My dream has come true. I have a chook tractor! Aaaaahhh *that was the angels singing from on high.
Ever since learning about these ingenious mobile coops, I have longed for them. Since I'm hopeless at DIY ( I try, but I really shouldn't be allowed near a hammer), I mentioned it to my mum on a recent visit. Being a give-it-a-go type of person, she whipped one up for me in no time. Ta-da! Dream come true.
Usually chooks in the veg patch is a disaster, being the voracious eaters that they are. But with a chicken tractor, you get them working with you not against you.
Here I'll be talking about: -benefits of chooks in the garden -design considerations -improvements
MOBILE FERTILISER DELIVERY Chickens scratch and poop, like all the time. This is a great attribute when it can be contained and focused. Chooks on the loose in the garden spells death for anything leafy and green, and say goodbye to those seedlings you just planted. But when done in a controlled manner, they can be put to work more safely. In our chicken tractor, the girls are placed over an already harvested bed where they are free to dig, scratch, eat, and poop all they like. But only where I want them to. The garden gets weeded, spent crops gobbled up, the soil gets loosened and fertilised. It's also great for establishing a new bed or food forest area. When they are done, I top dress the bed with some compost, mulch it, and it's ready for planting.
FRESH FORAGE The girls' run is looking sadly barren. It's plenty big enough for them, but they have reduced it to dust in a very short time. The tractor gives them the opportunity for some fresh ground and a more varied diet.
TRACTORS SHOULD BE PREDATOR SAFE Our tractor is made so the chooks are safe while in it. They are only ever in there during daylight for a few hours at a time, which also reduces predator risk. The dog is fascinated by them (read: would really like to eat them) but even he can't get to them in it.
TRACTORS CAN BE UPCYCLED I love to upcycle. But as I've mentioned before, I'm pretty crap at construction. The end result being that I collect a lot of materials (*my partner thinks I'm a hoarder, I insist I'm just a visionary) with grand plans for their use but no real skills to make it happen. My genius mother found 3 old screen doors that were due for the tip, pop-rivetted them together, whipped up 2 end frames and voila! a chook tractor. Get creative and they can be made from what you find at the tip or side of the road.
MUST BE MOVABLE The tractor needs to be able to move around. It should be lightweight and preferably on wheels so that one person can manouvre it easily. Ours is a bit on the heavy side as it is not easily moved by one person. Some new handles should make it easy enough to shift over a bed
THINGS I'D IMPROVE -The tractor is currently too heavy. It needs wheels and handles to make it easier to shift it where I want it. -My garden beds are all of a different size and shape. This means that the tractor doesn't neatly sit on a bed, but cuts some in half or is too big for them. So sometimes the woodchip paths get included into to soil by the chooks ( I don't want this as the larger woodchips soak up a lot of nitrogen in their breaking down) Going forward, I'll standardise the bed size to fit the tractor. This will neaten up the process.