Almost all farms and homesteads would benefit from having chickens. Once the decision to keep chickens is made, the first question a homesteader must decide is where exactly to put them.
When we first got our chickens, I didn’t give that much thought. We bought a storage building, added nesting boxes and roosting poles, and set it up on the edge of the woods near our house. That location has turned out to have some advantages, but they are fortuitous. When I selected the site I didn’t have foraging or shelter from predators in mind. It just looked like a reasonable place to put a coop.
For an example of how thoughtful intelligent homesteaders should plan the location of their coop, go check out this excellent post from our friends at Le Petit Canard Farm (HERE). Using permaculture design principles (and plain old good sense), they’re planning for paddock rotation, foraging food sources (a chicken “food forest”), composting and all aspects of keeping chickens sustainably. That is how it should be done and I’d like to think that if we were starting now I’d be as thoughtful and deliberate as they are being.
We keep two flocks on our farm. Our main flock free-ranges from their home-base coop. They spend a lot of time in the woods, which is great for them and for the woods, but isn’t benefiting the rest of the farm much. They sometimes will go work in the compost piles, but they’re at the outer limits of their range.
Our other flock roosts in a moveable coop and we keep them enclosed in specific areas using poultry net fencing. This flock is assigned to work garden areas; tilling, fertilizing and eliminating pests during the off-season. Right now they’re in a garden that has oats and crimson clover growing as a cover crop and that will be used for vegetables this fall. Soon they’ll be moving to a new location, as we don’t allow them in a garden area within 120 days of it having a food crop on it.
Our set up works OK for us, but could definitely be improved. For example, I’m considering relocating our compost piles next year, to make it easier for the chickens to work in them. I’m also hoping to plant a mulberry tree or two near the main coop, so they have can mulberries as a supplemental food source.
We built a permanent fence around our primary coop, and ran water and electricity to it. Luckily for us the location worked out. It would be difficult and expensive to move had it not.
With portable coops and fences you have a lot more flexibility and it’s easier to correct a mistake.
Just some things to keep in mind if planning for chickens.