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Chicken Tractors and Eggs

 
Patrick Woolson
Posts: 5
Location: Texas
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So, the obvious point here is I am new to this whole thing and don't yet have any animals. However, we do plan on adding chickens to our farm for both meat and eggs. I've read much on this subject and realize that free-range is the ideal. However there are a number of hawks and I see them daily. I'm almost certain the minute I put a chicken in open pasture it will be the hawk's dinner. Thus I am considering using a chicken tractor (yes, I just heard that gasp..hehehe).

Anyway, if I do choose this route I have in mind a plan that also incorporates nesting boxes. My concern here though is from what I've read, chickens are less likely to lay when they are stressed. This makes me wonder if they get too stressed by moving every day or two to actually lay eggs.

Does anyone have experiential proof for or against this hypothesis?
 
John Elliott
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Patrick Woolson wrote: This makes me wonder if they get too stressed by moving every day or two to actually lay eggs.

Does anyone have experiential proof for or against this hypothesis?


No. My chickens live in a pup-tent size chicken tractor. It has a base that is 4'x8', two raised boxes at either end, and a perch connecting the two boxes. The 32 sq. ft. of dirt scratching space is enough for 3 birds, and with 3 healthy birds, I can reliably get 5 eggs every 2 days in egg-laying season. They may undergo a molt in fall and quit laying for a while, but when they start up again in January or February, I am once again well supplied with eggs.

Their tractor moves all over the grassy part of the back yard, and while they can tear up a new patch in the course of a couple days, it grows back fairly quick. I move the tractor multiple times per day; whenever I have some feed for them, I toss it on the ground and lift and move the tractor over it. They can't wait to jump in and scratch and see what goodies I have brought. I sometimes lift up the pup tent and let them out for supervised forage sessions, and when I want them to go back under the tent, some corn tossed inside is all the encouragement they need to return home. Mine seem to be unstressed at 10 sq. ft. per bird. I have read where 5 sq ft per bird is when the crowding stress starts to set in, so you might keep that figure in mind as you plan your setup.
 
Rob Arnold
Posts: 10
Location: Ontario
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This is our first year with chickens, so I'm by no means an expert. We have 6 hens in a tractor, and they've been laying nearly 6 eggs a day on average since the Spring. Their laying cycle seems to change slowly and migrates to different times of the day, but they seem to be predominately "morning" layers, and lay in the first half of the day. When we feed/water in the morning there is usually one or two in a nesting box by the time we get there, no matter how early we get up. I too heard that they don't like stress, so we only move the tractor in the evenings after they're probably done laying. Though, I wonder the moving stresses them at all. At first they stressed when my wife or I would walk to the tractor, but they quickly got over it. Same with the dogs. If anything, they rush to us because they know they'll be getting fresh slugs, greens, or food. So I wonder if they've been conditioned to the same response when the tractor moves: "oh boy! more grass to scratch!".
 
Patrick Woolson
Posts: 5
Location: Texas
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Thank you so much for the replies! This helps a lot.
 
jimmy gallop
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Location: east and dfw texas
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They adjust to things that don't endanger them quickly
I use my chickens in tractors to clear for planting at times
after they have been there a few days they have ate and knocked down what was there I dump some ground cover like leaves and or hay
let them spread that out then move them, and plant. makes the easiest garden you'll have.
I free range mine at times keep them pined at times have lost very few grown ones to hawks but they will take the small ones given the opportunity and will learn .that said hawks do travel like nomadic so pick your time to free range . spring and baby's not a good time.
I did have a young eagle take one and was glad to give it to him or her was a sight to see.
 
D Cooper
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If you wish to totally free range or semi-free range, sometimes you can get away with a stationary coop because they will roam about throughout the day. I recommend building coops or pens that the birds can go underneath. Chickens and ducks alike are pretty aware of flying predators and will seek shelter. I actually watched a large Red-tail hawk land within 10 yds of my mobile coop. When he was heading towards them they all went underneath and my rooster posted up for a fight. The hawk didn't stay on the ground long, but did come back around for another look. If you go with a bit larger breed of chicken, I believe it helps against them falling prey to hawks or owls. I also believe in having at least one rooster, if possible. I recently posted a video on the following thread: chicken coops/runs/tractors
 
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