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Encorporating Chickens into the Garden Cycle

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Re: Encorporating Chickens into the Garden Cycle

Postby davefrombc » Nov 04, 2011 11:12 pm

You will not need to supplement their light and heat here on the lower mainland. If you want to keep hens just for eggs, then I would suggest between 6 and 12 for your flock .. They will not lay every day , especially in winter , but they will do close to every day. A dozen laying hens should give you consistently 8 to 10 eggs a day , and often a dozen; at least when they are young and at their most productive time . . You should have no trouble selling your surplus eggs to neighbours to help pay feed costs, which aren't a lot if they have the opportunity to graze as well as eat their laying mash and grain. You should be able to let them free range during the day if you are home to watch over them , and they will return to their coop to perch for the night .
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Re: Encorporating Chickens into the Garden Cycle

Postby klr650teach » Nov 05, 2011 11:44 am

That sounds pretty close to what mine are doing Dave. Last winter on my three year old hens I got an average of between 51 and 53 eggs per week. And that is with no heat what so ever for the birds themselves. I do however place a lightbulb in the water container and another under the nest box to prevent the eggs from freezing. Both lightbulbs (incandecent) are on a single timer that turns the lights on and keeps them on for the whole ten hour light cycle. This provides the longer hours of light needed for egg laying, prevents the eggs from freezing and keeps the water from freezing.

As I have stated before, even in Saskatchewan we never provided heat for the chickens themselves. They don't need it providing you are not after "perfect" laying conditions. My 52 eggs a week from 9 hens proves that. That is just under 6 eggs a week per bird and these are not even pure laying hens. Mine are just good ole fashioned dual purpose hens. In the summer months I might get as high as 54 eggs in one week. But mine really don't fluctuate much from summer to winter as long as they get the required hours of light which in case anyone is thinking......in Canada the natural hours of light here in the winter time is not enough. We need to supplement artificial light to keep them producing. and one breed to another will differ somewhat in what they require as evident by Dave with his flock. I believe he said hes using a 12 hour schedule for his flock where I am using a 10 hour schedule for mine. So things can vary a bit.

The reason most folks heat their coops is not for the chickens themselves it is because it simplifies preventing the water and eggs from freezing. But with the added cost of electrical heat your costs of egg production can quickly surpass that of what you get back from egg sales. Thats why I opted for the lightbulb set up.. They provide just enough heat to keep the water and eggs from freezing and also provide my needed hours of artificial light thus solving 3 needs with one solution very very inexpensively.

Davefrombc, I'm curious............how are you (or anyone else) using your chickens to enhance your garden?

Teach
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Re: Encorporating Chickens into the Garden Cycle

Postby davefrombc » Nov 05, 2011 12:50 pm

I haven't had any chickens since returning to the coast. I haven't set up any cop or run for them. When I was a kid down here , my chickens and ducks were free ranging on the farm . .Up north , where it could hit - 40, they had a barn coop to get out of the weather and wire covered run to protect them from the hawks . Coop cleanings were usually just spread between rows in the garden . There wasn't a lot at a time, so it was spread thinly and not so close to the plants to be any danger of burn from the manure or loss of nitrogen from the shavings that were in the mix. It got mixed into the soil when hoeing weeds from the inevitable seeds that would be in the droppings and bedding.
I never used any heat or extra light up north, so egg production did drop some , but didn't stop. I had a mix of bantams and utility birds raised from fertile eggs from mixed flocks , so the hens had a mix of Barred Rock, Rhode Island Reds, Leghorns and bantam breeds in their genetic makeup..
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Re: Encorporating Chickens into the Garden Cycle

Postby klr650teach » Nov 05, 2011 3:01 pm

Carley, as you can see from Daves last post and mine as well. Requirements are minimal and differ with each person because of what is available to each person or the wants of each person to have. For example;

I originally didn't want a chicken coop in a permanent location because I did not want a concentration of droppings in one area so I opted for the use of a chicken tractor that could be moved around every so many days.

Now my plans have changed and I plan on encorporating them fully into the gardening so my coop requirements have changed again. So hopefully this will be the last change I have to make. As time goes on I want my gardening and yard work to get easier not harder in time as I grow older. The chickens are going to be my composters. I give them the material, they consume, mix, add manure, mix some more and turn over contiually and as stated I will remove material from their area a few times a year using a screen. Anything too big to go thru the screen will stay and anything that does go through becomes a compost top dressing in the garden.

So as you can see, everyones situation is different. How you will encorporate your chickens into your system will again be different because you too will be working with another set of variables. grin. Aint life grand? hehehe
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Apologies

Postby klr650teach » Nov 06, 2011 6:49 pm

My apologies everyone. It seems I have given you some misinformation. The joys of getting older lol.

I got my cycles bass ackwards with regard to the hours of lighting required for my chickens in order to keep them laying in the winter time.

I stated that they need 10 hours of light to keep laying............when in fact what I should have stated was that they need around 14 hours of light. I had ten hours in my head for a reason and I guess I just mixed up the on time with the off time.

So, I have my chickens being supplied with 14 hours of light with the remaining ten hours of dark in the winter. The timer cycles the lights on at 6am and turns them off again at 8pm. And the light bulb I have under the nest boxes is on 24/7 to keep the eggs from freezing. Over that light is a big coffee can inverted over the top of it with holes punched in the can to release the heat without allowing much light to escape. The hens I guess benefit somewhat from that heat at night but unless they are in laying, they are always outside.

I hope this clears up any confusion. I'm sure Dave was scratchin his head sayin "that guy doesn't know what he's talkin bout" LOL. :oops: Sorry yawl!

Teach
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Re: Encorporating Chickens into the Garden Cycle

Postby klr650teach » Nov 13, 2011 2:16 pm

G'day everyone. I finally got my wood chips delivered only to find one big truck load was not enough. It worked out to 6 heaping loads in my toyota pickup truck. I moved them via my truck and then unloaded by hand into the garden to a depth of close to 1 foot. I manged to get 2/3 of the garden covered to that depth and ran out of wood chips.

As you can see I have laid them down as a thick top mulch.......not to be tilled under but to stay on top to smother weeds, retain moisture, and to slowly break down over time without nitrgen being tied up or robbed from the soil the way that tilling it under would do. The chips eventually become the soil over time.

To plant I will pull the chips aside, plant into the soil and allow the seeds to germinate. Once the seeds are up and of sufficient height the chips will be pulled back into and around the plants.

I'm going to set up a fenced chicken yard so the chickens can be out and about to forage or free ranging looking for bugs, seeds and any other thing that can be eaten. All the yard and garden refuse will be thrown into the chicken yard for them to eat, scratch up, bury, scratch up again, bury, mix with manure and eventually break down to a size that will pass through a screen.

Two or three times a year I will go into the chicken yard and remove the top layer of (now composted) material and shake it through a screen. Anything that passes through the screen will go onto the garden wood chips as a top dressing only. The particles that are still too large to pass through the screen will remain in the chicken yard to be further broken down. Repeat as necessary.

Visualize here for a moment and imagine whats going to happen........every time it rains or I water, the plants in the garden receive a wonderful compost tea from the top dressing as well as the decomposing wood chips as that water filters down through all that organic top material bringing with it a miriad of nutrients from above. Awsome stuff!

Up till now i had been moving my chicken tractor around from place to place in both the yard and the garden area but I will be setting up a permanent coop now within the chicken yard. The chickens will now have full time jobs in one continual location. They will be my composters, my excavators, my turn it over gals, my mixers, my chippers and shredders. And just for the privilege of allowing them to do that for me.............they are going to be so grateful that they are going to give me back free eggs and meat in return for my kindness. Ya gotta love chickens!

I've included a photo of the garden plot partially covered with the wood chips. It measures 45x45. On the lawn in front you will notice irrigation lines from the drip system I installed, but I don't think I will need it anymore the way the wood chips hold water. Also for those that were interested in chicken housing you can see how rudimentary my chicken tractor is. A simple A frame design that is wide open to the elements with no heat and no insulation. My chickens are happy birds.

Also around the perimeter you will see yellow fence posts..........these are for the electric fence that keep deer outta my garden and dogs and other vermin like racoons away from the birds.

On the right looking down the row at the edge of the garden I have goose berries, red currents, black currents, Josta berries and about 20 raspberry cane. And of course just to the right of them is my garden shredder. Don't ask me what brand it is.........I don't know. I bought it 20 some years ago at a yard sale and it had no name on it then either.

You will notice our surrounding mountains got their first dusting of snow this last week. Arrrg. It's coming!!!! I'd sure like to get the whole garden covered in chips before the snow arrives here in my yard.

I hope this clarifies a few things for those interested in what i have been up to and how I planned to encorporate the chickens and why.

Teach...
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Re: Encorporating Chickens into the Garden Cycle

Postby Carlley » Nov 14, 2011 1:05 pm

Wow - interesting, thanks for sharing.

Keep us updated, I'm looking forward to it, and will keep checking back.
Carla
Indian Arm, North Vancouver, BC - Zone 7

Some people walk in the rain - others just get wet ! ..... Roger Miller
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Re: Encorporating Chickens into the Garden Cycle

Postby klr650teach » Nov 20, 2011 5:28 pm

Hey All,

This working for a living really sucks. It keeps getting in the way of the home projects.

I finished covering the garden today. There was a total of 12 pickup truck loads to get it covered to the depth you see here in the photo below. The area with snow on it is what I had done last weekend. The bare area is what we did yesterday and today.

I moved the chicken tractor out of the garden area and placed it on the edge of the lawn. I threw in a 2 inch layer of wood chips into the tractor as well for a bedding and the girls can pick over the edibles, then convert it into more compost top dressing for next years gardening.

I'm so happy we finished the laying of the chips as now the garden soil is protected from the ravages of winter but also so the chips can break down over the winter and might even be ready to plant right into come May next year. Fingers x'd.

Over the last week I have been looking for heritage ducks. I think I will incorporate a couple dozen ducks into the system. I'll fence off the garden area and the ducks can have the run of the whole 1/4 of an acre back yard. I have a neighbor who did that and does not even have to cut his lawn anymore cuz the ducks keep it well manicured and the grass is full of nutrients for the ducks too so it once again is a full circle approach.

I need two coops tho, one for each of chickens and ducks so I thought I might incorporate a tool shed for the garden stuff in the middle and a coop at each end using natural building materials like cob.

Lots of plans...........so little time! Mmmmm, I'm salivating thinking of the flavor that roast duck is going to have! Yummy.

I'm open to suggestions in any of this stuff folks so if you got an idea..............sound off! I'm listening!

Teach
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Re: Encorporating Chickens into the Garden Cycle

Postby davefrombc » Nov 27, 2011 3:48 pm

If you get ducks , I'd suggest Khaki Campbells for egg production and Muscovy for meat birds.
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Re: Encorporating Chickens into the Garden Cycle

Postby klr650teach » Nov 28, 2011 1:28 pm

Hi Dave, thanks for the tips about the ducks. You are absolutely correct on both the Cambell and the Muscovy. As I understand, Cambells will produce from 250 to 340 eggs a year and the Muscovy can top out at around 12 lbs for the Drake so yes, each of these varieties appear to be the best in what they do.

Like with my chickens, I have always favored a dual purpose bird rather than those that are best in one thing. They are a bit of a compromise but serve a more well rounded role. The main reason for me is limited space. I'm only on a 1/2 acre here and local regulations stipulate I can only have a maximum of 25 birds. So I have to try to cover all bases for both eggs and meat.

I tried to lay these out in a column type of order but the formatting changed when I posted. I guess the board doesn't like that sort of thing and took out the extra spaces which would have made for easier reading! Lets compare;


eggs/year -weight -type

Kahki Cambell 250-340 Drake - 4.5 lbs Hen - 4.0 lbs Layer-Light
Muscovy 50-125 " 12.0 " 7.0 Meat-Heavy
Appleyard 200-270 " 9.0 " 8.0 Dual-Heavy

I have no experience with either the Cambell or Muscovy. But at one point in time I had set my mind on Cambells because of the egg production. After talking with a local fella who has 24 Cambells stated he had troubles selling all the eggs. Duck eggs are more of a novelty than the widely accepted chicken egg. That and the fact the Cambells are a relatively small (light) bird I am opting for a more dual purpose bird which still lays reasonably well but has more meat on it than the Cambell. The Muscovy appears to be an excellent meat bird that lays only 5-10 eggs per month so although they are a good size table bird the egg production is too low.

So right now Dave I'm leaning more toward the Appleyard which is a Heritage dual purpose duck with good foraging abilities. Reportedly, the Appleyards are a slower growing bird than say the Pekin duck but because of that they are not as greasy when cooked and tend to be a meatier bird with less fat. But as I stated, I have not had any experience with any of these three varieties so I'm going solely on what I have read. (Storey's Guide to Raising Ducks)

If you Dave or any others as well can give me some more advise on these birds I'd certainly welcome it.

Teach
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