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.
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 simple 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 mine raises 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.
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):
A totally simple chicken tractor
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