Chicken tractors---space requirement?

Discussion in 'Managing Your Flock' started by RainyDayEggs, Jan 18, 2015.

  1. RainyDayEggs

    RainyDayEggs New Egg

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    May 4, 2014
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    I am starting a new system for my chickens this Spring, and I haven't been able to find much useful info on space requirements for chicken tractors. Can anyone help?

    Here's the situation: I raise pullets until they are 2.5 months. I've always kept them in a regular coop + yard, but this year I'll be doing some 200, so it won't be practical. I also have a big field I would like to turn into good pasture. So, I've decided to build totally enclosed (half covered with tarp or metal roof, and half with hardware cloth) pasture pens that would be moved daily.

    What is the minimum space each pullet would need in the pen to be comfortable? They would have new forage every day, and wouldn't be in the pen after they were 2-3 months old.

    My other question: is it a good idea to use chickens to till land so that I can replant in the fall? I don't want them standing around in mud for too long, but I would like to use them to break sod, if possible.

    Thank you so much! I know it will be a lot of trial and error, but it's been a fun process so far!
     
  2. hennible

    hennible Overrun With Chickens

    Well I know it's 10 ft.² per bird in a run 4 in a coop for large breeds... 2 ft.² in a coop for a bantam... Because you're going to be able to move the run and give them fresh pasture once you get down to the mud I would personally think you can go below 10 ft.² per bird... Someone who raises meaties in tractors will probably be able to help you better with space requirements. I think using tractors to break the sod and get down to the topsoil is a great idea. Once we get closer to spring I'd like to stick my flock in my greenhouse until they get down to the sod. Makes good natural gardening sense to me.
    Hope You get some space requirement answer soon.
     
  3. lazy gardener

    lazy gardener Chicken Obsessed

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    Correct me if I'm wrong, but 10 ft. squared = 100 s.f. The standard is 10 s.f. per bird in the run, and 4 s.f. per bird in the coop. I would suggest that you look into electronet poultry fencing. You can fence an area of 1600 s.f. ( 40' x 40') with a single length of fencing. Then you could put covered roosting frames in the area. This would be safe from all but aerial predator attack. I'd recommend that you make those roosting frames a bit more secure: perhaps cattle panel covered by chicken wire and tarps so you could close them in at night. I've never done such a large operation, just tossing out a few ideas. You'll have to do the research, and find out what your predator load is in your area, and then decide how best to proceed. In terms of them tilling that pasture up for you: I don't know how much they'll actually do. They'll remove the vegetation that they like, may leave behind the stuff that they don't care for. Will they till it down like a field that's been machine cultivated? Absolutely not. But they will fertilize it, and improve it immensely. How big is this pasture? Is it flat? or is there risk of nitrogen run off into the local streams? You mentioned "them standing in mud" Is this field wet? What is your plan for all of these birds in the fall?
     
  4. RainyDayEggs

    RainyDayEggs New Egg

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    May 4, 2014
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    Thanks! I've looked into electronet, but since these are chicks I worried it wouldn't contain them. Also I am mainly concerned about aerial attacks in this area.

    I've seen chicken tractors for broilers that afford about 2-3 square feet per bird--often less. I guess I was wondering if pullets (not just feeder-obsessed Cornish X) need more than that, or if it's ok to use the same calculations if the tractor is moved daily. And since these pullets will all be sold by the time they are 2.5 months, they won't need laying boxes or as much space (just logically... I have no idea :) ).

    And this will only be through Spring and Summer--all birds will be gone by the time heavy rains and cold weather starts up again. The field isn't wet, and it's reasonably flat. It's just never been planted in pasture grasses, so the forage isn't as good as it could be.

    Thanks again!
     
  5. donrae

    donrae Hopelessly Addicted Premium Member

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    Up to 3 months I think you'd be fine with something like 4 square feet per bird. I'd plan on several smaller tractors with fewer birds. You'll just have to watch them and see how they do. Moving the tractor to fresh grass daily will help combat behaviors. Keeping the tractor in place and having them prep a garden bed is a great idea, but if the ground is so wet they're in mud it's no good. I don't think they're going to really break sod, but they'll break up the top inches. You can add straw as bedding and let them work that in as a semi-raised bed.
     
  6. lazy gardener

    lazy gardener Chicken Obsessed

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    I just started reading a book that would be right up your alley. Chicken Tractor by Andy Lee. He may address your space concerns. He also provides a lot of useful information that you might be able to use in your planning. An other book that I've read cover to cover, and highly recommend is: The Small Scale Poultry Flock by Harvey Ussery. You should be able to find them both, or even order them at your local library.
     
  7. hennible

    hennible Overrun With Chickens

    Small scale poultry flock is a great book. That one I own.
     
  8. donrae

    donrae Hopelessly Addicted Premium Member

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    I read Chicken Tractor also. Loved the concept, but I found his economics either way outdated or very regional. No way I can get straw as cheap as he was talking about. Did get some good ideas though.
     
  9. lazy gardener

    lazy gardener Chicken Obsessed

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    I agree with you, Donrae. I find the writing difficult to follow. But, am gleaning what I can. I can't touch mulch hay in my area for less than $3/bale. I've just gotten to the info dealing with Comfrey. Have bought some root cuttings, and hope they pull through the winter ok. Hoping that I'll have the energy to design a solar heated dryer, and be able to dry some to augment winter feed.
     

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