March 6, 2015

Every farm needs a tractor … are you picturing one of those cute vintage ones, sitting in the middle of a newly-plowed field? Well, not even those little ol’ McCormick-Deerings will fit in a raised bed. Although it would look adorable in my front yard.

I digress. Apologies for my tractor lust. So what’s a gal to do if she has a large number of raised beds to turn and she’s not at all a fan of digging?

There’s a different kind of tractor that is just right for the job: A chicken tractor.

Now, That's My Kind of Tractor - Photo by Cyn Cady (HobbyFarms.com) #chickentractor #chickens #chickenkeeping

They’re easy and cheap to build, lightweight, and for raised-bed gardeners, the perfect solution to churning compost into the soil in a small area. The chicken-powered tractor may lack the appeal of a shiny vintage toy, but it makes up for it in chicken cuteness … they get so excited about a new digging project, I can hear their contented chortling from my kitchen window.

I made my chicken tractor from some scrap 1x2s and some chicken wire left over from another project. I used half hardware cloth when building their coop for protection against predators (raccoons can bust right through poultry wire), but I figured for the tractor, the poultry wire would be fine to use. The Girls would only be “tractoring” for short periods of time, mostly under supervision, and I wanted the tractor to be super lightweight so I could fling it around at will. I have a small waterer I used when they were chicks that fits nicely inside, and The Girls take turns, 2 or 3 at a time, digging up spent garden beds to their little hearts’ content. On very hot days, I soak an old white towel in water and drape it over the top to give them some shade, but usually I try to use the tractor early in the morning or later in the day, when the sun’s not blasting directly down.

Other people (you know, those overly ambitious types who like to show off their superior carpentry skills and giant muscles) have built much more elaborate versions, with wheels, built in hutches, tin roofs and paint, but I can lift mine with one hand. Can you do that with one of those over-engineered versions? No! Therefore mine is automatically super awesome and not at all “flimsy” or “ramshackle,” as my aggressively skilled friends might say. It also makes a great playpen for chicks when they are big enough to start exploring the great outdoors.

Now, That's My Kind of Tractor - Photo by Cyn Cady (HobbyFarms.com) #chickentractor #chickens #chickenkeeping

Cabbage, of course, gets the first turn in the tractor, along with whoever else is close at hand. As Queen of The Girls, Cabbage is the one who comes when she’s called, so she always gets the good stuff. She also keeps trying to break into the house. I know that soon the day will come when she discovers the dog door.

I digress again … so, here I am, puttering around planting stuff or sitting in the shade sipping a cold beverage while drawing plans for a cider press or doing one of the other 60 bizillion things that I prefer to digging, while The Girls churn away in their little tractor, grinding the soil into beautiful tiny pieces. Life is good, even if there is not an adorable vintage tractor carefully posed in my front yard.

Get more chicken-keeping help from HobbyFarms.com:

« More Greenhorn Acres »

 



Next Up