and some scrap wood and tin to make a movable chicken coop. And then use a portable electric net fence to surround it.
The trailer is one like this that had a bent axle and wasn't worth fixing.
I took off the gate and used it for the grate in my masonry smoker/grill. I then used scrap lumber and tin to build a coop on the trailer. Toward the hitch end I built the nest box and put a separate roof on it that I can raise to get the eggs. The other end is open for the chickens to get in, from the nest box end it is about 4 feet high and slopes up to 5 feet on the back end of the trailer. I put saplings in there nailed about 2 feet up for them to roost on. The roof overhangs the back about 2 feet and the sides and front are completely enclosed.
The fence just hooks up to my existing electric fence with a jumper wire. It is this.
It has step in post and I can move it by myself in about 30 minutes. My garden/chicken area is set up running South/North. Right now the chickens are in the South end of the area, and have been since about September. Prior to that my summer garden was there. I mowed down every thing that was still standing before I moved the coop and fence. There is no longer any visible vegetation, it has all been either eaten and pooped out or has rotted and been scratched under to compost. The whole area has been scratched up and fertilized. The North end is where they spent the summer, I didn't plant a winter garden this year so it is fallow, I have been dumping the ashes from my outdoor wood stove in that spot, in a month or so I will move the trailer/coop and the fence back to the Northern spot and till up the south spot to get ready for the summer garden.
I don't have to add hardly any fertilizer to the garden, just lime it every other year. And the soil is a nice rich loamy soil now instead of a thick clay.
Before my back got so bad (arthritis and degenerated disc) I would move the trailer by hand, now I use the lawn mower or truck. Here in Alabamastan the coldest we get is 15 or so, and the chickens have been fine, I just put the water in the garage at night and then put it back out during the day, and they keep it pecked open of ice. The coop has no insulation and the back is just an open space of 4x5 foot. The other three sides being enclosed are fine. The floor being a metal mesh most of the poop falls through. Under the roosting sticks it accumulates, I fix this by throwing some scratch on the poop pile and the birds knock it down through the floor.
Whatever left overs or food scraps we have go to the birds as well as all the egg shells (crush them up so they don't recognize it as an egg, cause they will eat the eggs, and once they start they don't stop), if we eat out I ask for a to go box for all the scraps from our plates and that goes to the chickens. During the fall,spring, and summer they have the left over garden to eat too as well as seeds and bugs. By winter all the greenery is usually gone and scratched bare. In the summer I plant them some clover in which ever spot they are in plus what ever comes up on its own.
Depending on how many birds we have (varies between 4 and 8 or so, I rotate new birds in and old birds get eaten) and the season of the year I use one bag of layer crumbles and one bag of scratch feed in a month to month and half. The rest of their feed is vegetation and food scraps, chickens are omnivores so I give them every thing meat and all. There is an auction every Friday night about 10 miles away and my little boy and I will go when we want new birds. Right now we have 3 hens and one rooster, and have been getting 3 eggs a day consistently all winter.
As far as predators the only thing that bothers them is hawks, I clip their wings (only one side, makes them off balance so they can't fly),so they can't go over the fence, and nothing goes in the electric fence to them. For the hawks if they get bad I put a mirror and some old cds on strings about 6 feet high they reflect the light and the hawks stay away, also I put a scare hawk on a t post out there, with a bleach bottle with big scary eyes and one of my old long sleeve shirts to blow in the wind.