Final three days of testing for chooks verifies eating/trampling about 3/4s of a pound of grass per chicken per day. We’ve had about 7 inches of rain, however, on the last 6 days of testing and they really had scratched out some mud holes. In weather like this, they really need moving more often to avoid bare spots. Open soil not protected by forage will invariably be eroded by weather.
Egg production has stayed at 7 eggs per day. After this trial, their grain offering will increase up to whatever they’ll clean up in a day – probably close to 3-4 lbs per day for the lot of 14 hens.
They are over two years old, so that may have something to do with decreased production as well as the constant rain and no sunshine will also cause stress. That has certainly caused stress to all of our livestock and people as well. However, our hearts go out to those who are flooded beyond imagination.
Next project is to build a 7 ft by 16 foot low profile chicken tractor with little wheels light enough to be pulled by hand. Hopefully, this will take out the chore of moving all that electric netting!
Next 3 day replication started morning of 5 Jun 2015 with Dallas moving poultry netting to fresh pasture before letting the chooks out of their tiny eggmobile. Day 1 egg collection – 7 eggs. Day 2 egg collections: 7 eggs. Day 3 egg collections: 7 eggs. We’ve continued with one pound of the wheat screenings cleanout, but that is really not enough for them since they are eating it all and still seem like they want more. However, for the next replication, we will continue with one pound and increase it after the grazing trial.
We have discovered that this size paddock with this much forage results in far too much trampling of quality forage and not enough eating. Now that we are getting an idea of how much chooks eat in a day, we can determine how many chooks can be managed in smaller, more easily handled housing. A full length 164 foot poultry netting fence is too much work for only 14 hens eating .75 lb of grass per day. In other words, to be more cost effective, the 41′ by 41′ enclosure allowed with a poultry netting should allow about 41 hens, of course depending on forage quantity and quality. This would include realising that the taller forages would be unavailable for chooks to eat.
We realise that, by the book, chooks typically eat only 4 ounces of feed per day. However, i think that is a purely grain diet which would be more dense than grass, legumes, and forbes. Probably, most of what is being utilised, however, is actually scratching and trampling. Nevertheless, this needs to be considered to keep a healthy sward.
The opportunity cost of owning land is next to nil since the government insists on stealing our savings by keeping interest rates near 0% and printing money (inflation), so the easiest way to determine the cost of the grass consumed is by using current pasture rental rates, which in north Missouri is about $60/acre.
Too many times I read (even from producers, sometimes!) that grass is free. Whoa, Nelly! It is not free and, in fact, the cost of grass has sharply increased due to so much of it being ploughed up to raise more corn and soybeans. Folks, that is not sweet corn nor edible soybeans. This is commodity, GMO crops raised to be fed to animals like cattle, chickens, pigs, fish, horses, buffalo, and even lambs and deer!
But I digress – how much grass do pastured hens eat and how does that relate to a dozen eggs? Hopefully, these questions can be answered at least for our management style.
By measuring the amount of forage in a small paddock before the chooks are moved in and then again after they are moved out in 3 days (during the growing season, it is imperative to move stock at least every 3 days to prevent removing too much forage, however, if you need to improve the diversity, overgrazing is a good tool to use for establishment, but it must be part of the plan). As with any research, there are variables that are hard to control. While we will measure the amount of feed we give them and report that, there is no way of knowing how many bugs they will eat. We plan three replications.
Day 1 – Fourteeen mature egg laying Barred Rock hens – .039 acres with mature fescue and about 40% red clover. Estimated forage available is 4 inches times 200 lbs of grazeable feed is 800 lbs per acre or 31.2 lbs (800 x .039). I’ll measure what is left when we move them in 3 days to obtain what they actually consume. Chooks will mash down a fair bit, but that is okay since that will feed the soil microbes and organisms. We are offering 1 lb of seed cleanout consisting of wheat screenings – unsprouted. Sprouted would be better, but for this trial, we want to know how much forage they are eating out of the pasture.
Results: Eggs laid: Day 1: 12 eggs, Day 2: 11 eggs Day 3: 7 eggs. Indications are that without more grain – production decreases markedly, this may not be a bad thing – pencil out the costs and needs.
Grazing equivalent: The 14 chooks grazed in 3 days what 1 cows would grazing in one day
Bear in mind, however, the trampling/mob effect would be entirely different since cows would likely trample more and certainly put more poop in large piles which will then cover up more grass. With so much rain, even more grass would be destroyed. There would also be a considerable difference in mob effect with 500 or 1000 chooks vs 14 as well. Chickens range only up to 250 feet (extreme outer limits) from their nesting boxes, so more trampling would occur due to concentration. I would think with that many – chooks would need moving everyday vs 3 days.
Chooks will eat far more bugs than cows.
There are several differences in the grazing impact, so just comparing the potential grazing is just for fun.
Neverthess, this experiment demonstrates that no matter the species – pastures MUST BE ALLOWED ADEQUATE REST PERIODS TO IMPROVE AND ALLOW FUTURE GRAZING! Animal movement must be controlled and their keepers must balance animal performance and pasture production effectively.
Interesting article – Neat how survival/frugal living/done-for-centuries lifestyles are now becoming ‘haute‘! Doesn’t everyone already do this?! Well, maybe not the fancy recipes, but food should never be wasted. Egg shells and coffee grounds make awesome soil amendments. Whatever parts of plants you simply cannot stomach can be turned into compost or fed to the chooks. Or feed all those scraps to worms which you can use to go fishing. But don’t ever let food go to waste!
“All the comments to the article are spot on and i can add nothing to them. I thought most people already knew this stuff, but apparently not if the article is accurate in stating the 40% of our food produced goes to waste. Then again, I have personally seen family members throw out a bowl of perfectly good fruit simply because one item had a soft spot on it! I had to choke back my admonition!”
The chooks (laying hens) practically stopped laying eggs this winter, so bread making had to be adjusted. This super easy and relatively quick recipe is officially to make burger buns, but creativity can turn them into hot dog buns, loaf bread, or slice thin and broil with cheese and/or garlic butter or make mini-pizzas. Cut smaller rounds for cocktail buns. Recipe modified from the original found in the very helpful “Dining On A Dime” cookbook.
Try to use homegrown, local, or organic ingredients whenever possible. There are several search sites online to help you find sources near your home.
Easy Hamburger Buns
5-6 cups flour (preferably unbleached white and/or stone ground – using 100% stone-ground can affect how high the buns rise)
2 pkgs or 2 Tablespoons yeast
1 cup milk (organic or local, real (raw) from cows grazing on pasture)
3/4 cup water
1/2 cup oil ( i use olive oil if i use oil, but mostly i use home made applesauce)
1/4 cup sugar (organically grown cane to avoid GMO)
1 Tablespoon salt (Real salt)
butter, melted (same as milk)
Stir together 2 cups flour and yeast. In a saucepan over medium, heat milk, water, oil, sugar, and salt to very warm (120ºF-130ºF/50ºC-55ºC). Add liquid all at once to flour mixture Beat until smooth (about 2 minutes) on medium speed with electric mixer or 300 strokes by hand. Add enough additional flour to make a soft dough; mix well. Let rest 10 minutes. Roll out on a well-floured surface to 1/2 inch thickness. Cut with 3-inch round cutter (or rim of glass). Place rounds on greased baking sheets. Let rise in warm place (80ºF/27ºC) for 30 minutes. Preheat oven to 425ºF (230ºC) and bake 12-15 minutes or until lightly browned. Brush melted butter on the tops whilst still warm. Make 12-20 buns. (depending on how thick you cut them). For burger buns, I like at least 15, otherwise it’s just more bread than one needs to make a nice sandwich.
Substitutions and ideas:
I use 1/2 cup of prepared applesauce instead of olive oil.
Add 1/2 cup of ground seeds (i’ve used chia, but flax, sesame, or hemp would likely work as well)
Try 1/2 and 1/2 with unbleached white flour and stone-ground whole wheat.
I warm the oven for about 10 minutes, then turn it off and place the buns inside to rise. However, this slows down the process, because they need to be taken out before preheating the oven for baking.