Avian Aqua Miser: Automatic, poop-free chicken waterers

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Disadvantages of chicken tractors

Rhode Island red roosterChicken tractors are perfect for use in a confined space like a lawn or garden.  But as we considered branching out into raising our own birds for meat, the idea of multiplying our chicken tractors by three began to seem unfeasible.

Over the last three years, we'd given several hens away and then added some new chicks to bring us back up to nine hens in three tractors.  The nine hens laid enough eggs to keep us eating farm fresh all through the winter (a tribute to our tractors since our neighbors' chickens all stopped laying for a while.)  During the summer, I wished we had twice as many chickens to keep the yard mowed and fertilized, but during the coldest week of winter I wished we had half as many since the grassy areas began to give out and churn into masses of mud.  Overall, nine hens in three small tractors seemed to be our two acre cultivated area's carrying capacity, and I couldn't conceive of adding several more tractors to house broilers.

We'd also discovered the chicken tractor's weakest link --- roosters.  Chicken tractors have been used on a large scale to raise male chickens for meat, but the cockerels are slaughtered before they fully mature and begin to fight.  As we'd discovered, chicken tractors are also great for hens as long as you get the nest box right so that they don't lay on the ground.  But a mixture of hens and a rooster in a tractor is a nightmare.  We couldn't fit the recommended 10 to 12 hens and a rooster in a tractor, so the rooster overmated his harem of five.  When our hens' backs became featherless and bloody, the rooster went into our bellies.

Without a rooster, though, we're stuck always ordering chicks, which is not so appealing.  Clearly there had to be a solution to our meat bird dilemma.  (While you're waiting for the answer, check out our homemade chicken waterer, great in tractors.)

This post is part of our Chicken Pasturing Systems series.  Read all of the entries:

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