Tuesday, May 24, 2011

So you want to talk about Chicken Tractors...

I can do that.  I just hope I can stop once I get started.  

I have 13 chickens -- 5 assorted bantams and 8 Welsummers.  I love them all.  Even when they give me a little grief...







We keep them in a (somewhat) traditional chicken coop I made using an old satellite dish for the roof.  




But, I also keep a chicken tractor in the garden.  I rotate 2-3 of the girls into it every couple of weeks except for the coldest months --  January and February. 



What is a chicken tractor?  Chicken tractors are portable chicken coops without bottoms.  They are one of the top 10 inventions of all time.  I made that part up, but honestly, they are one of my top 10.



The chicken tractor provides shelter and protection while allowing the chickens to forage.  Tractors can be used on the lawn, in which case you'll want to move it daily, or in the garden, where it can be left for longer periods of time.

The size of chicken tractor can vary greatly as can their design. However, most urban tractors are small-ish and hold 3-4 chickens.

The advantage of chicken tractors to the gardener is a sustainable source of eggs, meat (not me), and nitrogen. Chickens excrete a high percentage of the nitrogen they consume. Raising chickens on green forage in tractors will also reduce your feed bill by as much as 30%.



This is how it works in my garden... 

Earlier picture of garden design
 
 I have 10 beds in my garden, each 3'x8' (the exact size of the bottom of my tractor) and each separated by a row of bricks.  When one of the beds is not in use, such as before planting or after a section is harvested, I move my tractor, sitting it down over the area where the girls can do their thing.  They defoliate, de-bug, till, weed and fertilize the spot in just a couple of days.  I will sometimes leave the tractor in one spot for 2 to 3 weeks but not too long so as not to overdo the nitrogen.  I might leave it longer for a bed where I'd be planting potatoes (they love nitrogen) and move it sooner for a bed of peas -- they don't like too much of the good stuff.


Chicken Tractor Design

Chicken tractor designs are pretty basic and can be made from scrap lumber. Our chicken tractor was made to fit 3 laying hens. One end contains three nesting boxes (with a hatch to gather eggs) that provide shelter and nesting space.



This design works great for people in town that want 3-4 laying hens and have a small to medium sized yard. Those living in the country need a more predator resistant and slightly heavier model than those living in town.

I like these designs but there are hundreds on the internet...














Eggs

On average, chickens lay two eggs every three days and do not need a rooster to lay eggs.  There are a couple of winter months when they stop laying due to shorter days but except for that, they are little laying machines.  Our eggs have large, rich, almost orange yolks and they taste delicious.   There really is a difference. 


I love my chicken tractor.  And who wouldn't?  A true chicken tractor is portable and gets moved around but even if you don't need (or want) your chickens to be mobile, chicken tractors are the perfect solution to house your backyard chickens.

You'll be surprised but many town and cities allow chickens (with some restrictions, of course) so check it out.

***

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35 comments:

  1. This is a great design and not too complicated, yet totally functional. Super! I am thinking about getting a few hens again...they are so darn cute and fun in the garden.

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  2. What a great setup up you have,
    I really like the satellite roof.
    I am full of envy.

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  3. Thanks for sharing the info. I have seen these "tractors" but had no idea how cleaver they are.

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  4. Lindy ~ My hubby just built me a chicken tractor and our chicks are just about ready to move in. They are almost fully feathered. I can't wait. Stop by and take a peak ;-)

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  5. Lindy- I grew up with chickens and remember the little outside "crib" (we called it)...but I have never heard it referred to as a tractor. I learn SOOO much from bloggers. And, yes, the eggs taste completely different~they have a lot of flavor. Great post- Diana

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  6. Loved looking at all the different designs. Thanks for sharing this post. I've been very interested in this process ever since I read your first post about it. Now talking the Hubs into the idea is another thing...lol!

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  7. I like your chook pen with the domed roof, we used to have a tractor but just recently built a new chook pen, but I like your idea of just rotating a few chooks at a time. (sorry chook is Australian for chicken)

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  8. Love the chicken tractor and the chicken house. I have had my rounds of tractors and now has a round tractor...you have a lovely garden :) very inspiring :)

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  9. Lindy, I just love your coop with dish!!! I love both really!

    My husband built our coop this past weekend. So far he has spent a little over $350! We are not even finished girl!!!! We only have 2 little chickens! lol! I do love them!

    I'll have to post pics tomorrow!

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  10. I had no idea how that worked. Now I do! Very cool! And some of those tractors are quite ingenious!!
    Your garden is beautiful!!
    Hugs
    SueAnn

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  11. Cute chicken coop with the satellite roof :) and your chicken tractor is very nice too. Thanks for adding your link to Beach Cottage Good Life Wednesdays.

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  12. You are so clever, I love the idea of having it fit your garden beds...

    Blessings Kelsie

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  13. Clever! If I can ever convince my hubs to get some chickies, this will be on my list!

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  14. Great tips! I'd like to have chicken in my garden... I already have an idea where... But I need a little time before... I can't accomplish all my dreams in one year, now, where would be the fun in that?

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  15. thanks for the info.. i;ve been wondering what a chicken tractor was.

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  16. What a great post, terrific photos. This spring when my handiman made my potting bench, he had bought enough wood for a chicken tractor. I wanted to wait until it warmed up before I purchased the little chicks. You have inspired me. My chicken fever has flared up again. Thanks, Kathy

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  17. Great advice and so informative, I love this concept,Kathysue

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  18. Hello Lindy! I love this post. There is nothing like this in the city. You make me feel that taking care of chickens is very rewarding. The flowers and plants around the chicken tractor complement the farm garden look. :)

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  19. It's gorgeous! You have a lovely blog here :)

    Love and luck!

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  20. This is a strange and beautiful world. Today I now know of a contraption on wheels that allows a laying hen to forage while remaining penned.
    Will wonders never cease.
    BTW, I simply adore those birds! How sweet!
    Rose

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  21. My town is one of the ones with their collective head up their chicken tushies!.. I yearn for chickens. I am thinking of getting some and dressing them up in cat costumes :)


    maddie- peck peck meow!

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  22. I need to build a tractor for my Bombshells this summer--you've given me lots of great ideas to think about!

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  23. Thanks for the post! I really enjoyed reading about this. I am not sure but I don't think we can keep hens but I will have to check on that. What do you do with all the eggs? Do you sell some?

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  24. We have been talking about chickens and "Bingo" here is your post! Thank you, this has really given me a better idea of what we might need.

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  25. Oh, your gardens and wonderful chicken house are sooo perfect. I'm beyond envious!! Thanks for showing a bunch of different styles. Now I'm going to show my husband and NAG him to build me one...NOW. :)

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  26. Hi Lindy, I learned something new today! I have never heard of a chicken tractor. Thanks for sharing this at my party.
    Hugs,
    Sherry

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  27. This was so interesting! I've had chickens before but actually allowed them to run loose on our acreage. And I so agree... the eggs were incredible! Love your idea. How brilliant!

    Donna
    http://funkyjunkinteriors.blogspot.com/

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  28. I love this setup. my chicken coop is SO nasty!!

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  29. We've been thinking about getting chickens, so loved reading this post! I loved all of the information and the pictures! Thanks!

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  30. Thanks for this post. We have been thinking about getting some chickens but we didn't know if we had to have a rooster or not. All I remember from childhood is that roosters are mean!

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  31. Great post. My sister has chickens. She loves them. I have forwarded the post to her.
    Carol

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  32. Wow- never heard of a chicken tractor! How neat!! thanks for sharing this at FNF! :)

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  33. It is so funny that you wrote about this. Yes, I really do want to talk about chicken tractors!My book club is currently reading Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter by Tom Hill. In the very first chapter there is a long explanation about how the main character builds a chicken coop on wheels and moves it around his property. I though it was so ingenious, but had no idea that such a thing really existed. I thought it was just made up for the book. I forwarded your post to my whole book club. Thanks for such a timely post. I would love a chicken tractor and a supply fresh eggs!

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  34. I am a wanna be chicken mama!! I will be getting my first hens in July and am sucking up as much info as I can on being a first time mom. Love the coop, LOVE the tractor. We do the same thing with our bunnies to keep our grass trimmed. Thank you so much for the info.

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  35. Lindy, I loved your little tour of your little ladies. How fun, I wish I could have some chickens. Maybe my next house, with any luck.

    Hope you are having a great summer so far.

    Stop by anytime to say hello!!!
    Hugs, Bella :)
    **AMAZE ME AUGUST** @ Bella Before and After Any projects, recipes, diy welcome.
    **PARTY PLANNING TUESDAYS** @ Euro Style Cakes. All your party planning tips, decorations, invitations, and recipes welcome at my NEW party.

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