Our version of a chook tractor is a 6m x 1.5m mammoth that consists of 4 parts – a lay box, a covered back part with roosts, a middle joining piece with a small entrance gate and then a front part with a massive gate. Each part can be unhooked from each other and with big effort be moved between the vegetable beds and then be re-attached to each other parts again. Portable chook tractor by numbers kind of thing. Barely portable may be a better description… The initial idea was to rotate a small number of adult hens (2 or 3) through the vegetable beds to assist us in preparing the beds for the next planting. We even had these two-week slots planned in on our planning board.
But then things changed again, as they do. The big project we did to redo most of the vegetable garden as no-dig beds basically reduced the need for the tractor over the last winter. So the tractor never got used, but it had to be moved somewhere. So it just got detached and the pieces were each moved to some beds that we left dormant over winter. However, now recently, at last we had a bed that we wanted to re-do, but without digging it all out. There are some herbs in there that we want to keep, but parts of the bed have gone to shambles and need to be redone. Well, we might as well use the tractor!
Luckily the roost part was already on that particular bed, because it is the hardest part to move. With some clever wedging and use of a mover’s dolly I got the front part to the other side of the vegetable garden and joined them all up. We had to get two extra waterers – so we replaced the small ones we used in the free-range area with big ones, and we put the small ones inside the tractor.
Markus caught Sock and Rockwell, the two Wyandotte hens, and we put them inside the tractor. He has an amazing approach with the chooks – I would’ve had to chase and corner them, especially like that in broad daylight, but he just talks gently to them and they allow him to pick them up. OK, he does get Sock more easily than Rockwell, but that is probably because Sock was “his” chick when we hatched them out. He still regularly plays with Sock or feed her special treats. But still, he got Rockwell so easily and gently too.
The two Wyandotte hens are quite funny. When they’re in the mansion coop’s area with the two roosters Sunny (Light Sussex) and Midnight (a super-cheeky Scott grey), they always seem to try and get away from there. Which they do – they’re notorious fence hoppers. But I must add that they are seen as easy targets by both Sunny and Midnight. But now that they are separated in the peaceful surrounds of the “holiday caravan”, at times they seem to be calling back to the others on the other side of the property. They just don’t seem to be able to make up their minds where they want to be. Anyway, for now, they have their work cut out for them.