So the construction of the chicken tractor was successfully finished before the chicks hatched. It’s good to get things done. It looks a lot more ramshackle that it did in my imagination, but it’s functional.
I took the A frame from the old kids swing set. Put some wheels on one end. Chicken wire (the small mesh type). A platform for nesting on. And some corrugated iron and polycarbonate sheets. It actually turns out that the polycarbonate sheets are quite easy to work with. You can cut them with a decent pair of scissors.
Cost wise the polycarbonate even comes out cheaper than the tin (unless you can salvage some older sheets like I did).
- 2.4m corrugated polycarbonate sheet $28.25
- 2.4m zincalum custom orb $31
Prices are from the Bunnings website. I have a love/hate relationship with Bunnings, but at least they have most of what you want for projects like this. But always be prepared to spend twice as much as you think you will. And be prepared to go back two or three times.
So all up the bits and pieces were about $500. Plus about 20 hours of my time (I’m not terribly handy, but I’m not a complete tooltard either). I know I can get one of the ikea chook houses for about this price and much less work. They look great, but are incredibly flimsy. I want to move this thing at least once a week. So our mobile chook house (or as the yanks like to call it – Chicken Tractor) is as sturdy as hell.
One clucky (and slightly surprised) hen and four little cheepers now call this place home.
Our main clucky hen (Stripes) had sat on them for over two weeks. She was the reason that we got the fertilised eggs in the first place. Then, about a week before they were due to hatch, we noticed one of the other girls (Star) sitting on them and Stripes sitting on some new unfertilised eggs. We thought Star was just looking after them for Stripes (no American reference intended, the kids chose the names). We moved Star and put Stripes back on, but the next day they had swapped again.
On Sunday the chickens started hatching. Star was singing to them to help them out. Stripes, in the next box, was booking jealously. We put on our Chicken Psychologist hats and started thinking how sad and unfair it was that Stripes, who had done all the work, wouldn’t have any babies. So, gently, using spoons, we moved four of the eight eggs across and under Stripes.
One hatched from under Star and wriggled its way out to dry off. Stripes started pecking at it. Worried about what she would do, we picked her up and sent her of to isolation for the night. Then we moved the eggs back to under Star.
Five more hatched. One didn’t survive Sunday night and another didn’t survive Monday night.
Next time, I think we won’t move them. Maybe we’ll put the clucky mum to be with the fertilised eggs straight into the new mobile home. But we have four happily running around the new house and are pretty happy with that.
Now, back to compost tea – which is why I started this blog in the first place.