How Many Chickens Per Acre?

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Free-range hens on spring grass on my farm.

What’s the maximum number of hens I can keep per acre? And what’s the downside of exceeding this? Why do I get answers all the way from one to a thousand? And, for that matter, what are the best tips for keeping free-range chickens?

After all, it’s discouraging when your chickens turn their nice grass range into a sea of mud. Here’s how to avoid this.

Chickens are Hard on Grass

It’s discouraging when your chickens turn their nice grass range into a sea of mud.

By default, your chickens will destroy all the ground cover in the immediate vicinity of the chicken coop. They do this through a combination of eating the plants, scratching the ground cover with their claws, and covering everything with manure. This process is quite fast in the area around the house, especially in wet weather, when the ground is soft. Even a flock with just a few hens will denude the area right around the chicken coop. Further away, the process is slower.

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Rats on the Pasture!

Karen and Dan were moving a batch of pullets from the brooder house onto the pasture one evening, and saw three rats scurrying around. You know what that means: if you see three in the open, there must be thirty in hiding somewhere!

We usually don’t have much trouble with rats on the pasture. Our chicken feed is in big galvanized range feeders outdoors, and we move the feeders each time we refill them. Any rats who take up residence in tunnels under the feeders have their tunnels exposed when the feeders are moved. Something — probably owls — takes care of the rest.

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