Chicken eggs are an important renewable source of fresh protein that every prepper should consider. Of course they are also a great source of meat! Free range chickens (letting your chickens run loose during the day to eat bugs and plants) not only cost less to maintain, they provide richer eggs – which is evident in the yolks of truly free range chickens. However, if there are lots of potential predators around such as dogs, hawks, skunks, etc. Free Ranging your chickens could be quite dangerous to their health! You also need to take special care to fully fence your garden areas. Chickens love to eat freshly sprouted plants which can quickly lead to ruin for your budding garden. That’s where we turn to the Chicken Tractor.
Chicken Tractors are basically a portable cage that can be put in a pasture or field and moved on a regular basis. The tractor and your pasture will develop a symbiotic relationship as the tractor provides protection to your chickens while the chickens weed the pasture, fertilize it and eat bugs. During the winter you can move the tractor to the garden and by putting down straw or other bedding, the chickens will produce a wonderful nitrogen rich pad that can be turned into the soil when planting season comes back around.
In typical me fashion, I severely overbuilt my chicken tractor – the thing is a tank! I still need to paint it red – my wife wants me to stencil “Hot chics inside” on the side of the house :) Here’s a pictorial of building ours (by the way, my teenage son helped me build it – any flaws you notice in it are his fault! ;) ):
Building the main cage frame.
Cage wired up and the house framing done.
Sheeting on the house, nest boxes installed.
Construction finished. We used the wheels off a small bike. In this picture you can see the access door is open for the nest box.
Out in the pasture, the birds are checking out their new digs! There is a plank ladder going down from the house into the cage. There are several roosting rods throughout the house.
As you can see, we built ours basically like a huge wheelbarrow. It’s quite easy to lift and move it. The horses were immediately curious about it and spent the rest of the night worrying it.