Day Ranging Laying Hens; The Tractor

This is our first year with pastured poultry and I’m hoping to document our progress, success, and failures for the education and assistance of the masses.  Personally I do not like to eat chicken.  I’ve cleaned enough birds that “foul” describes not only a type of bird and a smell, but a flavor that isn’t all that attractive to me anymore.  However, my pastures have needs and my chickens also have needs, so it seems appropriate to marry the two.  I read in The Stockman Grass Farmer journal a bit ago that anyone raising beef and not following them with pastured poultry of some type is “leaving money on the table” by way of reduced grass growth potential.  That was one of my final pushes to get me seriously thinking about pastured poultry.

In future videos you’ll see how our pastures are looking and the projects we’re working on as we press toward a restoration of the soil biology and diversity of life above and within the soil.  But for now I’m going to show you the tractor my talented husband built and introduce you to the beginning of our pastured poultry journey.

After spending a few months looking at various chicken tractor designs and reading Joel Salatin’s Pastured Poultry Profit$, I settled on John Suscovich’s design from Farm Marketing Solutions.  I like that I can stand upright in the tractor and that I figured they can be modified to have perches and nesting boxes, though I didn’t find any specifics on the best way to do that so we decided to wing it.  I felt that this was the best design for the purposes I have in mind.

I was pleased with the material that I ordered from Farm Marketing Solutions: both the stress free chicken tractor plans and the pastured poultry packet #1, you can see them here.  Then we headed off to the local big box hardware store where we spent just under $350 for the materials.  We were shocked, but we had decided to build the first one as instructed and make construction modifications with any further tractors we’d build.  Some of the items we purchased are usable for more than one tractor, such as the wheels and the conduit bender as well as things like the boxes of screws and zip ties.  But it is what it is and we started to build.

Due to time constraints it took us two weeks to put together, and while it is a big project we only have one full day a week that we could devote to the project and short bits of time in the evenings if nothing else was pressing.

Last night we put the finishing touches on the tractor and hauled it down to the hen house, with the dog barking to herald it’s maiden voyage down the hill.

We are both pleased with this first tractor so far.  It is not too heavy for me to move and it moves easily.  The chickens seem to like it already and I’ve only put their feed & water inside and left the door open.  We will make one more tractor like this for the 3 week old chicks to move into next month and then take them out to pasture where they will follow the cows and do chicken things like eat bugs and scratch, and lay eggs.

Then, starting April 11, we enter the world of pastured broilers!  These will move through the sheep pastures for the summer months.

** And as I watch the video I see that I forgot to zip tie the chicken wire to the conduit.  Pretend that you see that in the video, I’m heading out to do that now.

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