Chicken Tractor Progresses!

06-20-11 Chicken Tractor Progress 054

In our last post we discussed the role that a chicken tractor has within our homestead system.  Now, we are at 1 month in to the current chicken run06-20-11 Chicken Tractor Progress 007 and you can begin to get a sense of just how quickly these Rock Cornish Cross chickens grow.  This mutant breed between two types of chicken produces most of the commercially grown, store-bought chickens that consumers eat.  The upside to this crossing is you get a chicken that grows very rapidly 06-20-11 Chicken Tractor Progress 033allowing you to harvest the birds for meat within a very short period of time. (Thus, the “Young Chicken” label you see on store bought chickens.)  The downside is that they grow too fast for their bones to keep up with them and support their weight, so letting them grow for a long period of time means seeing them develop leg problems, fall over and die.  So no opportunity to keep them as your pet chicken or even a egg layer bird because by the time they reach egg laying maturity, they start having health problems related to their rapid weight gain.  06-20-11 Chicken Tractor Progress 051The genetics resulting in these chickens from the crossing of their parent breeds would by natural selection be weaned out because of the low survival rate, but in our ever productive search for the better chicken, we actually select for this mutant variation because of the benefits for meat production.

06-20-11 Chicken Tractor Progress 044For these birds though, they don’t live the droll ordinary caged and confined life of a bird raised in a production operation.  They’ve got plenty of forage for their main source of feed and are actually weaned down from the main diet of commercially manufactured feed once they are done brooding and have feathered out.  Instead of an all-you-can-eat free-choice commercial feed diet, they are let out of the chicken tractor during the day to hunt and peak around for their food.  They run to the clovers first; the most delectable of choices for them, followed by grasses and other native species forbs we have in our pastures.  They always make their way over to the closest llama poop pile where they rake away and grab bugs and flies.  When the evening rolls around, they get a bucket of chicken feed, enough to fill out their already full crop, and round out the day.  The token amount of feed also serves the rancher by easing the task of getting them all back into the tractor for the night.

Be sure to check out the video update to this post and see these 1 month old chickens in action:

Chicken Tractor Progresses!

About David

Making manifest the change I want to see in the world through the hospitality of a humble little homestead campground with yurts and alpacas.
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2 Responses to Chicken Tractor Progresses!

  1. I am curious, how much feed was that “small bucket?”

    We’re looking at getting 25-50 of the same exact breed. We want to tractor them, let loose on pasture part of the day, serve some sprouted BOSS, and just supplement with feed.

    So since we’re wanting to do the same exact thing, we’re wondering how much pellet you fed them daily or from start to end of butchering so that we know what to expect.

    • David says:

      It is labeled as a “1 gallon” bucket.

      My current 2014 chicken tractor has 14 Rock Cornish, 2 turkeys, and 16 Americana/Rhode Island Reds. So, 32 birds total. They started brooding end of March, 28/29th. I’ve gone through 2 50lbs medicated crumbles, and 1 50lb non-medicated crumbles. I have 1 more 50lb bag of crumbles here at week #5. This week they moved directly onto pasture (with no more straw bedding). I’ll start introducing sprouted grains this week. (I could start as soon as week 3, or when I see some good pin feathers coming out). I’ll also move from free-choice crumbles, to rationing. They’ll start the morning out with sprouted grains (and that gets them coming out of the tractor). My measure for the sprouted grains is a 1 gallon bucket/scoop. They’ll get their ration of crumbles in the late afternoon/evening back inside the tractor (and my coop birds cannot come in a get it) I feed enough crumbles so that I can see some filled out crops on my meat birds. This remaining bag should last me 1 more week. Then they are on pasture and sprouted grains, with 1/2 1gal. bucket/scoop of chicken pellets to get them back in the tractor at night, for the rest of the run. The turkeys are the last left in the tractor by end of September, and I finish them out with more sprouts and whatever pasture they can manage.

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