Chicken tractor

In a recent
, I was
asked to share stories of early lessons learned on the farm.  I
mentioned our ill-fated attempt to become mule skinners, but I might
just as well have talked about our first chickens.

Young homesteadAlthough I’d
had chickens in the past
, Mark and I didn’t have any
poultry when the time came to move to our farm six years ago.  We
also didn’t have the cash to buy them, so it might have taken us a
couple of years to become chicken-keepers if one of our neighbors
hadn’t stepped in.

This neighbor loved
fresh eggs and had plenty of cash, but as an actor, he had to be ready
to jump in the car to drive to Atlanta on a moment’s notice and
couldn’t take care of a flock.  He suggested a compromise — how
about he pay for the birds, we do the caretaking, and all three of us
split the eggs?

A hundred bucks bought
twenty point-of-lay pullets, and boy did they ever lay.  Our
neighbor ate perhaps a dozen eggs a week, and we hadn’t yet learned the
true joy homegrown eggs, so we did the same.  That left another
eight dozen or so eggs to deal with every week…and we barely knew
anyone in the area to give or sell them to!

Chicken tractor clearing weedsSoon, we’d offloaded two-thirds
of the birds onto my father, which left a more manageable flock (which
we were able to feed on our limited income).  Those birds were the
inspiration for Mark’s
chicken waterer invention and also helped me
learn a lot about permaculture and farm ecology, so they were worth
every egg-filled day.  But if you have plans to follow our lead,
you  might want to do things a little differently.

Actually, I think
chicken-shares are a pretty good idea, as long as you start out with
the right number of hens.  To make economic sense for the main
caretaker of the birds, though, the investor should probably kick in
some percentage of the feed bill as well as paying the startup
costs.  You’ll also need to think ahead to what happens two years
hence when the flock is declining in laying vigor — who will kill the
birds, who gets the stewing hens, and how will new chicks come on the

Has anyone else had
experience with a chicken-share?  I’d be curious to hear about
your own adventures.

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