Saturday, August 23, 2014

Put Your Chickens To Work With a Simple Chicken Tractor!

ChickensAreBack1
Chickens aren’t just for meat and eggs.


If you’re used to buying bland, factory-farmed eggs squeezed out of sick, de-beaked chickens in tiny cages, the price of good eggs can be a bit startling.
If you’re used to buying big, gross bags of cheap Tyson bird parts from Walmart, the price of good pastured chicken meat is definitely startling.
There are many reasons why homesteaders raise their own birds. In some cases it’s for the superior eggs and meat, in other cases it’s to ensure food security in case of a crisis, and in still other cases, it’s because there’s a simply satisfaction in raising your own food.
Of course, if you run the numbers on what it costs to water, feed, house and care for a flock, the economics don’t always line up. In some cases you’ll be paying MORE for your eggs than if you bought them from a local farmer.
That’s okay with me, though. I’m not just raising chickens for omelets and wings: I’m raising them for their tertiary benefits.
Like what?
How about fertilizing, composting, insect control, ground clearing and tilling?
All those benefits more than make up for the cost of chickens.
My problem in the past is that I wasn’t managing my birds as well as I could have. I actually gave my previous flock to a friend when I got overwhelmed with predator issues and the time involved with my writing and my nursery business.
Then I got talking with Chet about chicken tractors and went back to the drawing board.
My previous chicken tractor designs were too bulky, so I’d ditched them and put chickens in a run with a closed-in coop. I was also dealing with too many chickens at that point, making it difficult to have them mobile.
I knew, however, that incorporating birds into my food forest would greatly help the soil fertility, particularly in the lousy sandy area where nothing has wanted to grow well.
I mused on chickens for a time… then got an offer I couldn’t refuse. A friend of mineraises and sells livestock of all kinds. I stopped by her booth at the local farmer’s market to ask a few hypothetical questions about raising Muscovy ducks and then she popped the question.
“Do you want some chickens?”
“Chickens? I replied. “I got rid of my chickens a while back… but… how old are they…?
“Six or seven months. They just started laying. Look, I got seven hens. I can trade you for fruit trees…”
“I’m low on fruit trees right now. What if I just buy them?”
I looked at the birds. They were beautiful and healthy.
“How much each?” I asked.
“$10 work?” she replied.
“I’ll take them.”
The funny thing is, when I went to the farmer’s market that afternoon, my wife told me to come home with eggs. So, in a way, I did. They were just inside the hens. This is why it’s really important for you ladies to be completely specific when you send your husband shopping. Hehhehhehheh.
Now that I had the birds, it was time to house them. I had disassembled my previous run and turned the space into a 
junkyard spare materials repository for the homestead. I had also pulled apart the clunky chicken tractors I used to drag painfully around the yard.
It was time to build a new chicken tractor. A simple chicken tractor.
Rather than wood, I decided to make the frame with PVC. For the sides I used various repurposed wire from around the homestead. It took me about three hours to construct and about $60.00 in materials (thanks to my scavenging).
Here it is (without the tarp I use to cover one side):
ChickensAreBack2
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5 Comments:

At August 23, 2014 at 3:42 PM , Blogger dfr2010 said...

It isn't just the price (my neighbor sometimes muses about if the economics work) but QUALITY. Can you even buy rich almost-orange-yolk eggs in the store? As for the meat side, all I need to do is remind my neighbor he has tried one of my birds ... his eyes then light up and he half-smiles and nods. Not only do we know what our chickens eat, but we also know what they DON'T eat.

 
At August 23, 2014 at 4:33 PM , Blogger dfr2010 said...

I forgot to compliment those lovely gold-laced Wyandotte girls. I have a GLW rooster who is a handsome fellow who would love to meet them if you get out of chickens again.

 
At August 23, 2014 at 4:46 PM , Blogger Survival Gardener/David The Good said...

Good idea! I'd happily breed 'em and incubate the eggs.

 
At August 23, 2014 at 4:47 PM , Blogger Survival Gardener/David The Good said...

You're totally right... you can't buy eggs and meat this good.

 
At August 24, 2014 at 4:41 PM , Anonymous Sarah from Coffee to Compost said...

I have been considering getting chickens too, and I am almost more interested in their tertiary benefits than the eggs. I think the tractor is the way to go too. If you don't mind me asking, since they eat so many bugs and greens, what are your feed costs? Yes, I'd like fresh eggs and the host of other benefits, but I'm not quite sure what I'm willing to spend to get that. I have a neighbor that sells eggs for $2/ doz so that has calmed me down from hurrying to get chickens. Also, do they sleep and lay eggs in the tractor?

 

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