Raised bed gardening and chicken tractor

Discussion in 'Gardening' started by Tegan, Feb 10, 2015.

  1. Tegan

    Tegan Out Of The Brooder

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    Jan 2, 2013
    Ok. So.....I'm planning on adding about 16 more raised beds to my garden this year. I currently have 4. They are 8' x 4'. With that in mind. I'm planning on planting at least 10 of them for us and having the others on rotation. The plan is to keep 2-3 hens (serama, seabright or silkies....small, quiet birds) in the tractor to till and fertilize the beds that we are not using. If we put the tractor onto our patio during the winter (possibly bringing the birds inside for the winter). How often would you rotate the tractor on the beds?
     
  2. lazy gardener

    lazy gardener True BYC Addict

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    You might want to pick up the book: "Chicken Tractor" by Andy Lee. He outlines various options for doing exactly what you're planning to do. You can move the tractor frequently, having them scratch the bed up, then you can follow with a green manure crop. Or you can leave the tractor over a bed for an extended time, adding mulch as needed to cover the poo. Eventually, you'll have a nice layered bed built up of hay/straw/and poo, which you can top dress with soil and plant. Depends on your goals for both your garden/soil/and chicken management. The one thing I'd suggest is that you make your tractor out of 1/2" hardware cloth instead of chicken wire. An other author, moves such a chicken tractor into her shed for the winter. She lays down a tarp, covers it with several inches of soil or compost, then does a deep litter on top of that.
     
  3. Tegan

    Tegan Out Of The Brooder

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    I'll look into that book thanks. Your suggestions have me rethinking things. At first I was just going to fill the new beds with dirt and peat....then set the hens on them for a period of time....now I'm thinking I'll just leave the boxes bare and layer poop and hay and let it compost. If I decide to go that method how long would you keep 3 small breed hens over an 8x4 box before moving them to the next? Will smell be an issue doing it this way? Chickens aren't exactly legal here, but I kept quail and rabbits for a long time with no complaints (quail weren't legal either, but I ate the noisy males pretty quick). Do you think I'd have to chop the hay for this to work properly?
     
  4. lazy gardener

    lazy gardener True BYC Addict

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    What kind of soil will you be starting with? What is your climate? Drainage issues?

    I really don't know about chopping the hay. If you have access to leaves, they'd be the perfect litter. I'd do a combination of hay and leaves. There are so very many ways to go about reaching your gardening goals. You can break the bank with purchased soil and peat, or you can do a slow but sure approach: Traditional raised bed where you move amended soil from the paths to the growing beds, or lasagna gardening, or sheet composting, or permanent deep mulch, or Back to Eden, or Hugelkulture, or hay/straw bale gardening. Then you will be throwing chickens and the blessings they provide into the mix. The options are endless. I'm a fan of all of the methods I just mentioned: some, I use every year, I'm now experimenting with hugelkulture, and will be doing a Back to Eden orchard project this spring. The only type of gardening that I don't do and haven't done for over 30 years is the typical naked soil, tilled and fluffy with straight rows of veggies marching back and forth like well trained soldiers. I have a Troy-bilt sitting in my garage, and it only comes out to play when I'm busting up hard packed new ground.
     

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