The Chicken Tractor

Hello Friends,

It has been a long while since you have heard from us here at Down to Earth Farm, but our fall harvest season is (finally!) underway. Our little one acre field has been filling up row by row and is becoming quite a verdant patchwork of greens, yellows and reds. We have had similar struggles to last year with the dreaded cutworm eating its share of our crop so far. We tried to innovate by using both a collar made out of a toilet paper roll and a piece of aluminum foil to wrap the stem. Well the mighty cutworm on many occasions has traversed the collar and scaled the foil to bring our little transplants crashing down. (sigh) Our best technique has been to just keep planting more and more and more–they can’t eat all of it right?!

We have been thoroughly enjoying our life with chickens. They have lovely personalities and the incessant crowing of our shimmery-feathered rooster adds makes our place feel authentically “farmy”. To show our love for them we endeavored to give them a little more fresh grass to graze this summer. Chickens are omnivores and enjoy fresh grass and bugs in addition to their daily grain. Unfortunately we cannot let them be free range because they would scratch and peck our garden to oblivion if given the option, and we also have to worry about predators such as the red shouldered hawk that lives in a tall pine above our farm. So we took a cue from the renowned farmer Joel Salatin (made famous in Michael Pollan’s Omivores Dilemma) and constructed a “chicken tractor”. Of course, Mr. Salatin’s models are much more elaborate and can house many more birds, but our little model made out of PVC and old bike tires has allowed us to move seven or eight of our birds around the farm comfortably. They get to pick at the bugs and weeds and leave their lovely fertilizer as they go. Of course the first time we put them in they had a collective conniption and started bouncing off the sides like someone had spiked their feed. It took them all of 15 seconds to find the many lapses in integrity in our well-designed structure. But with the magic of zip ties we have sured it up and now the little ladies eagerly dash into their little roving salad buffet when their turn comes. (I’ve included a couple photos of our award winning design below).

We are doing our first market this Saturday at Riverside Arts Market! This will be a humble start to our season as we will have fresh bags of salad mix, spicy arugula, peppery-sweet hakurai turnips, and bunches of red russian and dino kale. We will also have a few of our “salad bowls” which are organic Encore lettuce mix in a 12″ bowl that you can harvest multiple times. They are lovely and delicious! The market is from 10-4 but I anticipate sellout out by about 1 pm. So come see us early!

Its wonderful to be back–we hope to also return to the Green Market next week. We’ll keep you posted!

In Peace,

Brian, Kristin, Jon and Olivia

 

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2 Responses to “The Chicken Tractor”

  1. Aubrey fulmer Says:

    Hi Brian. A friend of mine forwarded your latest newletter and said that you come to some farmers markets out here at the beach. As a resident in ponte vedra, I was wondering if you ever come out to the nocatee farmers market? And was also wondering where you all are located? Some of my friends are interested in forming a co-op for local vegatables and was wondering if you all do anything like this? Thanks, Aubrey Fulmer

  2. keeping chickens Says:

    I love what you guys are usually up too. This type of clever work and reporting!
    Keep up the superb works guys I’ve added you guys to
    blogroll.

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