Chicken tractor on what? Steroids. Yep. That’s right.
This system takes all the composting power of chickens and multiplies it.
Let’s back up a bit.
A chicken tractor is basically a mobile chicken coop that can be moved around your yard keeping the chickens safe and contained while giving them fresh grass and fertilizing the soil.
Karl Hammer of Vermont Compost Company developed a system to feed over 600 chickens with food waste collected from local businesses. The chickens live off this waste, fertilize it, and break it down into a rich compost that gets sold to local gardeners. (This video shows how he does it: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IWChH9MHkHg)
Permaculture expert Geoff Lawton combined these two concepts to create the chicken tractor on steroids. For us it is a system that supplements our chicken’s food while providing us with compost.
Let’s take a look:
This mobile coop can hold up to 35 chickens. It provides a safe spot to sleep at night, shade and protection underneath during the day, and has 4 nesting boxes for laying hens. The large wheels and handlebar make it movable over uneven terrain. We got plans for this tractor (aka Chickshaw) from Justin Rhodes at Abundant Permaculture.
Like any compost pile you need to add carbon and nitrogen. We used chicken bedding, straw from the pig pen, leaves, cow manure, and grass clippings. These elements are contained in a ring made of hardware cloth. We put the chicken’s food on top of the compost pile. The chickens eat their food, scratch at the compost and add their own manure.
When the ring of compost is full you start a new ring and turn the original compost. The original compost has begun to break down and is filled with microbial life that supplements the feed we give the chickens. The piles are turned weekly (or bi-weekly like we did) and in about a month become compost that can be added to the garden.
My original pile has given me four wheelbarrows of compost with several more to rake up. Working with the chickens this way will give us a continuous supply of compost from the waste generated on our property. This system really works!
Please note this is a basic overview and there are many more details involved in the process. If you would like to learn more Billy Bond at Perma Pastures has a series of videos. He was our inspiration. You can find his playlist here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CJjhO3CmjLk&list=PLaAkONMPbRRdpu49GNp-vHfOP7qb2DNDa