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Monday, June 16, 2008

Chicken Tractor De Luxe


Kurtwood Farms has a new addition: a shiny new chicken tractor.  Shipped in from points east and assembled at great frustration over a number of hours on Saturday, it is now home to 25 content hens.

The basic concept of the Chicken Tractor is thus:  a secure bottomless box, filled with chickens, is moved daily to a new patch of pasture.  In the process the birds feast on the bugs and detritus of the pastures cow manure and fresh grass.  As the community moves often, there is never the build up of chicken manure or the problems associated with such deposits and 
only the benefits of fertilizing the pastures.

Joel Salatin of PolyFace farm in Virginia coined this term and probably the concept as well.  The problem has always been trying to make a box that is secure from racoons on the ground and hawks in the air that together can decimate a flock of birds in a matter of days.  A home made tractor tends to be top heavy and just plain too heavy to move daily. High winds will blow the contraption over sending birds scurrying in all directions in the middle of a storm.

The solution here is a commercially produced chicken tractor.  Made of sheet aluminum and quite well designed.  Heavy from the insane number of little nuts and bolts and washers, yet low enough to the ground the keep it tight in spite of potentially inclimate weather. 

By day two I am still quite optimistic.  The cows were most curious of the shiny foreign object in their pasture but moved on after a few minutes of sniffing it out.  Large slicks of cow slobber dulled it up a bit however.

My nightmare was of coming back in the afternoon to find the grass littered with twisted bits of aluminum sheets, chickens all asunder and some very smug bovines.  As it happened, the first day went off without a problem.   Racoons may still find some clever way to reach under and grab the docile birds sleeping through the night, but I am hopeful they will give up quickly and move on to other options of feeding themselves.

This tractor is filled with young egg laying hens.  If successful another chick coop on wheels will be ordered and inhabited with meat birds.  The idea of a pan of golden brown roasted birds pulled out of the wood fired oven on a rainy winter evening makes me able to tackle another box of many nuts, bolts, washers and oddly written assembly directions.

2 comments:

  1. where did you get that tractor at?

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  2. I ordered the chicken tractor from Murray McMurray in Iowa. I usually get chicks from there and saw the tractor is their catalog a couple of years ago. It shows up in a few boxes all flat and small and then a couple of hours later you have a big beautiful chicken tractor. Check it out.

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