Friday, April 29, 2011

Our Newest Additions

Last year, Joe built a chicken tractor for our chicks.
Joe's chicken tractor
As long as they are in the garage, under the heat lamp, this protects the chicks from the occasional cat that may sneak into the garage unbeknownst to us.  It also keep little humans at bay.  Within the chicken tractor, the chicks are in a child's swimming pool to contain the bedding material, and the heat lamp keeps them warm.  As they mature and need less heat, Joe will move the lamp outside the tractor.  In a week or so, they will begin to hop outside the pool and onto the garage floor.
All Nice and Warm in their New Home
Once the chicks start spending time outside, we move the chicken tractor onto the grass where the chicks get their first introduction to that cool green stuff.  Last year, Joe had to dump them out of the cardboard box he had put them in while moving the chicken tractor.  They didn't want anything to do with the grass at first.  But once they were dumped out, they scampered about, nipping the blades eating the bugs.
See the sleeping babies on the left? They don't care where they flop.
At first, the chicks can only spend the warm days outside, and we move the tractor back inside the garage at night, where it stays during the cool evenings and all day even, if the outdoor temperature is not warm enough.  If needed, Joe hangs the heat lamp again for a little extra heat.  Once the weather is consistently warm and the chicks are big enough, the tractor can stay outside at night, too. 
The tractor has a shaded side and an open side.  It is completely open to the grass on the bottom.  There are wheels that are supposed to make for easy moving, but don't quite.  Until the chicks begin to crowd the tractor, we move it around from place to place in the grass each day, or even twice a day, if needed.  When the birds are big enough to crowd the limited space, we prop it up so they can still use it for shelter.  But they are free to come and go as they please around the yard.

Because we live in a parsonage, and therefore cannot consider the property exactly ours, the chickens can't range completely free.  Probably those worshippers coming to church in their fancy church duds don't want to step in chicken pucky.  Last year Joe ran an electric fencing wire about four inches from the ground around the area where we wanted the chickens to stay.

It's nice to be able to do a little bit to provide for own own sustenance.

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