I’m the first to admit that chickens are not my thing, but the quality of eggs you get from happy chooks has to be tasted to be believed. With a well fenced orchard doubling as a chicken run, keeping chooks at The Rock Farm was a simple decision.
Aiding our decision to keep chickens was a couple of young entrepreneurs who offered to look after the chooks. In exchange they would sell us the eggs. It seemed a good deal – although I haven’t had the heart to break their business model by charging them for the chook food!
Over the past couple of years, our herd of chickens had grown to over 12 chooks and 4 ducks. But all was not well in the chook world. Slowly our egg production had dwindled to nothing. We had also lost a couple of chooks and a duck in interesting circumstances (they were drowned in their pond). With a randy drake the most likely suspect, we needed to do a bit of housekeeping.
A new lightweight chook tractor was decided as the best means to separate our chooks, and provide all the benefits of portable weed control and fertiliser application. Importantly Jo found a wonderful design that looked like it might work for us. And it did!
The basic design uses electrical conduit cut into lengths and looped to form a lightweight self-supporting structure. The joints are cable-tied – although the base requires holes to be drilled into the conduit to hold the joints together.
After laying out all the pieces, measuring the required lengths, and even going so far as to mark the ends in colour coded markers, my virgo wife had the main structure completed in little more than half an hour.
It was then time to fit some chicken wire to the structure. Jo used wire around the base and bird netting over the top. An old bread crate makes a roost, and a plastic tub a nesting box. The only real complication was in getting the door to work, but Jo accomplished this with no fuss.
The tarpaulin isn’t fixed to the tractor – otherwise it would become a kite. It provides the bulk of the shelter for the chooks.
The final part of the exercise was to separate the ducks from the chooks. During this amusing exercise, we realised that we had not one, but three roosters masquerading as chooks. Now, even I know enough to realise that roosters don’t provide much in the way of eggs. We eventually separated the chooks, the ducks and the roosters into their respective homes.
With so many roosters, no one was going to be happy, so one was euthanized. His carcase was buried under the roots of a newly planted fruit tree, where we hope that he will provide a great start to the young tree.
On the plus side, the girls are much happier in their new accommodation. I just hope that as we emerge from the depths of winter that the hens resume laying. I am looking forward to enjoying farm fresh eggs once again.