putting a chicken tractor in dirt vegi garden

Discussion in 'Coop & Run - Design, Construction, & Maintenance' started by opihiman911, Nov 10, 2007.

  1. opihiman911

    opihiman911 Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I am in the process of expanding my flock from a half dozen RIR laying hens to possible 15-20 mixed barnyard layers. I currently have my chickens in a fixed 4x8' coop with a 4x20' outdoor run that is on the side of a shed. While the outside run is big enough I have to expand my coop and nest boxes in the next couple months to account for my bigger flock.

    I was toying with the idea of building a movable tractor that can house 20 layers and put it in my dirt vegi garden. I am hoping my chickens will till/scratch the soil and add organic nutrients from their manure, feathers and feed. I would move the tractor after each vegi harvest, every 3-4 months. I already divide my garden in quarters and rotate crops every harvest so there is a quarter of my garden fallow, that is where I would put the tractor. I grow year round here so it would be constantly on the move

    Will this idea work?

    I was wondering about having a dirt floor. While it doesn't rain alot here, mostly during the winter, I don't like muddy eggs. In my current run, twice a year I dump garbage cans of free greenwaste compost for the flooring. It adds 6" of compost on the bottom and take 4-6 months to get thrown about and broken down to where I get dirt floor again. I'm not sure it would break down fast enough in my garden to where I can plant.

    Also what about their manure. Will it be too hot and fresh to move the coop every 3-4 months and the next week till under with my tiller and then plant tender crops like lettuce, chinese peas, zucchini & herbs?

    What about when I water my garden. I know the expression madder than a wet hen. Right now I water my whole garden at once and the chickens would get wet if they stay outside. It never gets cold here so that isn't a problem. Will the the daily shower disrupt their laying cycle or will they just go under cover for the hour of watering? Or will the enjoy the "rain" during the hot summers when I have to water every day?

    What about size? For 20 hens, 4sq feet per chicken would be 80 sq foot coop That is a 5x16' movable coop!!!! Is 4 sq'/chicken for just a coop? or does that figure in run space also? My garden is about 25'x20' so my fallow area is rotated between 12x10 quardants and 6x20' strips depending on what mood I am in [​IMG]

    Any suggestions or ideas? I'm in no rush, just in the planning stage right now. Anyone else out there have their tractor in their gardens?

    Thank You & Aloha,
    Cory
     
  2. ChickMomma

    ChickMomma Out Of The Brooder

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    Cory,
    I have my tractor in my garden but it only houses 3 chickens at the most. I move it every week in the fall / winter / early spring but do not use it in the summer as the whole garden gets planted then. You might think of 2 smaller coops that would be more easily moved. I have a nest box that I put on the floor of the tractor that the chickens lay their eggs in to keep them out of the dirt. I also think as long as you are only watering the garden for say an hour every day that the chickens would seek shelter. Another option would be to put a roof or shelter over the run portion of the tractor.
    S.
     
  3. Dawn419

    Dawn419 Lost in the Woods

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    Chicken manure should be composted for a year before using in the garden. The high nitrogen content of their pooh will burn plants up.

    Dawn
     
  4. patandchickens

    patandchickens Flock Mistress

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    It might help you a lot if you could talk with other actual Hawaiian chicken gardeners (anyone you know? anyone you drive past?) because I would suspect that manure composts down to a safe point a LOT faster there than it does in a temperate climate.

    80 sq ft would be two 4x10' coops, which sounds reasonable to me...

    Good luck,

    Pat, in Canada, jealous of your year-round veggies [​IMG]
     
  5. ozzie

    ozzie Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I'm setting up the same system - I'm in Australia though. It is possible and I know someone in Australia who's been doing it (and I'm using his ideas).

    http://forum.backyardpoultry.com/viewtopic.php?t=3874

    that's the post that started it all for me - I've been lurking in both forums to get ideas to build the tractor for the garden beds. In Raph's system above, the chicken manure composts as it goes along - the tractor stays on the bed for 3-4 months (or less) and then after it's moved, you can pretty much plant in it straight away (although personally I'd probably wait a week). Anyway, he's done it for a couple of years now and he seems pretty happy with it. It's a great idea - but the size of your tractor is restricted to the size of your vegetable beds therefore the number of chickens you can keep is also 'restricted'. He only keeps 2 in his tractor and that's how many I will keep in mine as well. It's a permaculture type set up and it suits the suburban garden well.

    I've been busy reading and trying to narrow down how I want my tractor built but when it's done I'll take pics (and probably work in progress ones as well) and post. Wish me luck.

    Ozzie
     

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