Wednesday, November 3, 2010

New poultry tractor

 Back of our newest turkey tractor

We've been using portable pens for young chickens and turkeys for about seven years now. Our first one was too light weight, and it only lasted one season. It was made with PVC pipe. A week before Thanksgiving, the wind grabbed it and blew it so high that it shattered when it hit the ground. I never wanted another one. But Mike liked them.

Our second chicken tractor design had lots of wood to make it heavy.
He made three new ones with lots of wood, so they would be too heavy to blow away. Their weight, however, made them extremely difficult to move, even though he put pop-up wheels on the corners.

One of them fell apart this summer, because wood doesn't mix well with wind and rain. I was kind of surprised it lasted for five years. So we needed a second portable pen for turkeys. I found this design online. It uses livestock panels that have been bent over to create the frame. I really like the fact that we can walk into it. A disadvantage of both of our previous designs was the height. To catch chickens or turkeys, someone had to crawl in there on hands and knees, which was difficult and dirty, even if you moved the pen to clean grass moments before crawling in there.

We don't usually split gobblers and hens, but we decided to try it this year. We put the five boys in the new pen and left the eight hens in the old one. Although the boys don't look that big, they usually weigh about five pounds more than the hens (15 pounds versus 10 pounds), which is why we decided that it was fair for only five of them to have their own pen. And in case you missed my earlier post about the turkeys, they're White Hollands, which is a heritage breed that is critically endangered of extinction. Don't let their white feathers fool you -- they're a far cry from the modern supermarket mutants.

I'm sorry I don't have a picture of the front of the new pen. I tried five times to upload it, and Blogger would have a nervous breakdown every time. Either the picture wouldn't display, or it was distorted, so I finally gave up.


rachel whetzel said...

LOVE this idea!! I may have to try it for my chicken tractor!! I need something new. The one we have is a "we've never done this, so let's make it 3 feet high" version. Same problems you had. lol Can you share a photo of the other side!?

Amy said...

We just bought a whole bunch of live stock panels, and have some leftover. Thanks for the tip!

Anonymous said...

What's the benefit of keeping them confined in a 'tractor' vs. letting them free-range? It looks like more work as the tractor has to be moved I would guess every 1-2 days.

Deborah @ Antiquity Oaks said...

Rachel, I'll have to take another pictures of the other side. I don't understand why Blogger didn't like the picture of the front, but it would not show up, or it would be tall and skinny and distorted. I've never had that problem before.

Anonymous, You're right that it is more work to have them in a tractor. They have to be moved once a day. I don't like it. However, it protects them from predators. And for heritage turkeys, it keeps them from flying off. They can easily fly over fences. We let broad-breasted turkeys live in the pasture and free range, because they can't fly. We used to let the heritage turkeys free range, but we spent a lot of time chasing them home. And then one year, we had 20 of them disappear in a single day, so I'm sure they just wandered off. That was a huge financial loss!

Twwly said...

That's what we move our chickens in. I would definitely advise against making them tall if you don't have wind breaks. (We don't).

We can't let our chickens run, there are too many predators... including my own chicken killing dog being top on that list.

We move them every day (which is HARDLY any work, honestly, especially if you make yours with wheels) and they get to enjoy fresh grass and bugs, while remaining protected. You have all of an extra one minute moving a tractor while you go out to do your chores, in my experience anyway.

Our chicken tractors are Salatin style. But we don't put any tin down the sides, just 3/4 of the top. The don't have wheels. Are most easily moved with 2 people, but I moved mine solo almost every day this summer, just jumping them up a spot side to side.

The turkey tractor we use, holds comfortably 2 dozen, I can "almost" stand in up, but it's made of welded steel, with poultry square up the sides and tarp on top. It has a very clever wheel mechanism that makes it VERY easy to use and secure down, both.

Twwly said...

I'll just add that the destroyed patch of grass we moved them from happened in 1 day. (We had rain the day before which makes for extra mud) and this picture was taken at the height of their maturity, right before slaughter.

The grass that grows back in it's place is easily 20% brighter than the surrounding turf. It's BEAUTIFUL. And grows back surprisingly quickly too.

Anonymous said...

For chickens I use electrified poultry netting. It's easy to move around and lets me fence in a rather large area. The chickens can run, climb trees/shrubs and chase bugs to their hearts content. They sleep in a converted coop on wheels (using an old hay wagon base) which gets moved around with the fence--it's also where they lay their eggs. I really enjoy watching them in the pasture. I think I'd have a hard time seeing them so confined in a tractor. In 2 years I've lost 3 chickens to hawks in the pasture arrangement. The only other chickens I lost were to a mink and were being housed in a Salatin style tractor. They were young birds I was growing on which would eventually join the chickens in the pasture. The mink got under the tractor and the birds were trapped. I don't think I would have lost them had they been free to escape. I did eventually kill the mink with the back of a shovel when he had another chicken in his mouth. That solved the problem.
As far as turkeys, I've had the same experience with losing heritage breeds. I solved the roaming problem by putting down a little more feed than I did before and it seems to have solved the problem though they do sleep anywhere: on top of the barn, in trees, in the barn rafters . . . but it's entertaining!


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