This was my flock before yesterday.
Now I've got three dead chickens and two injured. If it had been predators, I could understand. If it had been my own mistake, I'd be upset but it would make sense.
No, my chickens were killed by something simple and that we never saw coming. My grandfather thought he'd do something nice for me and move the chicken tractor since the grass was getting short where it was located. That's fine--we had talked about it days before. But evidently instead of staying in the lifted coop portion like they normally did, several chickens hopped down to investigate the moving portion and were crushed. And of course, with Murphy's law being in full effect here, two of my three favorites were amongst the victims.
I don't blame my grandfather. Far from it. But I wanted to share my story because something like this had never occurred to me as a possibility before. I've never heard of them getting caught up in the moving. We've moved the tractor several times before and all went well. The only difference was that instead of having me watching the tractors and the chickens from the back, he did it alone.
Don't move your coop alone if you can help it. Accidents can happen and they can have deadly consequences. Always have one person watching for potholes or potential accidents if you use a tractor or lawn mower to move the coop. The sound of the mower can easily drown out the signs of things going horribly wrong.
This could have been prevented pretty easily if it had even occurred to us that this could happen.
Ways to Prevent Accidents
- Always have someone watching out for anything that can get caught in machinery.
If I'd been there as I had been previously, I would have seen the chickens hop down and could have easily told him to stop before anything went wrong. These are animals. They're unpredictable.
- Build your coop so it can more easily go over small obstacles.
My coop has no wheels and relied upon being dragged with the back wall bearing all the weight. This was how the coop was created--we had bought it from someone else who had no problems with it. I wanted to put wheels on it but didn't see it as a high-priority task. If we had wheels on the coop it would have given a few inches space for obstacles like tree roots. And chickens.
- Move your coop while it is empty and the chickens are free ranging.
This is something another BYC-er mentioned to me. They only move their coop just before sunset while they let their chickens free range. That way there is plenty of room for them to get out of the way if they are frightened and panic.
- Put a door on the coop portion.
Even if your chicken tractor is predator proof, there are benefits to creating the coop portion with four walls, a solid (or grate) floor, and a ceiling. Case in point-you have the option of locking all the chickens into the coop portion with some sort of door. That way there is no chance of them getting caught up in the mechanism.
Of course all of this is just my opinion. You may never have this problem. But if you're a new chicken keeper considering a tractor, realize that this can and does happen. Tractors aren't faultless and things can go wrong. Think things through before a chicken pays the price.
The Dangers of a Tractor-style Coop
While chicken tractors are an amazing option for the new chicken keeper, there are some dangers associated. Read this article before you buy to...