Chris and Matt have been hard at work this week starting construction on our chicken tractor. It’s not quite done yet, but I thought I’d throw up a blog post showing the progress that’s been made and giving a bit of a backgrounder on chicken tractors.
A chicken tractor is a floor-less, moveable chicken coop. The intention of a chicken tractor is to give chickens an opportunity to access a wide variety of ground space – grass, fields, our deep beds… This benefits our chickens because it gives them access to lots of new soil, bugs, and plants to eat, as well as lots of fresh air and exercise. It also benefits us in that it keeps our land and deep beds relatively weed and bug free and allows chicken poop to spread itself naturally around the property and gardens which is really fantastic for our soil. It also cuts down on our feeding costs because the chickens get a lot of their food naturally, from the environment on the farm.
Wikipedia describes chicken tractors this way:
Chicken tractors allow a kind of free ranging along with shelter, allowing chickens fresh forage such as grass, weeds and bugs (although these will quickly be stripped away if the tractor stays put for too long), which widens their diet and lowers their feed needs. Unlike fixed coops, chicken tractors do not have floors so there is no need to clean them out. They echo a natural, symbiotic cycle of foraging through which the birds eat down vegetation, deposit fertilizing manure, then go on to a new area.
The term chicken tractor is derived from the idea that the chickens perform many functions that are performed using a modern farm tractor…digging and weeding the soil in preparation for planting trees or crops or to enhance the growth of crops and tress already planted.
With chicken tractors flock owners can raise poultry in an extensive environment wherein the birds have access to fresh air, sunlight, forage and exercise, which caged birds in commercial coops do not have. With the coop on only a small area at any given time, the field has time to wholly regrow and more birds can be fed than if they were allowed to freely roam. A chicken tractor also gives some shelter from predators and weather. Moreover, hens lay eggs in nest boxes rather than hiding them in foliage.
Chris and Matt are building our chicken tractor so that, in addition to being able to be used anywhere on the farm, it will also fit on top of our deep beds, allowing us to use our chickens (their poop and their natural scratching and turning of the soil) to help us prepare the soil in advance of our vegetable seed planting.