Chicken Tractors are one of the best ways to maintain a chemical free vegetable garden. Chickens love to scratch around in the soil while doing so consuming weeds, weed seeds and other rubbish while leaving their manure on the ground ready to fertilise the next crop. Chicken Tractors are designed to pull around easily so the chickens can concentrate their cleaning efforts on a specific bed or section of a garden.
The size of your chicken tractor will ultimately depend on the size of your yard and the number of chickens you have. I have seen largest chicken tractors that required a tractor to pull around a paddock down to a small chicken tractor that could hold around 4 to 6 chickens and was ideal for an average size suburban back yard.
I have seen several chicken tractor domes made for use in association with mandala gardens used in Permaculture and by Organic & Natural Farmers and Gardeners. These domes are rotated around a mandala design usually every 2 weeks after which vegetables are planted directly in the soil the chickens have nicely prepared. No weed spraying, digging or additional ground preparation required. There are several websites available with information on these.
Domes have been traditionally made with bamboo, thin lengths of milled timber or thin straight branches. The most common and lightest material used these days is three quarter inch PVC or one inch Poly pipe which can be connected with various joiners available. Wire is then fitted over these dome frames to keep the chickens enclosed. Protective coverings such as old tarps or similar can be used to protect the chickens from the elements of heat during the day and rain or other harsh weather.
Other variations of chicken tractors can be made using timber with wire covering. Sheet wire often referred to as Weld mesh can also be used with or without a steel or timber frame. Commercially available units built like this are available and can be seen in many good organic gardening magazines or online.
Wheels on chicken tractors is a must have (except perhaps for chicken domes). Wheels can be a permanent fixture or designed to attach when the unit needs to be moved. The type of wheels you use will depend on the size of your chicken tractor. Simple wheels like those on your push lawn mower, to wheels used on wheel barrows are ideal. Commercially available chicken tractors are likely to come with pre-attached or are easy to attach yourself.
When considering using a chicken tractor to keep your vegetable garden clean, organic and naturally fertilised, look at the size of your yard and consider your options based on the circumstances you have to work with.
Article written by Eric J. Smith