So we went back to The Backyard Homestead: Guide to Raising Farm Animals to figure out how much space we needed for 24 laying hens, and 24 broilers (50 birds, really? that seems a bit crazy!).
What it says is:
- "The minimum living space per chicken is generally quoted as being 4 square feet per heavy breed and 3 square feet per light breed where the chickens are free to go out side; 10 square feet per heavy breed and 7-1/2 square feet per light breed where chickens are confined within a coop."
- "These figures work pretty well for a sizable flock. For instance, if you have two dozen laying hens, the figures indicate that a coop connected to an outdoor run would be 72 square feet, or about 8-1/2 feet on a side."
- "It's a good option for a short-term project raising broilers, but for long term chicken keeping, it required plenty of land and labor."
I ultimately came back to a design in the above mentioned book. It is essentially 1 hen house, with 4 coops/pastures. (see below)
So, I am thinking that each of the 4 sections will be 10' x 10' = 100sq feet. The entire fenced in area will be 20'x20' = 400 sq feet. Yes, we're making room for birds. We have managed to locate several outdoor "sheds" that are being given away about 3 hours from here. That would save us a great deal of time and wood for a hen house (or houses). Now we just need to take the trailer down to pick them up on the designated day.
The broilers will be kept in chicken tractors and moved daily. The Delaware while fast growing, still takes about 13 weeks before they are ready to be taken in for meat. This Birdsinbethel's Chicken Coop Tractor is one of my favorite designs, and they even included detailed instructions on how to do it yourself!
We are still trying to answer the question of how much chicken feed we will need for both the layers and the broilers. My plan (right now) is to try to do a little bit better each year. I would like to plant the "lawn" with clover and alfalfa, and the chicken coop runs with clover, alfalfa, sunflowers, and maybe even some corn in the years to come. These are all just ideas though - and I know that things will get better with time. I may come to realize that I've way over done it on the number of chickens, or we may find ourselves at a farmer's market making friends with the other local growers/farmers.