Tables of Contents
Recipe for a Chicken Tractor
What is a Tractor Anyway?
Why Chicken Tractors Belong in Your Garden?
Chicken Tractor Systems
Straw Bale Chicken House
Soil Building with Chicken Tractors
Keeping Hens in Chicken Tractors
Here's How to Build Your Custom Chicken Tractor
Selecting Chickens for Your Tractor
Give Me That Old-Time Chicken
Raising Chicks From Scratch
Chicken Diet (Theirs Not Ours)
Diseases and Afflictions
Raising Poultry Humanely
Other Animal Tractors
Excerpts from What is a Chicken Tractor Anyway?
Since we started working with chicken tractors six years ago the question almost everyone asks is "What is a chicken tractor anyway?" Sometimes I ask the questioner to give me his or her definition of the term then chuckle at the sometimes silly answers I get.
I first heard the expression "chicken tractor" back in 1991. In that moment I instantly conjured up an image of a whacked-out hormone-crazed rooster in a duckbill cap racing a low-rider John Deere across the landscape banging into the barn and careering down the fencerows. Sort of a silly idea isn't it? Heck the chickens can't drive tractors. Can they?
I've never seen a chicken drive a tractor or a bus for that matter and I bet you never have either. What is true is that chickens in the right location can do more good for your garden soil-and do it better and cheaper-than any tractor.
Chickens eat bugs weeds and grasses spread manure wherever they walk give meat or eggs day after day and almost never talk back or need new tires. They can be far more beneficial to humans when combined with the portable shelter-pen that we refer to as the "tractor" part of the chicken tractor system.
The term "chicken tractor" is just a tongue-in-cheek expression coined by Bill Mollison the irascible founder of the permaculture movement that started in Australia back in the 70s. It simply means the whole idea of putting the chickens where they do the most good and where they are easiest to take care of in the garden.
For most Americans buying eggs or poultry at the supermarket has become a joyless almost suspicious act. Suspicion that is of the potentially carcinogenic chemicals used to raise commercial chickens. We've learned through countless newspaper articles not to trust the producers of our food. They use growth hormones and inhumane feeding and housing regimens. Filth and disease permeate the processing plants.
The alternative to mass-produced food is to grow your own. Until now growing your own chickens for meat and eggs has been mostly a chicken house affair. Chicken houses themselves can be a joyless scenario, too, although not always as bothersome or frightening as buying poultry from the supermarkets when we don't know where it's been.
Where is the joy when you have to carry the feed in and the manure out of that dreary little building out back called the henhouse? What a waste of energy that building is. It's expensive to build, you can't move it and the ubiquitous attached run gets smelly, muddy and unsightly. Yuck, who wants to raise chickens that way? Especially when there's a simple inexpensive portable coop that does the work for you.
If you want to fertilize a field or pasture weed and feed a garden bed or build a raised-bed garden on poor soil or clay the chickens will do it for you. All you have to understand is how the system works then you can engineer changes to fit your site and needs.
There is nothing fancy, newfangled hard-to-understand or expensive about this method. You just need plain old common sense a keen eye and an open mind. This is a system that is so simple you can build it on a Saturday and put it to good use on Sunday. With proper care it will last you for years to come.
Sounds too good to be true? Well, read on and find out how others have cashed in on the method. No, it's not a "get-rich-quick" scheme but it can be a "quick fix" to get good food and healthy soil. It will save you money either by considerably decreasing your food bill or giving you extra produce to sell. This is definitely a food production system for people on a low budget with limited space.
Should You Have Roosters in Suburbia?
What to do about restrictive zoning laws if they exist in your town? Try some community activism to get the law changed. Get a grant to show people in your community how they can use chicken in the chicken tractor system without the odor and flies traditionally associated with raising livestock in suburbia. I'd rather listen to my neighbor's chickens cluck than his overpowered undermuffled riding lawnmower every Saturday morning for the whole summer.
Zoning officials are likely to leave you alone unless they get a complaint. I once knew a fellow who kept a sow with a litter of pigs in his garden shed. None of the neighbors complained and he raised two litters of pigs every year.
One time for lack of a better place I started 300 chicks in my garage and kept them there for three weeks until the field pens were ready. Word got out and we had many folks stop by with their kids to see the baby chickens-including our landlords. They were fascinated! They brought their grandson over regularly to see the chicks grow. No one complained. Here's the moral of the story:
Go recruit your neighbors. Enlist them into the idea. Promise them a few free eggs or invite them to a community barbecue.
Copyright by Chelsea Green Publishing