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The Farmers-Shail & Sarah           

Our Models

Chicken Tractor

Comparison of models

Hoop House

Sustainability

Trials and Tribulations

Planned Improvements

 

Comparison of Hoop House to the Chicken Tractor

 

Predators:

            We have lost at least 16 birds housed in the Hoop House to predators and none from the Chicken Tractor. We think that the culprit is a weasel finding its way through or beneath the electric fence, although one night of predation may have been due to not hooking up the electric fencing properly. During the day the lack of netting above the pastured chickens makes them vulnerable to hawks, especially when they are small. We suspect that we have lost some chickens to a hawk that has been hanging around. We also often found chickens outside of the netting when they were smaller which may have led to some losses that we are unaware of.

We expected to have more problems with predators with the Chicken Tractor because it is bottomless and predators often dig into chicken coops, but it appears that its weight, overhead protection and moving it frequently deters predators. We have not lost any birds to predators from the CT

 

Mobility:

            The HH is very difficult to move by hand. It is extremely heavy and takes two people pushing or a truck to move.

            The CT was hard to move at first but has become much easier since I installed a better handle. A custom dolly will make it even easier to pull along the ground. It is hard to move long distances though, which is problematic if it needs to be moved to a new pasture or close to an electric outlet for repairs.

           

Land impact:

            Our first HH model didnít have a floor and despite moving the HH every few days the ground inside got too high a concentration of feces. We installed a new wire floor and tarps beneath collect the feces and now the ground underneath the HH doesnít get too much wear. However the land just outside the entrance still receives excessive fecal deposits and grazing. The rest of the enclosure is grazed and defecated on fairly evenly and recovers (has new lush growth) within a week or two of the chickens being moved off.

            The CT causes more intense grazing but the birds are moved each day, preventing overgrazing. After moving the CT the grass recovers within a week or two. Feces are spread out except for the corner where they sleep, but this accumulation is small enough that the pasture absorbs it within two to three weeks.

 

Efficiency:

            The HH set up takes more time to move. The fencing must be taken down, the HH moved and the fencing put back up, but it accommodates many more birds--at least four times the number of layers and two times the number of meat birds.

            The CT is much quicker to move but canít accommodate laying hens easily because nest boxes add so much more weight to the CT.

 

Fossil fuel use:

            Currently the HH requires a truck to move with one person

            The CT is moved only by hand

Cost:

            The total cost of the HH so far is $1600, or approximately $10 per layer in the first year

            The total cost of the CT so far is $400, also approximately $10 per layer or $5 per meat chicken in the first year

Accommodations:

            The HH has a much larger area protected from rain in which nest boxes and roosts can be situated. Roosts are important for keeping the birds off the cold wet ground during the rainy season.

            The CT can be fitted with nest boxes and roosts but these items make it much too heavy for daily moving. Meat chickens are only raised in the summer so ground roosting is not as much of a concern.