Pros and Cons of Chicken Tractor Over Raised Beds?

Discussion in 'Coop & Run - Design, Construction, & Maintenance' started by southernhusky, Sep 6, 2016.

  1. southernhusky

    southernhusky Chillin' With My Peeps

    Aug 30, 2015
    So I have several chickens now in my barn(about a 30 by 30 ft area) but I have about 3 acres that can be a pain to mow even with a riding mower. Also I'm wanting to start some garden beds and would like some input. I do have dogs so I have noticed virtually no predators coming onto my land(seen plenty of corn snakes, but my understanding they would only be after eggs or chicks?). Only one dog is allowed free roam and she stays mostly inside. I will be using some thick hardware cloth though just in case.

    So I am looking at making something like this....
    I'd like to make a few because I have about 5-6 different breeds and I want to separate them to have purebred eggs, as well as weeding and mowing is tedious =p

    I've watched a few videos and it does seem like moving these tractors on raised beds are also tedious, escaping birds, need to lift the entire thing(I do have 1 other person who could help with that), etc. I do like the idea of the "deep mulching" method with chickens(leave them in one area for a few weeks and continuing to add hay). We have psycho growing grass here in Alabama and for a few months my Riding Mower was broken, push mowing it sucks so only main areas got done, and OMG the weeds are taking over....I'm thinking this method will help get rid of all the grass/weeds so I have a nice, clean garden bed ready to plant on next year?

    How exactly does that work(and yes I just ordered "The Chicken Tractor" book). My understanding is you leave the chickens in one spot(or on one raised bed), keep adding hay and after a couple weeks moving the chickens to a new spot....then A)you can either plant something that likes high nitrogen & is good for feeding chickens/ repairing soil, correct? Then it grows about 4 inches and you put the chickens back for them to eat/scratch it up, after its gone then move the chickens to another spot letting that one decompose a couple weeks then plant? OR B) you can just leave it to decompose for a few months so its not too high nitrogen(do you need to turn it like a compost pile?)

    If I for some reason did not want to wait that long and did not plant greenery for chickens(could I only wait a couple weeks instead of months) and just add a few inches of top soil and go ahead and plant?

    I mean I would think I could still do the deep mulch method without actual wooden raised bed borders if I just dig up the area a bit before adding the chicken tractor and then just pile it up?

    Oh and a good part of my land was actually being used by a farmer, he had been using about an acre of my land to plant on(2-3 crops a year from what I've seen) so I imagine its fertility is poor(haven't tested it yet) and I have a fence up now but I know some of the things he sprays are definitely blown into my yard(OMG the stench for days after he fertilized his crops =( I would imagine that stuff is not good to have blown into your chicken tractors....I have not noticed it affecting the chickens in my barn but it is now a good 20 foot from the fence and the side facing fence has metal siding.

    So important question here, is this a good way to get RID of all the grass and weeds for my future garden beds without having to shovel it all out? How many inches of hay or mulch(which is better?) am I going to need to add to ensure grass/weeds don't come back(or should I add garden fabric or something on top after I remove the chicken tractor?), I do not want to fertilize the grass/ grows waaaaaayyyy too well already.
  2. Howard E

    Howard E Chillin' With My Peeps

    Feb 18, 2016
    I am also building a raised bed garden and using the birds to help do it. Mine is a longer term project. Also, my "raised beds" are not of the type you are suggesting. Mine will not have wooden borders. Mine are more or less raised or dug mounds......when built they resemble graves. Mine are only a few feet wide......what I can reach into and across from the trench that separates them. Mine should be wider in the range of 3' to 4'. What you can reach to the middle of from the trench. I'm using raised beds as my topsoil is shallow and the terrain is flat. Unless I raise the beds to get some surface drainage, garden stuff will drown in standing water.

    If you had such a chicken tractor, park it over where you want the raised bed and leave it. Birds will quickly kill all the grass and weeds. One that is gone, you can then start to add some hay and other organic matter to elevate them above the mud and it will all rot down in place. When that is built up as high as you like, then move your tractor to a new site and start over. The old site can then be lined with wood or turned and dug into place.

    To go back and let them rework it, consider using electric poultry netting for that. Move the tractor by it, and put up the poultry netting where you want them working. Probably during the winter and not during the growing season. Consider that these sites may be "hot" for a while. High in nitrogen. If you have more raised beds than you need, plant them to cover crops. Something you control. To keep the weeds down between the rows is a problem. Deep, deep mulch is what I'm using. About a foot deep to start and let the birds run around on it when the garden stuff is gone.

    If you have a lot of land and a lot of weeds, unless you really stock up on poultry, they are not going to be able to keep up with all of it. You may need some sheep or goats for that.

    On the smelly fertilizer.........commercial fertilizer does not smell. Hog manure and chicken manure from large CAFO operations are spread as fertilizer. Those do smell.......especially the stuff from hog houses. It is extremely potent stuff......both as to odor and fertility. That would make your weeds grow like nothing else.
  3. southernhusky

    southernhusky Chillin' With My Peeps

    Aug 30, 2015
    Thanks some good ideas there. I do have around 50-60 chickens so I can probably come up with enough chickens but its going to be a while before I have enough chicken tractors built but hey winters coming so perfect time to start working on it. I do like the idea of maybe using a short wooden border, then it will certainly be easier to spray and kill weeds coming up, we also have a ton of spurs. I did more reading and it does seem that many of my overgrown areas maybe too much for chickens(I've got some thick stemmed weeds 3-4 ft tall in my front pen, course the chickens enjoy hiding there) and I've been manually pulling a kids wagon full almost every day and tossing in the barn which the chickens are happily eating to bare roots/stems. Maybe they are just using manure but I know theyre spraying something else that seemed odorless(bug killer maybe? I'll have to find out). LOL I had neighbors come and complain about a nasty "chicken odor" with....6 bantam chickens in 3 large dog crates in my front pen(my mini tractors). They had no idea it was the manure sprayed on the field a couple days before. -.- Some people.

    After more reading I'm almost thinking of just Hoop Housing every raised bed. Make it thick enough material for chickens and when I'm planting I'll use the wire or netting with another material to cover the plants to protect them or it'll act as cage for tomatos or whatever. Course I would need to manually move chickens but I don't think its much more work than moving an entire tractor back and forth.

    I know they aren't that difficult to catch, bribery works well they like to sneak out the barn door whenever its opened and come running back in when I toss a handful of bird seed. Oh and this way if I eventually get my garden area fenced off(so safe from my dogs) I could also let them free ranged around beds with the plants being kept safe and the bugs being eaten.
    Last edited: Sep 6, 2016

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