When I first heard the term “chicken tractor,” I could not come up with a suitable mental picture. What on EARTH is a chicken tractor? These words don’t really work together. Cue the YouTube videos! Joel Salatin is one of our favorites to get ideas from, and many of them are freely available online.

A chicken tractor is a low, lightweight wooden frame, wrapped in chicken wire, and roofed and sided with aluminum or pvc sheeting. We made ours 10 ft by 12 ft by 2 ft. lt generally has two lids, one covered in sheeting and one in chicken wire. The feeder lives under the covered lid, and the waterer lives under the wire lid.

Hens eating

Admittedly, the system isn’t perfect. A determined coyote CAN tear through the chicken wire and dine on broiler. An enterprising raccoon HAS managed to move a lid just enough to get in and grab an unfortunate bird. We also occasionally roll a chicken under the edge of the tractor as we move it. But all things considered, it works wonderfully well and yields some great results.

This fall we had our first experience with what happens when a serious storm gets hold of one of these lightweight structures as it sits on a hill. The entire thing was picked up and tossed 100 yards or so across the pasture. We lost nearly every bird in the tractor, 5 days before their processing date. It was a hard loss to take.

That seems to be the way of this whole farming enterprise. Losses and gains. Gambles made that sometimes pay off and sometimes end…badly. We are learning to take the bad with the good, to admit our shortcomings and make adjustments for the next time. But also to just accept that so much is outside our control. We can do our jobs perfectly and still not get the expected results. Only God knows the end from the beginning, and our job is to do the right things for the right reasons, and leave the results to Him.


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meat cut