…though it’s not the best.
Here’s the video from a year ago in which I filmed the build and shared my thoughts on how it turned out:
Though it’s unwieldy, it’s been quite useful on our new property. It was strong enough to just set on top of a trailer and haul over here, and since there was no place to put chickens, it’s become our current chicken house.
Half of my chickens are still at a friend’s place, actually. One of these days I need to go get them. This single coop isn’t big enough for all of the birds. One of my goals for the new year is to build a better system.
Yet even this small, super-heavy cattle panel chicken tractor is working just fine for now. We get maybe 4-6 eggs a day, plus the birds are clearing the ground out for us.
They’re under the black walnut tree by the Grocery Row Gardens right now.
You can see the mucky mess they leave behind. That’s some serious soil fertility, there!
We throw almost everything in the compost, from used paper towels to paper plates, meat scraps, crushed eggshells, kitchen scraps, sour milk and more. The chickens happily convert it to beautiful eggs and quality manure.
You can see the large square they’ve chewed up so far.
That’s 9 moves, there, since they were put in this area. They’ll stay on an area for a few weeks, then we move them.
Some of this area is planted with sugarcane and some of it will be tilled into veggie beds. We’ll see how they do with the walnut roots nearby.
You can also see a wild lily to the middle right, growing back after being shredded down to the ground.
It’s not the idea chicken tractor, but it keeps thirteen birds for us and they live way, way better than the poor birds in factory farms.
Ideally I would have them ranging the entire area around the pond and woods, but we’re not quite there yet. Right now they’re close and safe, and they’re taking out grass and building up rich soil for spring.
You can also use it as a brooding area. Put the broody chicken in there and let her hatch them out and raise them for a bit (or keep bought chicks in there). Separating out the broody hen from the others keeps them from piling more and more eggs in the nest.
Annuals seem to be more tolerant of juglone than perennials. Definitely not tomatoes though. Pumpkins and melons were good. There are lists online. I had to check because my duck bedding in the winter is wood shavings which often have walnut in it and I plant into it when I move them in the spring.
My small flock ranged freely daytime, and I cooped them up at night. Didn’t lose any as long as I had a rooster. The rooster was great– would stand guard while the hens scratched around, and sound the alarm if he saw anything flying or creeping (we had hawks, foxes, and feral cats). At the alert, they’d all run under the bushes. After we got rid of the rooster (attacked one too many people), hens started getting picked off, one every few days– I think it was hawks. I ended up giving away the last two hens. Still scheming to re-try poultry. But even here in the city, I have seen a hawk go after the neighbors’ free-ranging hens, right out in the street!
Which kind of chicken can make the difference in roosters and aggressiveness. If you try again try to find a less aggressive kind and get two or three for “try outs” to see which one (or two) you keep. I like to keep an extra rooster just in case one gets et. I had good luck with Barred Holland and Ancona, but I got them from a preservation center rather than a hatchery.
Mine was a Delaware. Never once attacked me, my husband, or my then-toddler. Took an irrational dislike to my inlaws though. He was a great rooster, and I still feel bad about having to get rid of him. To have two, you have to have a large enough flock that the hens don’t get threadbare– a minimum of 18 or 20 hens I’d think. Unless a less-aggressive rooster also uses the hens more lightly?
You say it’s not the best– anything you’d do different, if you had another go at it?
Yes – I would try to make it lighter. Much lighter!
You referenced a black walnut tree in your comments about a future veggie bed. I need more info on trying to garden near these trees. Do you have a video or other resources that can help guide gardening near black walnuts.
I don’t – this is the first time I have tried. We’ll see what happens.
we had an opossum kill chickens and rip the heads off, I heard them and stopped it from getting all of them, it got of 7
. we caught it in a live trap and “rehomed” it.
Yeah, they are nasty. This is our main problem with free-ranging – losing all the birds every six months or so is no fun.