What is a Chicken Tractor?
A chicken tractor is basically a mobile chicken coop that does not have a floor. Usually containing wheels, it is small enough to move around from one spot to another and rotate around certain areas. There are several different designs of chicken tractors available online, but Travis built one for himself that is 4 inches wide by 12 to 13 inches long. It has a 4×4 enclosure that is shaded allowing them to cool off during the hotter days and it contains nesting boxes and food/water boxes. In order to expand the possibilities of our chickens and the chicken tractor, we have looked into getting a poultry fence kit that will allow the chickens to fertilize and cover more area in the vegetable garden. Some benefits to using a chicken tractor in the garden include providing natural fertilization, chickens will dispose of overwintering insects, and they can shallow till garden beds. Overall, the chicken tractor can prepare the garden soil and minimize the inputs you have to supply when you start growing your own vegetables.
Fertilizing the Garden with Chickens
On this week’s episode, Travis is incorporating his chicken tractor to fertilize the vegetable garden. In the vegetable garden, Travis has an area that normally gets planted on year-round causing the soil to get depleted quickly. Along with getting planted on year-round the heat temperatures in the south cause the organic matter to burn up leaving the soil depleted of nutrients as well. In return, we have to come up with ways to add more nutrients back to the soil to fulfill our plant needs. So Travis decided to use a chicken tractor to effectively have a way to get rid of leftover crops and move fertilize around the garden area allowing us to incorporate the nutrients back into the soil. In the garden, the chickens have been grazing on the leftover zipper cream peas which in return adds lots of nutrients back into the soil instead of Travis pulling the peas up and placing them in the compost pile. So Travis puts them on the plot which contains four rows or two double rows of peas and basically move the chicken tractor up and down the rows. The chickens remain on a certain spot for around five to seven days then move the tractor down a little bit where fresh vegetation is located. In addition to using the chickens to remove old plant debris, we also like to use them with our cover cropping in the fall as well. For example, we can plant crimson clover in the garden and rotate the chicken tractor around the plot to keep the clover mowed down.