Sunday, August 27, 2006

Chickens again. I promised, two blogs ago, to tell you more about our chicken tractor. It’s basically a moveable chicken run and I referred to Michael Roberts Poultry House Construction for ideas when I was designing it. It’s not a great book, in my opinion, but certainly useful and I’ve adapted and incorporated his ideas and dimensions into our original chicken house and the new tractor. I got all excited as I added two wheels to take this science to a new level, or so I thought, but before I could patent it, I’ve noticed that he’s brought out a new book called Making Mobile Hen Houses. Once you’ve got an idea of certain features and dimensions, relative to the size of breed and number you’ll be keeping, it’s relatively easy to design something rather than copying a ready-made plan down to the last detail.

The chicken tractor is parked over a recently cleared vegetable patch, where the chickens scratch around, thereby de-weeding it (ever seen the floor of a chicken run?) eat any bugs and larvae, and poop everywhere, so manuring it. The tractor can then be moved over to another plot, leaving the place where they’ve been ready, all but for a light cultivation with a fork or hoe, for re-planting. There are some additional advantages for us: we need separate hen accommodation for several purposes. If one of our hens goes broody (that’ll be after they actually start laying eggs though!) then it’ll serve as a broody coop. Or if one gets ill and needs to be separated from the flock; to let new youngsters grow to a size that they can stand up for themselves before being introduced to the established flock; and finally, it’s to allow our first chickens that are for the pot to put on a little more weight and become a little less muscle-bound, whilst still having plenty of room to move around.

Caroline, who supplied our first two black chickens, has given us a further four youngsters: three black and one speckled. We put them in the tractor, parked outside the chicken house, for a couple of days to habituate them all to each other. We’ve now added them to the flock, where they’re standing up for themselves fine, and have put one of our cocks and a hen, for company, into the tractor.