In a previous post, I talked about chicken geometry, a topic which revolves about where things should go relative to other things for best results, and how much to use.
For example, anyone who keeps free-range hens at a density of over 100 hens per acre is probably scamming you, since their acreage turns into a barren, parasite-infested mudhole. This is partly due to the way the chickens scratch at the ground, ripping up the turf, but it’s mostly a matter of overloading the soil with far more manure than the ground cover can handle. Do the math.
(People point out to me that the EU allows up to 400 hens an acre, which is true. The folks in the EU didn’t do the math. Hardly anyone ever does, unless there’s a dollar sign in the equation.)
So here are a few geometry-based rules to help with your chickens:
- Don’t put feeders under the roosts.
- Rats like to hide under floors, wooden pallets, and other kinds of shelter. They don’t feel safe unless the ceiling is low. Raising floors, pallets, etc. 18″ off the ground will help keep ’em away, and will allow cats and terriers to hunt them.
- Chickens like to roost at the highest point available. Make sure that’s a roost and not a nest box.
- Chickens like laying at ground level, in a dark space, and in corners. You can do worse than putting your nest boxes there.
- If your waterers aren’t as high as a chicken’s back, there will be some backflow out of their crops and into the waterer when they drink. Keeping the waterers high keeps ’em cleaner and more sanitary.
- For laying hens, high roosts can make your chicken houses more manageable. You can walk around bent over like Groucho Marx under roosts four feet off the ground. Useful for getting at those eggs in the back corners of the houses.
- Lots of hens like to crowd into a single nest. If the nest is large enough to permit this, you get fewer broken eggs.
- Chickens will rarely try to fly over a barrier they can see through, so they can be confined by absurdly low fences, such as a single strand of electric fence wire 5″ off the ground. The same low wire deters dogs, coyotes, and raccoons.
- In hot weather, you can’t count on chickens crossing a stretch of blinding sunlight to reach a waterer. Put the waterers in the shade with the chickens.
- Dominant chickens will often prevent the ones at the bottom of the pecking order from eating. Be generous with the number of feeders, and space them out. A bully can’t be everywhere at once.