THE CHICKEN TRACTOR
It would be hard to believe that spring is here if it were not for the wattle blooming on the hillsides and along our length of the Severn River, as we are till enduring minus 3C frosts each morning. It was a miserable winter with bleak cloudy days in June and July that ended with dry days and freezing nights in August. We measured our last rain 45 days ago and the river level has dropped about a metre below the bank. Late this evening I photographed the boys casting lures in the hope of catching fish.
Severn River fishing
Last summer Steve asked if his family could grow a crop of sweet corn on our land and then employed a neighbour to bring in his machinery to break up some new ground for a vegetable patch. From July 2010 to July 2012 we have enjoyed the best two years that I have known since we moved to this region in 1992. They were what are commonly called La Nina years (wet seasons) but it now appears we are entering again a familiar El Nino year when there is less chance of regular rainfall.
Sweet Corn crop
The sweet corn was picked, much was sold as fresh organic corn, some was eaten and the balance cooked, cut from the cob and frozen for future meals. In April the neighbour returned with his machinery and mulched the corn stalks. Since then the field has remained fallow.
It is our intention this year to utilize this ground as our main vegetable garden, planting a section each month. Steve asked me if I knew about chicken tractors? Then he offered to build a chicken tractor. I knew them to be a chicken coop that is moved about with the purpose of allowing the free range chickens to cultivate the soil. Steve constructed a chicken coop using all recycled material.
Firstly the boys were put to work dismantling the pallets with sheeting which could later be used for walls. For several days we heard them at work hammering as Steve used this as a manual arts lesson, instructing his sons on the correct use of saws and hammers.
The boys positioned the slats between the floor boards of the chosen pallet.
Chicken house closed
Chicken house gets a roof
As you can see from the above photos this luxurious chicken coop has a wire netting window, slatted floors to allow manure to drop through to the ground below, a nesting box with a lid we can lift to gather the eggs, a small side door above the grain feeder tray, a roost and a large front door that can be latched open to allow the hens access to free range scratching.
Free range chicken
The chicken coop was shifted onto the proposed summer vegetable garden, a section fenced, 10 hens bought and installed in their secure premises. No fox will be able to penetrate their home when they are roosting at night.
As they were already laying hens when purchased, we and the family have been able to enjoy fresh eggs from happy hens.
Wildflowers, wilderness and wine
I grew up on farms where we always had hens and ducks. Again as I reared my children we were never without poultry pens. Then when Eberhard and I moved to live at Glen Aplin on the Granite Belt we decided to breed geese to serve to our Bed and Breakfast guests as German style Christmas dinners. There are quite a few anecdotes about our poultry in my book Wildflowers, Wilderness and Wine like the time we had been showing our flock to guests. I said, “We had better let the geese go.”
“No,” Eberhard replied. “They might want to sit on the veranda and have another cup of coffee.”
My hard of hearing husband had thought I said guests, not geese.