Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Chicken tractors put the manure where you need it!

About seven years ago I started researching the best ways to raise chickens for producing eggs. We had a few neighbors with a few hens and it seemed like a good thing to supplement the family food supply with a few eggs a day. Little would I know when I first started that I would be building chicken tractors! No, not the kind of mechanical beasts that farmers use to plow fields. Chicken tractors are light, mobile, bottomless pens to protect and enclose your chickens in a confined area while they nibble at what is growing on the ground, scratching for insects and seeds, and depositing their manure on the pasture, lawn, or garden where you left them. As long as the tractor pen is moved regularly, they will naturally take care of many of the weed, garden pests, and fertilize the ground without you needing to do much more than feed and water them and move their pen. If you put this on your lawn, you will need to move it every day to prevent the chickens from tearing up your grass.

Last week I started reading a chicken tractor classic, Joel Salatin's, Pastured Poultry Profits, originally published in 1993. This book has probably done more to change how small farms and homesteaders think about producing meat in a healthy, sustainable, and profitable manner. Here is a video clip where he is featured from the movie called, Fresh: (You'll notice that his original chicken tractors have evolved to be larger and moved by tractors)

My ideas for raising chickens have also evolved a bit since I started originally, particularly since my current home doesn't have enough pasture / grass to move a chicken tractor around so that they can eat the grass. Instead I built a semi-permanent pen over a long garden box. This way I can add bedding and compost to where the chickens are living. They peck at it, scratch the ground up, and add their own contributions to the soil. Then the following year I move them to a new garden box and they can do the same to the new one. Right now I only have two large boxes and I hope to build one or two more each year so that I can rotate the chickens through each box every three or four years. (Once we have more boxes, they won't be exclusively in a single box.) I'll create another post soon where I post photos and describe what I've done a bit more.

1 comment:

  1. I found a different video where Joel is giving a presentation to other farmers about a new chicken tractor design that he is going to try out. It sounds to me like there is no one way to do this... you just think through your own situation and the pros and cons for what you want to do: