Disadvantages of chicken tractors

Rhode Island red roosterChicken

are perfect for use in a confined space like a lawn or garden. 
But as we considered branching out into raising our own birds for meat,
the idea of multiplying our chicken tractors by three began to seem

Over the last three
years, we’d given several hens away and then added some new chicks to
bring us back up to nine hens in three tractors.  The nine hens
laid enough eggs to keep us eating farm fresh all through the winter (a
tribute to our tractors since our neighbors’ chickens all stopped
laying for a while.)  During the summer, I wished we had twice as
many chickens to keep the yard mowed and fertilized, but during the
coldest week of winter I wished we had half as many since the grassy
areas began to give out and churn into masses of mud.  Overall,
nine hens in three small tractors seemed to be our two acre cultivated
area’s carrying capacity, and I couldn’t conceive of adding several
more tractors to house broilers.

We’d also discovered the
chicken tractor’s weakest link — roosters.  Chicken tractors
have been used on a large scale to raise male chickens for meat, but
the cockerels are slaughtered before they fully mature and begin to
fight.  As we’d discovered, chicken tractors are also great for
hens as long as you get the nest box right so that they don’t lay on
the ground.  But a mixture of hens and a rooster in a tractor is a
nightmare.  We couldn’t fit the recommended 10 to 12 hens and a
rooster in a tractor, so the rooster overmated his harem of five. 
our hens’ backs became featherless and bloody, the rooster went into
our bellies.

Without a rooster,
though, we’re stuck always ordering chicks, which is not so
appealing.  Clearly there had to be a solution to our meat bird
dilemma.  (While you’re waiting for the answer, check out our
homemade chicken
, great in

This post is part of our Chicken Pasturing Systems series
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