Also, what you could do is start butchering the biggest ones at five or six weeks old, doing them gradually until you finish the last roasters at maybe twelve weeks. By then you'd be down to only two or three birds per tractor, and even in a small tractor that would be fine.
Alternatively (and it wouldn't cost any more, or at least not much more, than building the tractors) get a fence charger and a roll of electric poultry netting; provide something for a semi-portable shelter inside the netting; and 'day-range' them. Paul (the list owner here) will tell you that's the best way to do it, and I think he's probably correct.
When I was still living in New Hampshire, we lost two whole batches of chicks. First an entire batch of half-grown meat birds (to a two-legged predator, I'm sure, as my ex had insisted on leaving their pen too close to the road); then a batch of young layers to weasels. Here in Oregon I've lost quite a few birds to raccoons (although not a one this last summer, for a change), and a lot of eggs to skunks! I've been managing without electric fencing, but am preparing to get some breeding quality Salmon Faverolles, and electric fence is on the list!
In any case, a large number of birds inside a "tractor" can pretty quickly do in a patch of ground so make sure they are easy to move often, or consider a smaller number of birds.
i can count at least 50 chickens. I would cut that in 1/2 at least and probably more like 1/3 to 1/4 just so i didn't have to move the pen twice a day.
I think my next tractor will be similiar to this.
I can see already in that particular design that it needs some cross pipes at an angle for stability. there is a variety of pipe fittings that could accomomodate that need. pvc would need to be painted to protect it from the sun also and keep it from deteriorating.
I differ then alot here. I am not a huge fan of portable fencing. I would rather move a large tractor daily rather then mess with moving portable fencing. electric is ok but you have to have a good ground and a good charger access wherever your moving your fence to. this can be limiting as to where you can move your pen anyway. or leave you with a long run of electric fence or insulated wire going across the ground to your new desired paddock area. to me a large tractor is more versatile. It can go anywhere there is open somewhat level ground, be moved by simple picking it up and rolling it (no pulling up an moving lots of step in posts and tangled fencing, which having just remved a large portion of electic fence I can attest to being tedious and time consuming) and if desired can serve the exact same function. If one were trying to raise large numbers of birds then I can see where a large paddock/pasture system or movable fence is neccesary. building a tractor for 100 chickens just doesn't seem reasonable.
I suppose I can understand not liking to mess with the portable fencing but my girlz love new spaces to hunt for food so much that I guess moving the paddocks around has become a labor of love, the joy of giving the girlz special treats in a sense.
I am a pretty busy guy and would be able to move the tractor twice a day quite a bit easier than tearing down and rebuilding an electric pen every so often. Also, I am not a big fan of relying on electricity, as my goal is to be as self-reliant as possible in the end.
There are solar powered electric fence systems on the market. A farm I worked at had them and it worked well. And I'm not sure if it'd work with a chicken fence but we rotated pigs using pegged metal posts that were easily moveable. Our chicken tractor on the other hand was a big pain in the ass to move.
As far as adjusting the netting or fence we have, (not electric) it doesn't take all day or anything like that and it isn't as if we are doing it every other day.
Every so often with the netting or plastic garden fencing I find that some critter has chewed through it. Rabbits, rats, opossum, skunk, squirrel, etc can all easily chew through netting. On occasion these holes appear and we have to entice the chickens back into the run and figure out where the hole is to close it up. (Having some extra garden fencing and stakes handy to contain them when you lead them back in with some scratch.)
As to egg hunts, I suppose it will depend somewhat on the breed, but if you give them a nice nest box that they like, then they are likely to lay eggs there rather than all over the forest. I decided a chicken tractor that would be a complete coup was just too big to move easily. Now I have a mobile nest box that is separate from their night time perch house which is also portable. This way we can situate the nest box so it is easy to collect eggs and place the perch house in different locations to fertilize different patches of ground.
I need a tractor that will hold 8-12 birds, be predator proof, must be durable and able to house chickens year round. It also has to look good so no one has a problem with an "eye sore" in the yard. I found plans for a tractor that meets all these requirements but its different from any tractor I've seen. Has anyone come across this tractor before? Any thoughts? http://diychickentractors.com/home
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