Chicken Tractor on Raised Beds

Discussion in 'Gardening & Plant Propagation' started by rwood, Jul 3, 2006.

  1. rwood

    rwood Well-Known Member

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    NSW Australia
    Hi there,

    I am currently designing my suburban vegetable garden (new house on big block) and want to know how I can/or should, incorporporate my proposed chicken coop also.

    The house is on a large suburban block in an area which allows up to 10 chickens, however I only want four (no rooster allowed), so I have space for 5 raised beds and a chicken coop. The beds are going to be approximately 5 yards by 2 yards and raised 1 foot off the ground, very solid timber construction. I am planning to rotate crops each year as seems to be the best practice.

    My thinking is, that if I make the chicken coop the same dimensions as the beds, with a strong base that fits perfectly onto the raised bed walls, then I can move the cage from 1 bed to the next each year letting the little fellas pick at food scraps and garden/lawn matter (plus pellets), incorporating all into the garden bed with their litter and freely provided fertilizer.

    Is this a good idea? I have the ability to build it, but is it going to be worth it? My concerens are;

    1. Will the bed be usable once I move the coop or will it be too high in nitrogen to grow anything for a season (I understand normally I should compost the manure first, but not considered in this scenario).

    2. Can I fit this high nitrogen period into a rotation system (ie are there plants that will love to follow the coop around the rotation).

    3. How long should I leave the coop there to accumulate droppings and be tilled. I was thinking one bed per year, but I might damage the soil chemistry.

    4. Potential weed problems from feed/waste dispersal.

    I have seen sites where coops have been in the past and they are jungles, so it must be good for the soil in some way.

    I could follow up the coup with a green manure crop (fallow season) however I think the fallow bed needs to fit in somewhere else in the rotation system, so advice on that would be appreciated.

    If I can rotate the coop on a seasonal basis, then I can have a 6th garden bed (the space where the coop would have been if permanent).

    What havent I thought of. Is this genius or stupidity.

    Thoughts?

    Thanks
    Raphael in Australia

    PS - I will take pictures of all this if I go ahead with it and put them up for people to look at, or laugh at.
     
  2. Mid Tn Mama

    Mid Tn Mama Well-Known Member Supporter

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    Great idea, but moving the chicken tractor among raised wooden sidedbeds will be hard. When you pick up the tractor to move it they will run out the sides.

    This is another reason why I don't have wooden sided raised beds. I plan to have chicken tractors that can be dragged like a sleigh through the garden.

    You could mount small tires on the back of them that would allow you to roll them from wooden box to wooden box.

    I hope to make a-framed tractors.
     

  3. Cara

    Cara Well-Known Member

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    I think it sounds great!

    As far as moving the tractor....since it will only be once or twice a season, I think I would just plan to have the enclosed part of the run being closable. I mean so that the chickens can be shut into a spot so you can move it (perferably with help to not damage the beds or yourself) without worrying about the little feet.

    If you plan to green manure between chickens and crops, I think you will have beautiful beds and plants. I would think that maybe a 6 month period on each bed would be better than a year. ex: Chickens- March through Aug, plant green manure, March-turn in green manure, April-June plant. The next bed would be opposite. If you let the opposite bed "rest" from the end of Feb. through June, you should be able to plant nitrogen loving plants in it.

    Again, I think it sounds great, and I might just do one myself....for the sake of experiment, of course :nerd:
     
  4. Hurricane Kurt

    Hurricane Kurt Well-Known Member

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    rwood...

    I think you have a great idea here. The only thing that I would do differently is make the coop smaller, by half. 5 yards by 2 yards or 15ft x 6ft is a huge coop to be moving and really alot more space than what 4 chickens need. If you made it 7 1/2 or 8 x 6ft it would cover half a bed and could be easily moved to cover the other half. This would also free up an extra 1/2 bed at any time.

    I would also try and build it as light as possible while still having a solid base. This will make it much easier to move around when you need to and you won't need a coop-moving party to do it.

    I would not worry about the chickens getting free when the coop is moved. I to live in city limits and have 4 chickens in a tractor (4'x8') and often times I let them out into the yard when I move the tractor and they do not stray more than 20ft from me, they stick together like glue and are easily drawn back into the tractor with a little feed. Just let your chickens out before you move the coop to another bed, they'll be fine.

    Make sure you post some pictures of your garden and the chickens when you get it sorted!! Good Luck with it.

    Kurt
     
  5. mistletoad

    mistletoad Well-Known Member Supporter

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    I think the overall plan is great, but how are you going to weed the center of a 5yd x 2yd bed? Our raised beds are 75' x 4' - I wish they were a tad narrower and maybe only 25' long - too far to walk around them and too far to jump across :)
     
  6. rwood

    rwood Well-Known Member

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    Thanks for the quick feedback.

    I think my measurements could be off slightly, as I normally talk metric. I will take note of the width issue, as that sounds like the kind of sage like advice that will save my knees and back for years to come.

    I was going to have the beds running length ways. 3 beds long x 2 wide. However, I am thinking now I might go with beds 4 yards long by 4 foot wide and just have them all lined up parrallel in a bank of 6 - 8 beds. (8x1 instead of 3x2). Could fit more that way and have a few for perenials. So moving the tractor will be a process of picking it up from both ends and just shifting it a few yards either way to the next bed.

    The area set aside for my adventures is approximately 18 m x 5 m (20 Yards x 5.5 yards). Fenced on three sides already (over 4 ft high) and i will picket fence the fourth side (for prettiness). So I dont mind if they run around the garden while Im moving the tractor (wings will be clipped also). In fact I plan to let them run around a bit every now and then.

    Thanks again, please let me know if you have any other thoughts.
    Raphael
     
  7. rwood

    rwood Well-Known Member

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    Location:
    NSW Australia
    Ok,

    I'am starting the garden this weekend. Its Winter here in Australia, so I can get the garden and coop built by spring I think. I am going to get some day old chicks and let my 18 month daughter watch them grow (inside the house, no touching for a while), before putting them out in the chicken tractor when they (or it) are ready.

    Ive measured up the yard and pencilled in the layout, there will be 6 beds in total, 3m x 1.25m (about 9 x 4 feet?) each. Ive left space for a compost heap, but I dont think I will need one after the chickens do their thing with my scraps.

    I am going to rotate the beds, 4 will be dedicated full season active veggie patches, the other two will share the chicken coop and a nitrogen loving catch crop / green manure crop. I will rotate the beds annually.

    Thanks for your ideas, and extra thoughts on crop rotation would be appreciated.

    I will take pictures and post once theres something to see.

    Kind Regards
    Raphael
     
  8. MELOC

    MELOC Master Of My Domain

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    you could always place a stepping stone or two where you need to access the large raised bed. you would compromise that much growing space but it would be worth it.
     
  9. turtlehead

    turtlehead Well-Known Member

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    I think this is a great idea! If it were me, I'd leave the chicken tractor on a bed all spring/summer/fall then during fall cleanup I'd move the tractor to the next bed. That way the manure could decompose over the winter and hopefully not be too "hot" for whatever you plant there the following spring.

    I'd try corn in the bed the tractor was in. Corn is a hungry plant and loves nitrogen. That's why folks frequently plant it with beans (nitrogen-fixing crop).