Working Chickens, Part 4: Creating Paddocks and Deep Mulch Runs

| 12/9/2016 8:47:00 AM

LindsayLittle girl holding chicken

During the first few installments of our Chicken Care series, I talked about how we came to the paddock system, how to choose the right number of birds, and how to feed your birds for cheap or free. Today, I will talk about creating a paddock system that works for you and what it means to have a deep mulch run.

Designing a Paddock System

When I say paddock system, I mean a group of pens that are segregated from each other with the intent that the chickens will have access to each paddock only at certain times of the year. I suggest that at the very least you have two separate paddocks. A good number to have is three or four.

Our system currently consists of three paddocks, and we have plans to expand that to four or five by summer. The first paddock consists of a coop and run area. The run area is what I call a deep mulch run, and the chickens will always have access to this area. I’ll discuss what I mean by deep mulch a little later in the article, so keep reading.

The second paddock is our garden. The chickens will only have access to this area immediately after the harvest and only for 1-2 months; they clean up any insects and things that need to be taken care of. They scratch and fertilize as they go. I also make sure to dump any kitchen scraps into my garden beds so that the chickens will focus their scratching and fertilizing right where I want them to.

The third paddock encloses a wild blackberry patch. It was probably not the most well thought-out plan, just because the chickens love the security of the brambles and often lay their eggs in there rather than in the nesting boxes, but it has worked out all right.