"Will they mow the lawn, too?" Vision of farm with a Chicken Tractor

We are now less than two weeks now from the scheduled closing date for our farm! WAHOOOO!

Jim and I are taking different approaches to the farming life.

I am pretty much focused on the horse part: where the fences will go, where we'll store hay before the barn is built, how soon I can move the horses onto our property, where the trail access points on the mountain are located, how I can build more access points and more trails. I'm wondering how many fence posts I can pound in an hour before work, and how much field fencing I can string in the time between arriving home from work and completely and utter darkness.

Jim is more of a generalist. He really wants a tractor, and he really wants chickens. Not coincidentally, he really wants a Chicken Tractor, which I originally thought had a lot to do with tractors and less to do with chickens.
Turns out that it's just the opposite: a Chicken Tractor is bottomless, movable chicken pen. It's also an extremely low-tech way to clear ground for the garden and it's mostly all about feeding and entertaining a small flock of hens.

The size and design of Chicken Tractors is widely varied--they are mostly made from found or extremely cheap materials which are nailed, screwed, or stapled together to form a basic shelter for chickens.

Chickens living inside the Chicken Tractor do what chickens do best: they eat grubs, bugs, slugs, grass and weeds, they scratch up the ground as they search for food, and they produce a high-nitrogen fertilizer (chicken poop) that garden plants love.

After a day or two of clearing, cleaning, and fertilizing a small patch of the future garden, the Chicken Tractor is dragged a few feet away and the chickens proceed to clear the next small patch. All this is accomplished without noise, pollution, or the danger of running over an inattentive gardener's foot with a tiller blade. Genius!

As the hens get older, they will begin laying eggs. I love this part. Drag the tractor, collect the eggs, plant the garden. It's all in a day's work, and coming really soon to Haiku Farm.

Here's some photos of Chicken Tractors.

If you want to know more about them, and how you can build a Chicken Tractor and raise chickens even in the city, I recommend the book Chicken Tractors by Andy Lee and Pat Foreman, available at your local public library. You can also read parts of the book on the Chicken Tractor page of Amazon.com.

Comments

  1. how utterly quaint! i like eggs but i have chicken phobia since childhood from an evil rooster. i would like a guinea hen to eat all the ticks from our field, but i heard the neighbors had some and wild animals got them. agh.

    speaking of that, there were the cutest bunny tracks in our snow this week. i've never seen bunny tracks in snow before, but they're wonderfully distinctive. it's fun to follow the deer tracks down our hang into our pond area, and see where the deer prefer to walk. i've never seen them in the yard - i can't wait: ) there is also apparently a cat, but i haven't seen it either. i noticed a dead mouse i found in our stall disappeared so either the cat got him or he was faking. i have nothing against mice in my barn - really, do they do harm?

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  2. re: chickens
    Hens are almost a completely different species from roosters, behavior-wise. I find hens very charming...I find roosters generally delicious. We may eventually raise chickens (i.e. roosters) for food, but my heart will always belong to the hens. And the eggs, too, of course.

    As for mice, my experience is that they eat the grain purchased for livestock, piddle on anything leather (MY SADDLE!!!) and chew on wires (fire hazard.)

    I raised domestic rodents for years, and loved them dearly: mice, gerbils, hamsters, rats and chinchillas. However, the wild ones are just cat bait in my humble opinion.

    I'd rather encourage the local coyotes, who not only keep the rodent population in check, they also provide beautiful music at night!

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