Originally Posted by sparticus97
I've read <tons> of information on <chicken tractors>, but one question remains. I've read that chickens shouldn't be released to <free roam> until they're learned to <live> in the <chicken tractor>. Further, they shouldn't be released early in the morning. Assuming that's good information, can the chickens find the <chicken tractor> if it's moved after releasing the chickens? Lastly, how long can the <tractor> stay in one place without destroying the turf? FTR, I have 6 chickens.
My system with dominiques uses tractors in two settings:
Incubator - first 21 days (till hatch)
Brooder - first 28 days post-hatch
Tractor - weeks 5 and 6 (protects late chicks / early juveniles from losses to Coopers hawks)
Tractor as roost - weeks 7 and 8 (juveniles free range during day)
Transition time between ground roosting in tractor and elevated roost - weeks 9 and 10
Elevated roost through harvest 20 to 24 weeks
Tractors as Breeder pens:
All year round
Movement most frequent during spring and early summer when collecting eggs for hatching.
Concerns addressed when moving tractors.
Feces / nutrient deposition - Tractors are a system of importing nutrients to my farm. I do not want to add too much, or too little.
Damage to pasture by grazing, digging and trampling - The pasture needs to be able to protect soil and recover for next round of grazing without giving rise to plants of lesser value as forage.
Nutritional needs of birds - Once my birds are about 8 weeks old (a guess at this time which clearly varies with breed and what is placed in feeder) they begin to consume plants in amounts that meats at least a portion of their energy needs. With adults on quality pasture, I think they may be getting as much as 25% of energy needs plus fatty acids and vitamins promoting quality chicks.
Parasite management (large round worms and coccidia) - Parasites can be a real problem when birds consume their own feces in large amounts or that has incubated for a given amount of time. Moving tractor puts birds on less feces / parasite early life-stage rich ground reducing exposure of birds to re-infection. I do not normally treat birds chemically for worms and when done treated birds are culled from flock, treated off ground then gotten rid of.
You will have to figure out how your pasture operates with your management system to protect pasture quality yet get benefits of pasture for your birds.