Brothers M. Mondays in May is our tradition of sharing our excitement about our chickens every Monday in May.
It’s easiest to have a long enough piece of pasture that you can run the chicken tractors in one direction from start to finish. Our pasture is long enough to do this; however, the contour of our pasture makes it better for the chickens to start near middle. So we have to change direction midway through the growing season.
Our pasture is high near the middle, highest maybe 1/3 it’s length toward the road end. The slop near the road is a gentle slope and the house end is more aggressive. This makes the road end a marshy area in the early spring when all the rains come and the house end a river. Neither are good for young chickens in the cold nights of spring.
Our solution is to start the chicken tractors on the high ground and head toward the road, then reverse direction and head back toward the house. This means we need a wider area to run the chicken tractors so we don’t overlap where they’ve already been. Basically 6 lanes, 3 forward, 3 reverse.
It’s easy to move the chicken tractors in either direction, but moving over out of the previous track has proven harder than it sounds, at least for me.
My first thought was to sit the tractor on four 1 1/4″ PVC pipes and just sliding it over. It was easy to slide the tractor over, but since PVD pipes come in 10′ lengths and the chicken tractor boards are 10′ 1.5″ apart, I needed extra sections of pipe. Additionally, the chickens were confused about which way to move and it’s harder to convince them to move sideways. Overall this was more labor intensive and frustrating.
Next I played around with turning the chicken tractor hard in one direction. Either way I tried this, it always took more distance than I thought to get the tractor on the right path. When doing a hard turn it’s difficult to push and the side aprons bend under the chicken tractor and you have to pull them out. Again, the chickens are used to going forward and you have to be careful not to run over them with the side of the tractor.
The method on the right in this illistration wasn’t too bad, but this method took up a lot of space with wise. Our pasture has a V shape and drains down the middle, so we only have enough “smooth” area for the 6 paths plus the “river” in the middle during heavy rains. Also the first move in the reverse direction was pretty long, so I didn’t like this method either.
Finally I did a LONG walk forward with a medium turn to the side, then reversed direction with another medium turn and this worked much better. I modified it so instead of a LONG walk, I do a generous move of the chicken tractor twice, then reverse direction. The first reverse move is a little longer than normal, but not a Long walk. Occasionally a little corner of the previous path overlaps, but it’s under the front cross member and not a problem.
I consider myself decent at geometry and puzzling things together and these moving patterns may seem obvious; but, there’s nothing like doing a hard turn forward with a chicken tractor, then doing a hard turn in the opposite direction just to realize you’re basically where you started. Also, my drawings are not the best and may not be completely accurate, but I CAN tell you the last one is the one that’s easiest for me even if I cannot exactly explain/demonstrate what was wrong with the others.