Smagrath, That is an observation we have made, too. The benefits of having chooks is more than just the egg and meat production. Chooks and orchards really go well together as the chook will keep your grass down a bit (reducing labour), manure the orchard (reducing need for external inputs to maintain fertility), eat insects and lizards (controlling pests), as well as the occasional small mice and rats (blind rodent babies are delectable balls of protein for chooks), speed composting both grass, grass seed, leaves of various plants, plus insects and table scraps! The best agroforestry systems and even monocultural (small scale, though) citrus farms I have seen have all had chooks or ducks involved for all the benefits and services mentioned above. We have about 100 chooks now, (perhaps 60 of them are small chooks), plus another 30 ducks and ducklings. We pen them at night, and free range them in the day. They wander and forage, providing all those services I mentioned, over about 12 acres of trees, though they hang out close to their house. Wehn we plant out pigeon pea (semi-perennial edible legume that grows to a height of 4 meters and lives for 2-3 years), we keep them in rotating pens for a few weeks to let the pigeon pea get established. Otherwise they chooks will damage them. The chooks also have uprooted a few vanilla vines from their mulch piles at the base of the trees we use for living standards (usually a tree from the anonaceae family, but sometimes a tree legume or a cashew tree, or cacao) but the damage they do is more than ofset by the work they do on our behalf! Precog, we grow a leguminous ornamental with spikes called "pride of barbados", which has pretty red, pink or yellow flowers. We trim them sometimes and pile the branches on top of the mulch, which makes it difficult for the birds to scrathc. We do this to protect the choko especially as they seem to derive a perverse chooky happiness damaging our choko plants.. I don't know if you have Pride of Barbados where yoou live, but if not, perhaps you have an analogue species that you can use for the same purpose. Peter, we leave the chooks in until about 8 AM, sometimes until 11 AM so that they lay their eggs in the house. Most of them will return to the house to lay after we let them out, if they haven't already, but this is not fail prooof, and sometimes we find eggs in the bush, big clusters of eggs that we "float test" to see if they are good, and then open them individually into a seperate container to avoid mixing in nasty eggs. For a while we had a chook tractor (large) for an area we wanted denuded and manured, so we would open them up a bit late, and, walking with a bucket of food, we get them to follow us into the tractor, and then we feed them and quietly walk out, leaving them in there to eat and poop and scratch. They always have a laying box for them to use, which enables them to lay in the tractor as well.