Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Chicken Tractor's Final Move

As I alluded to in a previous post, the chicken tractor I built became a burden to move. I decided to park it and let it become a stationary chicken coop. I have three main reasons for this decision. The first being its weight and how hard it is to move. The second reason is shade. When I moved the coop in tractor mode, it would sit out in the blazing sun all day. The chickens would try to stay in the limited shadow the coop cast in the run. I decided to park it under one of my oak trees where it will get shade in the summer and sun in the winter. The final reason I parked it is pretty shitty. I will explain in a moment.

I had to make sure the foundation was solid. I decided to lay a bunch of 8" x 16" patio stones instead of pouring concrete, just in case I ever need to move it. The good thing about concrete is it levels itself passively with gravity. It took me a long time to level all of these stones. I used a flat shovel, a 4 ft level, a tape measure and some gin and juice. Eventually everything lined up. Note the position of the chicken tractor.

I started to arc the tractor towards its final resting spot two weeks before I put the stones down. Every two days I would move the tractor a little closer. Once I got it to this spot, the next move was its last. One of the reasons I choose this spot is it has electric at the light pole. I don't plan on using heat lamps, but you never know when you will want power for something. 

Back to the shitty reason to park the chicken tractor. When the tractor is moved, all the chicken shit is spread over the whole yard. When it is parked, you can do what is called the "deep litter" method. The principle is the same as composting your kitchen scraps. You just need to get your carbon (straw / leaves) to nitrogen (chicken shit) ratio right. The chickens will constantly scratch the straw and deposit nitrogen, efficiently turning your compost for you. It is amazing how fast a bale of straw turns into dark nutrient rich compost. I throw a lot of kitchen scraps and yard waste in as well. You can harvest this compost 3-4 times a year. I plan on letting it build up until the end of fall. I will harvest the compost and let it age on the garden beds over the winter. This will ensure the compost is not to "hot" with nitrogen when I plant in the spring.

Here is the final product, painted yellow of course to match the house, garage and dog house. The egg collection door is about 25 ft from the back door of the house. It is easy and convenient to collect the eggs everyday. We let the chickens out when we get home from work and on the weekends. Otherwise they are busy turning straw to compost.