I’m still ambivalent about using this thing, feeling as I do that confinement is confinement and a perfect world would have them safe in their own enclosed pen, where they could scratch and dustbathe and in general do anything their chicken-y hearts desire. This, however, is not a perfect world. In my perfect world of the future, this is the last (knock wood) year I will be ordering chicks, ever, as I will now be handing the chick-rearing reins over to Chicken Patty, a husband, and a sister-wife. Roosters likewise will be culled from our new egg-layers, as we have a rooster of the egg bird persuasion now too.
Hi! You have treats for us?
But back to the tractor. My concern for these birds makes me check up on them multiple times of the day. I move it, then, three times a day to ensure they get their fill of fresh grass and clover. I also verify that the tarp cover gives them at least 3/4 of their space in the shade: it doesn’t get super hot here (highs at most in the low 80s) but I don’t want them to be uncomfortable. They get fed two times a day, with a two to three hour gap between feedings. Unlike the first batch of meat blobbos that used the tractor last year, these slow-growing CornishX (the white ones) and some slower-growing red broilers move more, they perch, their poop is a lot more “processed” and they HATE lying in their own poo. There are 35 birds in this tractor, for now. Once they get to be about 12 weeks, half of them will be housed elsewhere (including the freezer) as I think they’d be too cramped in there when they’re all that big. Full-grown birds should all be ready to go, then, at 16 weeks, though last year I waited longer than that.
Four of Patty’s babies in the grapevines
As a point of contrast, Chicken Patty’s adopted chicks are a lot smaller. I attribute this to two things: one, when the other meat birds had 24/7 feeding under the light of the heat lamp, the babies under Mama Patty got used to the idea of circadian rhythms. And two, Chicken Patty’s six babies are running everywhere, all day long. Patty did a wonderful job raising them until she didn’t, incidentally. When they were just over a month old, her egg-laying cycle kicked back in, so she started roosting in the coop with the other egg girls, leaving her babies behind. I am not sure if this is just nature or if Patty is just a flaky young teenaged mother, or what. The babies sure can fend for themselves, though, doing a fine job foraging and dust-bathing and keeping themselves together. There are three roos and three girls. One of the boys will be Patty’s future husband…though not a blood relation, is this, uh, Oedipal?