Rotational Grazing Using Electric Poultry Fence
by Meghan H
Published May 15, 2023
This post is written by Joshua G, a Meyer Hatchery brand ambassador from Texas. Joshua uses electric poultry netting to move his laying flock of chickens and their portable coop onto fresh grass, which greatly reduces manure cleanup, fertilizes the pasture, and breaks parasite loads.
Howdy! For my family and me, the chicken life began in late 2021. Before we ever purchased chickens, we spent dozens of hours with Google research and mountains of YouTube videos. I didn’t grow up raising chickens, so I didn’t have any idea of what to expect but that also meant I didn’t have any preconceived notions of how chickens were “supposed” to be raised. It wasn’t long before we were drawn to the concept of rotational grazing. We loved the idea of moving chickens to fresh grass and bugs every few days while building up the soil health and getting happy and healthy chickens out of the deal.
Moving The Flock
But how do you move chickens through a pasture and keep them safe at the same time? Electrified poultry netting is one way we found. Fast forward a few months and we have a small flock in a coop with an electrified netting surrounding it. We purchased our fencing through Premier 1 and went with the PoultryNet Plus. This netting is 48” tall which “helps” to keep flightier birds in the enclosure; however, as I’m writing this, I can see a chicken walking around inside the barn where it shouldn’t be. We initially purchased the 100’ netting but quickly realized that we were going to need the longer 164’ netting, especially once chicken math got ahold of us. Typically, we like to move the flock once if not twice a week depending on how much they are tearing up the ground around the coop. We keep an eye on the weather and monitor the grass levels as well as the manure levels and move them before we impact the ground to the point of harming it.
While the netting keeps the chickens corralled for the most part, the real safety lies in the shock provided by the solar panel energizer that comes in the pack. Due to some errant miscalculations and bad timing on my part, I can testify that the fence does indeed pack a wallop. To this date, the only ground attack we’ve had on our flock was by our Great Pyrenees/Poodle mix dog that weighed 80+ pounds. Long story short, our big dog was humbled and didn’t come out of hiding for a while after he encountered the electrified netting so I have full confidence that it would protect against other smaller threats such as coyotes or the neighbor’s dog. While I feel good about the chickens being safe from 4 legged threats, we have lost two chickens to hawk attacks over the past few months. Unfortunately, the fencing does nothing to keep aerial attacks at bay. One chicken had flown over the netting and then got attacked just outside the fencing where she didn’t have anywhere to hide. The other was killed inside the fenced in area but that poor chicken was a white-crested black Polish and probably never saw the threat coming. One way I changed things to help protect against flying attackers was to move the feed and water close to the coop, so they don’t have to travel far from safety to eat and drink. I also keep them near trees as best I can, so they have as much protection from above as possible.
Two things need to be kept in mind when using the electric netting: soil type and sunshine. If your ground is rocky you are going to have a hard time getting the poles into the ground. The double-pronged fence posts that we use are easily pushed into the clay soil that we have but there are patches of rocky soil that make it near impossible to get them pushed in. As far as sunshine, we chose to go the solar panel route due to the distance the coop would be from buildings most of the time. The biggest downfall to the solar panel energizer is that if there is no sun, there is no battery charging. So, shadows and overcast weather must be considered when placing the fencing.
This summer will be a year of using the electric fencing and, while things may change down the road, we are loving our experience so far. As I say often, this is just A way and not THE way. Take our story with a grain of salt and do your own research before making a decision.
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