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Thursday, January 28 2016

The holidays are over, the Livestock Show has passed, houseguests have safely returned home, and the carousel of Life has slowed to a manageable pace. I'm still on the Merry-Go-Round but now at least the spin is a little slower and I have more time to focus on the animals going up and down around me. And yes, catch up on soap orders!

The sheep that made The Big Cut and are still in the barn are bagging up now so it's time to watch them a little closer. This will involve a lot more dog-juggling since the Anatolians are still big puppies and certainly Not-Ready-For-Prime-Time-Players during lambing season.

  The cattle are dropping calves now too. Although I would prefer giving them the run of the ranch, because of the predator load here, we want the calves up and moving fast before we turn this group back out. Until all calves are born and at least a month old, they'll have to stay near the house. This gives us the chance to monitor birthing and to have daily interaction with new calves. It certainly makes them easier to handle later. Not only does this pay off with the calves we keep, but calves that are used to being handled by humans don't freak out as much when they are sold and move on. Our calves are used to seeing humans, dogs, horses, and livestock chutes before they leave here. This means less stress on them. They then eat better and have better immune systems after they are sold. This gives them an edge over the calves who never saw humans before they were weaned in a cattle trailer on the way to the sale barn.

It's winter now and time to think about spring gardening and chickens. Yes, it's time to start hauling sheep and cow manure to the garden site for composting. The beauty of starting from scratch is that I get to plan my garden and my chicken coop a hundred times before I finally get to work. I'm sure that despite all this time and planning, I will still end up throwing up something at the last minute. That's life. That's me. BUT - here's the plan:

Imagine a chicken coop in the center of a yard, like the hub of a wheel. Small runs radiate out from the coop, separated by fences like the spokes of a wheel. The chickens don't have access to all the runs at once. Some of the runs are actually parts of the garden which the chickens will have partial access to. The full time chicken runs will later become highly fertile garden sites for the following years! The plan is just to rotate the runs, but leave the coop in place in the center. And ALL of this will be surrounded by the dogs at night, so the chickens will have the benefit of the Livestock Guardian Dogs without actually living with the dog in the pen. (Just in case Briar remembers that the next door neighbor's chickens tasted good.)

Not only must the chicken pen be behind bars, but the entire garden must be behind bars. In one afternoon sheep and goats can eat an entire garden. I have also seen what a Labrador can do to corn plants. It ain't pretty, people. It ain't pretty. Who would think a Labrador likes corn on the cob on the stalk?

At the moment, none of this has been built yet. It's all just a dream floating in my head, awaiting concrete plans, and a Home Depot gift card. So here's a shout out to all my gardeners and chicken folks, whatdaya think? Any ideas?

Posted by: forensicfarmgirl AT 09:05 am   |  Permalink   |  8 Comments  |  Email
As soon as you said "chickens" and "garden" in the same breath, I pictured such a rotation scheme (though not so much circular--I'm a square kinda gal). I have a good blogger friend who has successfully rotated chickens through two or three garden spaces (though not with the super efficient central chicken house). Here's a link to her blog, with "garden" as a search word: Your addition of the LGD run around the perimeter is icing on the cake!
Posted by EvenSong on 01/28/2016 - 10:15 AM
What a great idea for a garden! I'd try it except the old joints like the raised beds with cinder blocks. Once started they're pretty good on my black clay (really hard but really fertile). What type of chickens are you looking at?
Posted by Andrea on 01/28/2016 - 11:09 AM
Shadow, our belgian, loved tomatoes. I would watch him gently pull and eat ripe tomatoes...only the ripe ones. The yellow pear ones confused him for a few days, but the confusion didn't last long!
Posted by Eric on 01/28/2016 - 12:54 PM
Shadow, our belgian, loved tomatoes. I would watch him gently pull and eat ripe tomatoes...only the ripe ones. The yellow pear ones confused him for a few days, but the confusion didn't last long!
Posted by Eric on 01/28/2016 - 12:59 PM
Have seen this type of chicken run and it works. I say go for it. We need to net top of pens as well as parrots and possums are fond of vegetable and fruit too.
Posted by Liz (Vict Aust.) on 01/28/2016 - 01:06 PM
My dad, who over-achieves when it comes to growing things, planted 12 60' rows of corn. He got to eat roughly 6 cobs. The black lab ate the rest. Corn stalks strewn through the yard were evidence. My dad "beat" (term used loosely) said dog with a decimated corn stalk. Said dog, appropriately chastened (NOT), got smarter about hiding the evidence. Dad still gets no corn, but has no proof it's the dog. He likes peas too. And carrots. And raspberries. The garden is not safe.
Posted by AlbertaGirl on 01/28/2016 - 01:17 PM
I have not seen it but my neighbor on the cattle ranch has. A friend of hers has a humongous green house and grows veggies, flowers all year round. But the really cool part of it is being about 2500+sq. feet she has her chicken coop inside it at one end. Accomplishing two things. Predator control for the chickens as unlike some of us there are no LGD and warmth with light all during the winter.
Posted by Terry on 01/29/2016 - 12:39 AM
I've seen a similar plan for gardens only the coop was in the middle and the garden sites were on the east and west of the coop (or was it north and south?) In any case, one year, the east yard was the garden and the chickens ran in the west yard. The following year was reversed and so on and so forth. Always letting the tear up the previous years garden yard, seemed like a fine idea to me!
Posted by Rene on 02/03/2016 - 03:05 PM

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