Because our chicks were in an easily viewable location, we literally watched them grow. I could not believe how rapidly these little gals changed, shed their chicky down, and grew real big hen feathers. In a matter of weeks, those six girls were pooping to beat the ban and we knew we needed to get them outside and quick! Our clinic help was not too impressed with the chicken poop factor.
We finished up our tractor, put the growing pullets in and watched them go nuts over the growing green grass. And then came the horrible weather of April. In fact, we got more snow in April and early May than had fallen all winter. Our chickens would NOT be able to handle the cold: we were sure of this. They needed some warmth, and the heat lamp wouldn’t be sufficient. We decided to move the tractor in the barn and hunker down for warmer weather.
The tractor is an incredibly efficient design – made for movability and space conservation. The A-frame construction gives them maximized space “downstairs” to eat grass, and a warm, cozy place “upstairs” to lay eggs, stay warm, and get in out of the weather. The highlights of the tractor are the following:
The structure weighs less than 100 pounds, which allows to people to easily move it around. We move it on average every two to three days to give the hens fresh grass.
One side of the roof opens up on hinges, allowing easy access to the roosting pole (for catching chickens at night) as well as for cleaning. This access is also used to pull the ramp up at night, or when the tractor is moved.
Both triangle ends of the upstairs area open to allow access to the laying boxes for quick egg-gathering. The bottom of the A-frame is enclosed with chicken wire. We reinforced the bottom with 1”x4”’s to help keep critters from digging under the wire.
We left one corner of the wire free to access the grazing area for watering and feeding purposes.
At this point, the pullets are still growing like mad. Our Border Collies watch them incessantly, which drives me nuts, but the chickens don’t seem to mind them at all. The chickens are proving to be quite friendly and will let Jonathen pet their backs when they are near the fence. They are supposed to start laying at 17 weeks, so we still have a little time to wait for that first warm, brown egg. I can’t wait to see Jonathen’s face when we collect the first egg. I will certainly have to watch that he doesn’t throw it at his sister…