Chicken Tractor – for layers and broilers

As I’ve mentioned in my Chicken Tractor Guide, you can use the chicken tractor design for layers.  So this summer and fall we’ve used our idle chicken tractors to house the new flock of layers while the old layers are in the A-frame coop and being phasing out.

Layer Boxes

Since this was temporary, I did not fasten the layer box to the back wall, but you could easily make a light weight set of 2-3 boxes to hang off the back wall.  Instead we used a double box I made out of scrap 2x wood for another project.  It’s heavy but works good.

 

Tractoring

Optimal moving depends on the stocking density.  For our 8 birds I’d say about every 3-5 days.  We’ve gone as longer during busy spells, leaving the ground looking like a post-apocalyptic movie scene.  I reconciled staying in one place so long with the fact that using good feed and the pasture has plenty of time to recover before next year.

Their foraging area is much smaller than the A-frame; however, that can be mitigated with more frequent moving.  Also, I’ve already experienced that this lighter breed can fly over the chicken wire fence we use for the A-frame.

A final note. This ISA Brown flock really dug into the soil much more than my previous breeds leaving many deep holes when we removed the tractor.  I say deep, but the deepest was about 4-5 inches.  They seem to digging shallower holes as time passed, which may be a factor of us moving them more frequently or just age.

 

Supplemental roofing for the tractor

 

Since we have roosting poles already in our tractors, we only had one real issue, the tarps.  The tarps are medium duty and will typically last until the fall, sometimes longer, unless you have birds resting on them as we do.  Last year it was the crows that tore up the tarps.  This year it’s our flock of Guinea fowl.  Check out what a week of roosting can do to a tarp.

 

Fortunately I had an old piece of roofing laying around that I could attach to the top.  The boys just held some scrap pieces of wood on the inside of the coop that I fasten the roof to with screws.  This will protect the tarp and ensure a dry area underneath for the food dispensers.

 

Winter

October came and I decided not to move the chickens to the A-frame.  A chicken escaped the tractor during feeding and we caught her that night perched on the fence that keeps my Rainbow flock contained around the A-frame.  It’s really nice having them in the tractor, not needing to open and shut the coop each day and not worrying about them flying over the fence or aerial predation.

The cold of winter is my biggest concern.  I would want some better protection than the tarp and windbreak.  These are hearty birds and I’m think I could design a suitable shelter area in the tractor; however, snow is problematic for moving and requires some more thought.

 

The future of the layer flock

This experiment got me thinking about building a new chicken coup on a trailer frame and incorporating the best feathers of the A-frame, chicken tractor, and more.   Something very portable, versatile, and low maintenance.

Keep an eye out for the results of my new coop idea.  I’ll add a link to the new post here when it’s ready.  Until then, here’s a teaser.

-Jason

Family Project

Brothers M. started as a way for Joseph and Matthew to earn their way to the Scouts National Jamboree.  Both boys are still in Scouts and this summer we did family project for a merit badge, creating a walkway over a creek along our hiking trail.

 

A tree had fallen across our ‘sledding hill’ which is also part of the hiking trail and was directly uphill from the creek crossing.  Cutting logs and rolling them down the hill was a perfect opportunity to make a bridge.

Of course we picked the hottest day in September to start on it.  Wanting get out of the heat, dad tried to cut come corners with the chainsaw and ended up getting the saw stuck.  This necessitated having to chop off 3 6-8″ limbs with an axe; so much for not getting overheated.

 

Joseph coordinated placing the logs, cutting planks, and nailing them down.  Knots made the walkway more uneven than was desired, but then again, it’s a hiking trail.

 

A side result was that we cleared enough of the fallen tree to make the sledding hill trail serviceable again.  We’ll will wait until cooler weather to finish cutting the firewood though.

 

Supporting Local Agriculture and Artisans

One of our Farmers Markets posted a contest asking you to post a meal with at least 3 items purchased from the farmers market.  That spurred me to put together two pictures showcasing what farmers market items we had on hand purchased from the Seymour and North Vernon markets.  I was pleased at the quantity of items we had on hand, but not surprised.

 

These are not planned and staged pictures.  My wife, who was at the N. Vernon market that day, had no idea I was planning on taking these pictures and some of the items in the Seymour picture were not purchased that day or were repeat purchases.  Neither picture include the various past items that were not on hand such as mushrooms, flowers, sweetcorn, nuts, bread, biscuits and gravy, etc., etc., etc.

 

Even before we started selling we were purchasing locally grown meat and produce.  Not only is there tremendous satisfaction in knowing where your food comes from and the upstanding individuals that produced it, but the quality and experience is so much better.  Imagine having a seller explain to you how to tell a cantaloupe is ripe and point out that this one would be good to enjoy today, but another one should sit 2-3 days before enjoying it.  That’s just one of many examples I’ve witnessed at the markets.

 

Don’t think that I’m saying you need to purchase everything from a local source, we don’t; however, if it’s in season and we can buy it locally, we do.  Knowing where our food came from and supporting family farms and business in our communities is important and satisfying to us.

If you’re currently supporting local markets, God bless you and keep it up.  If not, give it a try; you might by pleasantly surprised.

-Jason

Guinea Pig Tractor

My wife asked me if the guinea pigs could use a spare chicken tractor during the summer so they could ‘free range’ and eat clover and such from the yard.  A chicken tractor won’t hold a guinea pig; however, I used a lot of what I’ve learned building the tractors and coops to make a ‘Guinea Pig Tractor’.

 

 

I’m not going into a “how to” on building a guinea tractor, like the “How To Build a Chicken Tractor” guide I did, but here are some basics.  I purchases 2 2x4s and 4 2x2s and scavenged the rest from leftovers of other projects.

I started with a 2×4 frame, cutting the boards at 34″ to give me the inside width and ~5 feet left over for the length boards.  I used a scrap 2×6 for the board on the end with the house so that I could attach some wheels later.  That gave me an extra 2×4 to use for the floor/nailer of the house area.

The tricky part was the 45 degree A frame.  I calculated the length needed as ~24″ for the “rafter” pieces, subtract the width of the 2×2 header, and that gave me ~23.5.  Measuring  from each end of a 2×2, then making a 45 degree cut angled toward the end, so 23.5″ is the length from the tip of the angle, will let you get 4 rafters out of one board.  Measure 23.5″ from the remaining tips and made 90 degree cuts at the marks.  See layout below below.  I cut 8 rafters out of two of the 2x2s.

I cut the 3rd 2×2 at 34″ and attached it to the back 2×6 and attached the 2×4 flat to form a ledge for the house floor.  The width of the hose is 14″ because of the scraps I had to work with.  The leftover 5′ from the 3rd 2×2 becomes the top header.  I pre-drilled the screw holes in the header where I attached the diagonals, making sure to offset the screws so they didn’t hit when they crossed.  I attached the diagonals at each end, under the inside of the house, and where needed for the door in the tractor.

 

 

 

I used the 4th 2×2 to make a 2′ door to the tractor area.  The rest was just fitting my scraps in the house shape and stapling on the chicken wire.  I also used 2×4 fencing on the bottom to keep any predators from sliding under the sides and into the tractor.

 

In these pictures I have a board as the floor of the house area.  I later removed this because guinea pigs are not particular about defecating in the area they sleep in and this area was difficult to clean.  It’s now just fenced in open bottom like the run area.  To clean it, we just move the tractor.

 

What to do with a whole chicken

“I don’t have time to roast a chicken.”

“I’ve never cut up a whole chicken.”

“What do you do with a whole chicken anyway?”

These are the comments I hear most when it comes to buying a whole chicken.  I’ve been making meals with whole chickens from our land for a few years now and this is what I’ve come to realize.  I don’t have time to roast a chicken either.  And knives, chickens, and myself should never be within proximity of each other at the same time.  HOWEVER, regarding the last question, I do know what I do with a whole chicken and thought I would share my no-time, no-fuss method of getting the max out of a chicken.  Grab a crock-pot, a few staple kitchen ingredients, and you are ready to go.

After thawing out the chicken in the fridge for a couple of days I place it in a crock-pot.  Sprinkle it generously with salt, pepper, and garlic.  You can add other seasoning if you want.  This is just my basic, take 5 minutes, and get the bird slow-cooking.  Cook on low for 6 – 8 hours or high 4 – 5 hours.  As with all food prep, times may vary depending on the size of your bird, crock-pot, etc.  Basic rule is an internal temp of 165 degrees and juices run clear.

Once the chicken is cooked I take it out of the crock-pot and let it cool down for 30 or so minutes.  When it is cooled down enough to handle without burning your finger tips, it’s time to pick apart the meat.  I’m sure there are plenty of YouTube videos that showcase the how-to’s and ways to pick apart a chicken efficiently.  Watch a couple, get the feel for it, wash your hands, and start pulling!  This process only takes a few minutes once you get the hang of it.

After the chicken meat is pulled off I cut it up and divide it into 2 cup quantities.   You now have the base for a multitude of recipes;  chicken salad, enchiladas, soups, casseroles, and the list goes on….

Now comes the next step.  What to do with the frame and chicken leftovers after pulling the meat  off?  Chicken stock, of course!

Using the same crock-pot (keep the juices from the chicken) return the chicken remnants.  At this time I add whatever vegetables I have on hand that don’t have much shelf life left.  Onions, garlic, carrots, celery, and bell peppers are my usual.  Sometimes all and sometimes none.  It’s not an exact science and you can wing it.  A splash of cider vinegar, a couple of bay leaves, add water to cover plus about an inch or two higher, and you are good to go.  Cook on low for 8 – 10 hours.  If life gets busy and you forget and it cooks longer, no biggie, the longer you cook it the more nutrients you will get from the bones.  Good stuff.   Once your stock is done, strain it through a cheese cloth and marvel at the nutritional liquid gold you have at your disposal.  Note:  Coloring will vary from a yellow to a darker brown and is dependent on time cooked and vegetables used.

The final step is to use and/or freeze your bounty.  I usually place everything in the fridge and use it, as needed, for a couple of days.  Then I divide out what I have left and freeze for future use.  For the chicken stock I pour into ice-cube trays, freeze, and pop them out.  Store them in a gallon zip lock bag and you now have grab and go chicken stock.  I use these for just about anything that requires water.  Rice, sautés, soups, etc.

And that, folks, is what I do with my whole chicken.

~ Tricia ~

Brothers M. Mondays – Family

Brothers M. Mondays – A new post each Monday until the 2018 market season starts on 5/26.

We are family.   Samantha fractured her ankle, but the chickens don’t care if you’re sick or hurt, they still need care multiple times a day.  So family kicks in.  Dad, Joseph and even a cousin or two have been helping Matthew while he’s the lone wolf.

Since Samantha couldn’t help, we put her to work taking some video.  And the youngest did her part by taking a few pictures and an unintentional  video of Sam and the boys with her new camera she got for her birthday.

Enjoy the video we’ve put together.