Grazing rotation

Hens eat grass. But they also scratch … and it’s the scratching that does the damage. Commercial free range farmers rotate their hens onto grazing, so that each area has time to recover before it is grazed again. The manure enriches the grass, but for a week’s grazing, a patch may need as long as three or four months to be fully restored. A month’s worth of grazing, and the area may need as long as a year. Leave hens on grass for any longer than a month, and you may need to reseed!

I don’t have enough space to rotate and recover unless I also restrict … so yesterday I set to and rearranged the fencing around the Hen Garden.

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I left a path to the composter, which they can access whenever the gate to the Hen Run is open. But I have fenced off the new grass to the left of this picture, and also the bare, compacted soil to the right, which I have raked and resown.

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I gave them the run of the grass for a while …

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They were more than a little confused as to how to move from one area to the other – they could see each other through the netting but couldn’t work out how to get to each other … I’ve since confused them even more by dividing off the grass into two sections. They will have access to one section for a few hours a day, and once it looks tired, I’ll open up the other area … you get the idea. It’s not as good as free ranging, but it’s better than no grass at all. And eventually, we’ll have three separate areas to rotate – though the new grass will take a few months to establish first.

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As ever, Bertha and Babs followed me round, and somehow, Bertha found a way through the netting to the seeded area – as I was raking, I would turn round to find her in there behind me … I know she didn’t go over, and there’s no way round, therefore she must have gone under … so I finished by adding a few more ground pegs to the netting all round the garden.

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There’s still a clear division between the A Team and the new girls … these are Molly, Milly and Mandy together as they often are.

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And Molly and Mandy in the composter … I’ll clear it out to the compost bin before I next cut the grass.

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Oscar likes to be with me when I’m in the garden … I had to shoo him out of the netting so that he wasn’t trapped. He settled happily enough to wait for me on the path.

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One hen I didn’t get a good picture of yesterday was Betsy …

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I think I now have a reasonable photo of each … time to update the gallery then :)

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