Friday, July 5, 2013

Why Did the Chickens Cross the Pasture?

To let the vegetation regrow, reduce parasites and disease, spread nutrients evenly, and to find more plants and insects to eat.

The chickens crossed the pasture in a travel trailer.

I visited Malheur River Meats’ ranch while they were moving their chickens recently. Their flock of laying hens and attending roosters live in remodeled trailers. I’ve lived in something similar, but it still had appliances and furniture.

The chickens can’t move on their own; they need some help: First, pull the T posts at each corner of their current pasture. It’s easiest to use a chain on the bucket of the tractor.

See this line of fence? As you walk down it, pull each of the white fence posts out of the ground. Lay each post, and the attached woven electric fence, on the ground as you go.

When you get to the end, grab the last post and walk toward the chicken's new pasture. Once the fences are in the right places, hook the tractor to the trailer and drive off. If the door swings open and chickens start popping out, ask the photographer to run over and shut the door.

Be careful as you drive over the prone fence.

In the chickens' new pasture, stop on a level spot and unhook the tractor.

Don't forget to go back for the escaped chickens, which are outside the new pasture. They won’t cross the prone fence, so have the tallest person hold it up so everyone else can chase the chickens underneath. You’ll need at least one person per chicken.

Complete the job by reassembling the fence. Remember to reattach the electrical connectors at each corner, so an electrified fence is more than just a good idea.

When the fence is complete, open the trailer door and stand back from the explosion of red, grey, white, and black hens. Soon, they’ll be laying brown, green, tan, and white eggs at their new home. See a video of the action here.

The chickens seem pleased with their new digs; how does the pasture feel about the roving chickens?

Lisa Burke, one half of the Farming Engineers in Kirklin, Indiana found the answer on Google Earth. The current image of their farm was taken in early spring, before the pasture greened up. But the chickens' travels the previous summer show as a chain of vigorously growing green patches.

The chickens, and their supplemental feed, add nutrients to the soil, but I suspect something else is going on, too. I wonder if the chickens’ scratching could have roughed the soil surface enough that it warmed more quickly than the other areas.

How do you think the chickens painted green patches on the pasture?

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