Several of you thought we were being naive to think our chickens would not damage our garden! Several weeks ago it became obvious that they were not going to stay in the pasture without encouragement! We've been using our movable chicken pen for several weeks now and we are quite pleased with the results of this easy project!
Ed took a piece of the plastic water tubing left from our strawberry netting project and made two large circles of equal sizes. These tubing circles were attached to the top and bottom of a piece of cage wire. He cut the wire about every foot and bent the wire over the tubing and secured with plastic ties. We now had a sturdy movable pen! Ed cut a door to meet up with the little chicken door of our coop and used a little bungee cord to secure it. A tarp was attached to the top to provide shade.
Each morning, Ed pulls the pen over to the coop and opens the chicken house door. The chickens are usually quite eager to have fun outdoors. Ed then drags the pen to a spot of fresh pasture grass and places their water jug inside the pen. Usually halfway through the day I move the pen a few feet to fresh grass. The pen is light enough for the children to move and the chickens have learned to hop along! In the evening, or whenever we want the chickens to return to their coop, we tilt the pen up and the chickens madly dash for the coop and their waiting grain!
Maybe this sounds like lots of hassle! Why not just let the chickens in the coop? We are finding that the chickens eat less grain when on the pasture. The grass where their pen was sitting is eaten short in those few hours and is well manured! The next day we sit the pen in the next plot of grass in hopes to evenly distribute the manure. So we are buying less grain, hauling less manure out of the coop and the chickens are not eating our garden! Occasionally we let the chickens run free for an evening when we are near by to watch the garden. Once our chickens begin laying eggs, hopefully in only a few weeks, we will let them in the coop all morning in hopes that they lay their eggs in the nesting boxes. There is numerous other chicken tractor designs including ones with nesting boxes. Our goal was something simple, temporary, and light weight. In the past couple weeks our pen has been tested in torrential rain and hail, and held up well!
Just a note: The photos in this post were taken on a day that only six of our twenty chickens were in the pen!