Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Home to Roost!

Yes, I have been MIA for a few weeks around this here blog, but I have been busy. Busy building a home for my babies. Who are not really babies anymore. They still have some growing to do, but all feathered out they look like grown up chickens now. And now that they get to live outside and scratch and peck in the grass all day they are some happy girls. And one boy, who so far is a nice boy and we plan to keep him, especially if he plays nice and helps a hen go broody to make more chickens. If I want eggs and meat it would be great to have a self perpetuating system of new chicken production. And nobody raises baby chicks better than mama hen.

Ok, on to the tractor. Here is the whole thing, set up next to the garden:

Above the open grass area is a roosting box on the left and a nesting box with two nests for laying eggs on the right. You can see the two openings for the nests, which are blocked off right now since nobody is old enough to lay any eggs yet.

This view shows the door to the roost. They get up there just by flying up to the bars I put there for them. They also like to hang out up there sometimes.
This is the access door for the food and water containers. The rocks are holding some mesh in place to discourage digging predators. The other three sides have it in place already but I have not added it to this side because the door construction didn't allow for me to extend the mesh down. I will staple some in place soon because moving it around could get annoying and it won't be as effective until it is attached. I plan to leave the tractor here next to the garden for a while and let the chickens dig it up as much as they like since this spot will be a future flower/herb/medicinal plant bed outside the fence for the veggie garden. Otherwise, the tractor will be moved to fresh grass every other day or so. This will keep the grass from being over-fertilized and over-scratched, and provide fresh bugs and grass for the chickens to dine on.

This is a view of the sliding door to the nesting boxes. It is all set to go for when the girls are ready to lay. Which is what this whole adventure is really about - farm fresh eggs!
I had fun piecing this tractor together from what wood I had on hand, pretty much. It was a challenge to do the design not from pie in the sky materials but what I had in front of me. I like it better that way. In some ways it is harder, but I actually find it easier in ways. Easier to limit the possibilities and just go with what works, here and now. Of course, it ended up looking like I pieced it together from what I had on hand! But I like it. And so do the chickens.
Funny story. I now know why no one ever says "smart as a chicken". The first night came and none of the chickens had figured out how to get up to the roost. Being the mother hen that I am, I gently picked them all up and placed them one by one on to the roost inside the box (the roof comes off to make that task easy, not to mention cleaning out the box). I figured if they woke up in the morning light and could not figure out how to get down and out of the box, there was no help for them! So, first night went well. C even woke up to pee in the middle of the night and snuck out to check on them! Next night, the dusk was falling fast and little rooster starts up a distress type call, trying to do his job of protecting the flock. He knew it was time to find shelter for the night, but that is where his help ended. I went over and tried to show them the way back to the roost to no avail. Each one I put up there would go right back out again. C told me to let them alone and see what they would do. Eventually they all made it in, but not without a lot of worrying from this mama hen. I'm keeping my fingers crossed that they will figure it out tonight!
UPDATE: All six chickens made it into the roost tonight without my help! It only took 'em four nights!


Stephanie said...

I think it looks awesome! I can't believe you put it together with what you had on hand! You're a pretty amazing chicken mama.

TheOrganicSister said...

wow. it does look great. hauling it sounds like a real pain in the arse. does it move easily? i've seen some with wheels.


Miranda said...

Thanks gals! I did buy a couple things to finish it, a piece of plywood for the roof and the hardware cloth, but the rest of the wood was in my "stash".
It was made with the thinnest lightest stuff, so it really is pretty easy to move. A can help me when C is not home. I could drag it by myself if I had to. The hardest part of moving it is being sure not to squish any chicken toes as you go! But the annoying part to move right now is the pieces of hardware cloth I have not yet stapled on, not the whole tractor itself.

Eli said...

Met a women on Sunday from Ithaca (now lives in Vienna)and I told her all about you! She'd bought a necklace from me. But what I realized was that I should have taken some time to come up and visit!!! She didn't know your family. She told me about Little Rascals being filmed there. And how it almost became a Hollywood.
The weeks have been a success, so I see myself coming out here more often. So hopefully next time!

Anonymous said...

Looks great. C

Silvia said...

Beautiful chicken tractor!