Saturday a friend called to tell me he was getting a bunch of chickens from a flooded commercial chicken house. The birds that the chicken catchers weren’t able to get had been sealed up in the house without food or water, left to die from dehydration and ammonia. He and his brother ended up with over 70 chickens, some of which had to be killed due to illness or injury. The 60 remaining birds literally covered the floor of his small coop so he offered half to me.
I drove to his house yesterday to loaded up 30 birds that are now living fairly happily in one of my chicken tractors. It’s a tough transition for birds that spent all 4 weeks of their lives in a climate controlled house with food and water right in front of them, especially when their eyes and lungs are burned from the ammonia and they’ve gone three days without water. So far all 30 are still alive. I’m feeding them laying mash while I start some fodder in the basement. If I can keep them alive long enough I plan to feed them wheat fodder with the layer feed and give them some old canned pears to help fatten them up for processing in 2 weeks. This is the second time in the past few months that I’ve come across free commercial birds that I’ve been able to detox for a couple weeks then process. The result is a nice fat chicken that is close to the quality of my pasture raised birds for almost no cost.
The birds have two dog houses with hay in the bottom so they can stay warm at night. The feed pan is right in front of the dog houses and the hanging water bucket is also close by. Hopefully they stay alive for a couple weeks.
We have 26 baby rabbits right now. 26!
There are seven in a tractor, eating grass. They are 7 1/2 weeks old. They are doing very well on a total-grass diet.
In the garage, we have nineteen.
We have eight with our top right rabbit (so named because she is in the top right cage); they are 2 1/2 weeks old.
We have five with our bottom left rabbit (ditto the name); they were 2 weeks old yesterday.
Lastly, we have seven two-day old babies with our bottom right rabbit. This is her first litter that she’s actually made a nest and pulled fur for, so we have high hopes for survival! (They are one day old in the picture.)
We aren’t expected more babies until the middle of next month. Until then, we have to figure out what to do with the rabbits that aren’t in a tractor. That’s a lot of rabbits to rotate through the yard!
For the past year or so, we’ve been getting eggs from my parents, who have chickens. But now… let the fun begin! Danny found two eggs today.
They’re rather small, as far as eggs go, but the chickens will give us larger and larger eggs. I am dreaming of the days when I have enough eggs to make Quiche, angel food cake, sponge cake, massive family size omelets…
The chickens are no longer in their tractors. Instead, they all live in one of our back goat pens. The poor Freedom Ranger rooster gets picked on by everyone, including the Freedom Ranger hen. But now I only have to feed and water them, not move them. And they’re worth the time since they give us eggs!
Such good little chickens we have!
A chicken tractor is in its simplest form a mobile chicken pen. They can be built as a simple enclosure, or as elaborate coops complete with nest boxes and feeders.
There are two theories on the origin of the name. The first is that the name comes from the larger enclosures being dragged behind a truck or tractor. The second is that the chickens will dig up and fertilize the ground, thereby replacing the tractor. Both theories work; maybe they’re both true. Continue reading Why Chicken Tractors?
I understand free-ranging. I do. You set the animals free, they eat, they get fat. You don’t have to feed them grain or hay. And, best of all, it doesn’t matter if they escape because they are already free.
Continue reading Escape Artists
Something occurred to me this morning while I stood hunched over an inch of slippery, slimy chicken poop in the bottom of a kiddie pool, grabbing madly for 51 chicks desperate to not be caught. This is why nobody wants to be a farmer any more. There I was, splattered with manure, on the verge of falling on my face, while the rest of the world snored away. Continue reading Growing Up and Moving Out