We loved having our chickens when we were at the farm. In the season of life we are in now with our young people closer to leaving and having their own families, no dog to guard them, and having moved recently, we are not there. But I would be surprised if our young people didn’t keep their own chickens someday. The eggs they lay are just so good for you and the work ethic built in is so good for younger children!
I have had this on my mind for a while, so I want to show you how we did it! Below is the chicken tractor my husband and sons built. It had to be pulled along by our old Kubota lawn-mower. We encircled it by an electrified fence by Premier 1 (like this). Outside of that was our Great Pyrenees who made rounds all over our farm.
Funny memory now, but back in those days my daughter loved running around on the farm and collecting eggs in a flowered skirt. I’m pretty sure she was thinking about ‘Little House On the Prairie’ homesteading!
It required some work to get started having chickens, it wasn’t as clean as I would have liked (OK, I’m OCD with being clean) and you have to learn a few principles of animal husbandry, but it was wonderful to have our own healthy food source right outside the door. It also taught our energetic young children a lot about life and kept them happily busy without a need for TV or devices!
While these photos were taken many years ago, I still remember the pleasant feeling I would get seeing (and sometimes hearing) Charles (second from Left) and the girls pecking ( squawking) around. This was in many ways a blissful time for our children and ourselves, but it also was a farm and demanded a lot of our time and attention.
While you don’t have to have a chicken tractor to keep chickens, if very easily moved, a bit away from the house where you have grass you are not using, and already have a dog to keep predators at bay, it makes a lot of sense. We used a solar-generated, moveable electric-fence (by Premier fencing) to contain them.
Some Of What Helps To Know
The kids had to learn good hygiene and hand-washing before they could get into the kitchen, but we should be teaching these basic skills anyway after being in a variety of public places.
You can find all the major and heritage breeds in catalogs like here and here. We got them mailed to us back then and I’d spend hours pouring over the write ups on each breed. The Livestock conservancy is also worth knowing about if you are interested in the Conservancy Priority List from Critical, Threatened, Watch and Recovering status.
We chose heavy-breasted cold-weather breeds because they do much better in Midwest winters than other breeds. We chose brown egg layers.
We also wanted to find hens with good mothering skills as some of that has been bred out of chickens through time – so we looked at the old heritage breeds. We found our mama gals in the Buff Orpingtons and Black Australorps, which were bred out of Buff Orpingtons. They often go broody and will sit their eggs until they hatch.
They care for their chicks fiercely and will die for them!!
Chicken Coop and Chicken Tractor Ideas
Here are a few of my favorites (some portable and some not):
Chicken-mobile? Just the illusion of being portable…
( source for all but top 3 and bottom photo)
A gypsy-wagon; very Bohemian!
Better move it before watering the planter on top…
Chicken Tractor Ideas: Utilitarian and Fancy
This is a lighter-weight coop I just learned about, and I LOVE how functional and easy to move it is. It is easy to clean and also won’t ruin your lawn if moved regularly when all the girls are roosting in the evening. Chickens naturally go inside on their own a little before dusk. Chick Chick Coop is a family-owned company. Find them (including videos) on FB here.
Love the bumped-out egg box on the side. Every coop should have a feature like this so you don’t have to enter to get eggs.
Notice how these two have wire over the top of the ‘yard’ to keep out predators. A dog always helps with raccoon, weasel, fox, or possum.
They are really using this coop (at the home below)…you can tell because of the feathers in the grass. You won’t have perfect grass, but you will have golden-yoked eggs and chicken for the freezer this fall. You must decide whether to over-winter your birds like we did (in a sheltered area) or butcher them every fall. Butchering is a practical, and in our world today, a wise skill for you and your children to have.
I think this tall, top-heavy chicken tractor could easily be toppled by the wind. It would need a tree-sheltered area. We saw the roof come off of our chicken tractor several times 🙁 It was made to lift off for spring cleaning.
This chicken tractor reminds me of something you might find in rural France. They would be cool in the summer and warmer in the winter nestled right up to a building out of the wind. ‘Heavy-bodied birds’ (a category of chicken) can withstand moderate winter temps if in a sheltered place. Know your breed’s needs.
Do be realistic because chickens are work.
All chickens will go back into the chicken tractor to roost in the evening. If you don’t have a faithful dog, you will need to close the door after they are in and let them out in the morning. We had a guardian Great Pyrenees, so we didn’t have to close them in. Great Pyrenees are great working dogs for small flocks, but must be trained from a puppy. I tell you this so you will do your homework before rushing to order chicks.
Directions to make a very simple chicken coop here. Enjoy!