A herd of chickens???

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This year will be the first year working with Chickens. We bought some Buff Orps last fall and have been raising them in the greenhouse/chicken coop. As important as the benefits of meat, eggs, heat and CO2 from the chickens is, the manure is almost as important as the rest.

The chicken coop is about 250'-300' away from the garden beds. There are 4 beds approx 10' x 30' and four beds 4' x 60', plus a few more we'll be adding this year to finally finish the garden layout.

According to the chicken tractor book about two or three days in each of the beds should do the job of fertilizing and cleaning the soil of weed seeds, new sprouts etc. The plan is early this spring every morning herd the chickens to the bed they're supposed to be working in and let them have at it till evening then herd them back to the coop. There'll be a temporary fence around the beds that I'll move every three days or so.

The main gist of the question is this; Is herding chickens feasible?

It kinda seems like it would be considering the chicken stampede when I bring their food to them in the morning.

-- john leake (natlivent@pcpros.net), February 03, 2001


Are you planning on feeding them in the chicken tractor? If that is your plan I think it would work just fine. You won't have to herd them back to the coop they would naturally just go back on their own. Getting them there is your main concern...your idea, by the way, is very interesting!!!! If you do feed them you could feed them something that wouldn't germinate if they didn't get it all like say corn chops or rolled oat groats? I don't think that I would want to feed them scratch or you might be planting milo? HEEHEE!

-- Nan (davidl41@ipa.net), February 03, 2001.

Nan: Yeah, I'm thinkin I'd spread a little scratch around when I put them in the pen for the day, but not so much they'll get lazy and not do their job on the weed seeds etc. In fact I've thought about spreading clear plastic on the beds a few days before the girls were introduced to give the weed seeds a chance to sprout. That'd give them a little more to forage and I'm thinkin they'd do a better job of cleaning the weed seeds out.

-- john leake (natlivent@pcpros.net), February 04, 2001.

You might want to forgo the scratch and use some chops. They wouldn't sprout if the chickens were to bury it. You know how they scratch around and some of it will inevitably go out the sides where they can't reach. Good idea about the plastic, but my chickens don't leave anything on the ground that resembles green:~)! My chicken yard is huge and I am going to shorten it slightly so that I can plant some more strawberries in the very nice weed free dirt!

-- Nan (davidl41@ipa.net), February 04, 2001.

john, where do you live??? I have just got to see you "Herd" those chickens!!!! I can't see mine going 250 feet in any direction that I would want them to except to the coop at night. If they are anything like mine they will take one look at that open space and stuff and be off for the day. This should be interesting.

-- diane (gardiacaprines@yahoo.com), February 04, 2001.

John, it's a really good theory, but I haven't ever been able to get my chickens to go where I want them to except to the coop at night, like Diane said. If you get them to come into something portable to feed first thing in the morning and then move them to the garden it might work out for you.

I'll be very interested to learn how this all turns out. I really like your idea of housing them in the greenhouse and all.Good luck!

-- Doreen (animalwaitress@excite.com), February 04, 2001.

You need a Border Collie! General will bring the chickens anywhere I ask him to. Might take a while though, one at a time. And he'd tromp all over the rest of the beds! Chickens do not stay in clumps, they scatter off every which way.

The easiest way I can think of is getting a portable cage on wheels and putting the chickens in it by hand each morning and wheeling them over and setting them down inside. But once they figure out you are going to pick them up in the evening, they'll be hard to catch inside of your beds. You can TRY to train them to go inside of the portable cage with some bread, and then shut the door, and move them, twice a day. You'd better clip their wings or they will fly right over your little fence in the garden.

-- Cindy in Ky (solidrockranch@hotmail.com), February 04, 2001.

You asked, "Is herding chickens feasible?"

Back on the family farm each year we would get new chicks. When they got to a fair size we would turn them out to roam with the old hens. During the evening of the first day that they were out, we would herd them into the "Big House" rather then the brooder. There were five of us to do the herding, and it can be done.

Is it feasible? Well I don't know about that, but it will be entertaining. Whether the chickens will get the most entertainment from the humans or the other way around remains to be seen however. GOOD LUCK!

-- Notforprint (Not@thekeyboard.com), February 04, 2001.

Hey, chickens are smarter than they look. If mine are out all I have to do is call them and they come running because they know they will get a treat. They love peelings from the veggies I'm fixin' or old stale bread. Just call them the same way each time and they will get used to your voice. My boys have trouble duplicating my voice. I crack up when the big ole guys are out calling the chickens and trying to sound like Minnie Mouse!!!

-- Nan (davidl41@ipa.net), February 04, 2001.

Think about getting yourself a whistle, like a rescue whistle that they sell in the sporting goods stores for a dollar. Give a couple distinctive tootles on it every night at bed time and throw some feed into the hen house. I think you'll soon have them scrambling over each other at the sound of the whistle to get into the hen house first. (just remember to throw 'em a little feed each time, so they don't think you're 'The Boy Who Cried Feed' and didn't give them any. They're not bright, but they're not totally stupid.)

-- Julie Froelich (firefly1@nnex.net), February 04, 2001.

Another angle! I've easily trained my free ranging chooks to return to the pens at dusk to roost, on their own. All new adults, or hatchery chicks feathered up enough to go outside, are kept penned for 3 weeks. Guineas are in 'jail' for 6 weeks. The feed hoppers always have feed in them. When the gates are finally opened, they wander in and out of the pens during the day as they graze the acreage for insects, grass, weed seeds, etc. When they tuck themselves into their pens at dusk, I close the gates.

I have more roosters than one should, and I don't have any problems. I have found that free feeding and not feeding anything by hand has worked well for me. All my birds ~ hens and roos ~ free range together during the day and roost together at night.

But chooks in the garden is another story. Chances are good that they'll eat all your greenery, and their scratching will dig up the plants.

I know folks who prefer free ranging guineas in their garden since they don't scratch and just walk up and down the rows eating the insects off the plants. Mind you, I can't verify this since my guineas don't have a garden, but I've heard this from a lot of folks.

-- ~Rogo (rogo2020@yahoo.com), February 04, 2001.

john leake, Greetings! I have allways enjoyed your posts, most of them that I have read have been on a more serious note, thanks for giving me a chuckle this time. sorry i just cant help it when I picture you herding those chickens, I sure hope that you keep us updated on how it goes, Oh and would you vidio tape it for us when you do it. We raise buff orghingtons and have found them to be most pleasurable little creatures, We have two daughters who pretty well tamed them and even the rooster can be picked up and carried, they all come running to me to receive any treats I might have for them, and in the summer when I am picking raspberrys they follow me around fighting over the Japenese beetles that I throw down to them. We let ours out often after they have laid all their eggs, and they go back to roost in the barn where we lock them in for the night.But as far as herding them anywhere, yep thats kind of hard because they just kind of scatter, now maybe if you entered the chicken tractor and led them into it, but my best bet is there is allways gonna be a few that wont cooperate , believe me I've done my share of chicken chasing,as one summer our fence wasnt secure enough for them and they were getting into the new garden beds , if they realize that you are after them they just wont let ya get them, but once they are on their roosts at night you can pick them up and do anything with them , its like they are asleep with their eyes open. But anyhows I sure couldnt figure out alot of my questions about raising chickens untill I actually had them and did it, I have learned so much off of them, what herbs and greens and fruits they like to eat, how a mother chicken goes broody and will bring her own up, Buff orphingtons make wonderfull mothers by the way, I had troble figuring how to set things up to happen naturally,that was a wonderful learning experiance for us and the girls. Even though alot of our chickens are real tame and are no troble to go right up to and pick up, alot of them you cant and they go away if you rach down to get them, they can be pretty evasive. But anyhow, hey john do it your way, It sounds like you hav some wonderful ideas, let us know what you work out in the end. Happy Journeys! Sincerly Tren

-- Trendle ellwood (trendlespin@msn.com), February 08, 2001.

Thanks all. I should'a said cracked corn instead of scratch. No point planting weeds. I'm gonna give it a try. Most likely I'll see if they'll follow me as I seem to be a very popular guy in the AM when I bring their goodies. For clarification, I'll be putting the plastic on the beds in early spring, before I introduce the chickens a week or two later so as to give the weeds time to sprout before the chickens are released. Once the garden is planted, no chickens allowed. They'll be used strictly for bed preperation.

BTW, I like the whistle idea---a little pavlovian conditioning. I'm wondering if they'd hear one of the "silent" dog training whistles?

-- john leake (natlivent@pcpros.net), February 08, 2001.

G'day John We have a beagle cross kelpie(we think)and he takes particular interest in our poultry to the extent we let our turkeys out for a scratch and he found them on the other side of the property.He circled them till he got them in a bunch and pushed them back to their pen. He has done the same with chickens that have escaped..The bottom line....get the right dog and hearding anything is possible.

-- Peter Lock (plock@iprimus.com.au), February 09, 2001.

Ya' know how I am about singing and everytime I see this thread the old Rawhide theme keeps playing through my head.....Head em up...move em out...raw feathers....Take care all!

-- Nan (davidl41@ipa.net), February 09, 2001.

John, please do update us later on how this works out. I think that it would be helpful to other folks to hear what works for you. I forgot to mention that some friends had a Sheltie who decided it was her job to keep the chickens rounded up. No training, she just decided on her own that that was her job, and never injured a one.

-- Julie Froelich (firefly1@nnex.net), February 11, 2001.

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