We’ve got a chicken tractor!

For all those excited to know, we at the Stanton House Inn have a new piece of equipment in the back garden: a chicken tractor!

Chicken tractors are basically movable coops without floors. The purpose of this equipment is to protect the chickens inside from predators and weather while allowing them access to greens, bugs, dust (to bathe in), and fresh air. As our tractor is relatively small, we move it anywhere from once a day to a few times a day, to allow the grass time to recover. We also take the girls into the chicken coop at night, as there’s no where for them to sleep safely from night-time predators.

Joel Salatin of Polyface Farm in Staunton, Virginia is one of the leading farmers that first made chicken tractors famous. Credit: Margie Burks/Flickr
Joel Salatin of Polyface Farm in Staunton, Virginia is one of the leading farmers that first made chicken tractors famous.
Credit: Margie Burks/Flickr

But there are other benefits to tractors, as well. As can be guessed from their name, chicken tractors provide many of the uses of a mechanical tractor: digging soil in a specific spot, weeding and clearing the ground of both weed seeds and pests, and spreading fertilizer (chickens are pooping machines, if you haven’t heard).

We run our tractor on the paths in the garden for a boost to the grass!

 

While we are currently using the chicken tractor to protect the girls from the neighborhood hawks, dogs, foxes, raccoons, owls, and anything else in town with a taste for chicken, we plan on using it in the fall and spring to prepare beds for planting or even create new beds. We do this by placing the chicken tractor over a patch of grass or weeds for a week or two. During that time, the girls will eat or scratch to death everything in that patch, till the soil, and leave behind a healthy amount of fertilizer, ready for planting. It certainly beats doing the work yourself, in our humble opinion.

Oh, hello, geodesic chicken tractor. Credit: PermaCultured/Flickr
Oh, hello, geodesic chicken tractor.
Credit: PermaCultured/Flickr

Our tractor is simply made of wood with mesh fencing wrapped around it, but chicken tractors can be as extravagant or as simple as the designer wishes. There are designs and pictures of tractors made of old pallets and metal chicken tractors that are sun-powered (via solar panel), move themselves, feed, water, and protect the chickens inside–according to their advertisement, the only thing these tractors don’t do is harvest eggs!

Sound intriguing? Let us know if you are using a chicken tractor, or if you’re thinking about using one!