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What's A Chicken Tractor?

Hope you guys all enjoyed the Low Carb Chicken Pot Pie from last week. Feel free to send these emails on to your friends so they can enjoy them as well.

One of the things I talked about last week was the different kind of care we give our chickens. Remember there is two different mindsets on raising chickens. The industrial model is to keep as many birds in one area as possible, and react to problems with steroids, antibiotics, clipping beaks, and a crazy amount of work to remove manure and dead carcasses. The holistic model is to return birds as close to a natural environment as possible to give them a healthier and happier life so all the other drastic measures aren't necessary.

The easiest methods I found for the number of birds that we want to manage is by using a chicken tractor. I know that for many of you, the words "chicken tractor" bring an idea to your head of some type of farm tractor driven by a chicken, and while that thought is amusing, a real chicken tractor is even more fascinating.

Before the domestication of chickens, their ancestors, just like all other farm animals, lived in the wild. Chickens are a somewhat formidable prey, especially in a group. Chickens roost in the lower branches of trees at night for safety. Chickens are scroungers and scavengers by nature, eating bugs and worms they scratch up with their feet, any seeds and small nuts they may find on the ground, and some of the green plants growing on the ground.

You could probably imagine how hard it would be to manage a flock of chickens that just run wild though, think of Rocky in his first movie where he's trying to catch one chicken. Traditionally a farm would keep the chickens in a fenced in area with a stationary chicken coop, but the problem with this is that the chickens scratch the ground bare and their manure tends to start piling up which makes it necessary to do manual cleaning and removal.

A Chicken Tractor, is a mobile living area that is protected by chicken wire and hardware cloth that has a feeder, a waterier, and built in shade, and a roosting bar, and access to fresh grass with it's bugs and worms every day. Each morning you just go out and drag it one full tractor length forward to get them off of yesterdays grass and manure and the old section starts breaking down the manure and growing new grass. Fill up their feeder and water and they are set for the day.

Some people may look at the chicken tractor and think that this is like prison, but think of it from the standpoint of a relatively simple animal's perspective... I have a clean environment, it's not too crowded in here, that chicken hawk that flew by yesterday couldn't get me, I have all the food I want, these sweet tasty greens are always around me, my life is pretty good right now.

You could easily manage a flock of 100 birds at a time with 3 or 4 of these chicken tractors next to each other running up and down the pasture. In addition to raising healthy and tasty chicken, you're also helping save the environment. More than 1/3 of the increasing carbon in the atmosphere is a result of tilling soil. The ground and our atmosphere is like a big carbon battery. You till the ground, carbon goes into the atmosphere, plants then take in the carbon to grow. The problem is when more carbon is in the atmosphere than in the ground, and their is only one solution to that problem, and that is to find a way to make the carbon stable enough to stay put. If you haven't guessed by now, it is only through grazing and scrounging animals that eat the green plants that don't need the ground tilled to replant or regenerate, and then depositing carbon back on the soil in the form of manure and decomposing organic matter that we can reverse this carbon emission imbalance.


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