Once the chicks on our farm are about 4 weeks old, we move them from the brooder to the pasture. It’s a nightly chore. Seeing as how our farm is surrounded by nature and wildlife preserves, we have plenty of predators to go around. We have hawks, owls, eagles, foxes, coyotes, raccoons, and the list goes on! We use mobile chicken coops (also known as “chicken tractors”) to keep our chickens safe from the endless stream of predators lurking about our property. Our farm owners, Ben and Don (we affectionately call them “the boys”) head out to the field every night to rotate our chickens. They load up the water and feed bins and perform a well coordinated dance-like routine to make sure our birds have fresh pasture each and every day for foraging.
The chicken tractors we use were hand built by the boys. They spent weeks and weeks preparing these mobile coops to comply with USDA Organic regulations. In fact, they did such a great job building these, they actually EXCEED USDA regulations using food grade PVC and organic approved chicken fencing. They covered the coops with heavy tarps to provide shade from the hot summer Indiana sun. In high winds (which we haven’t had yet this year, thank goodness), the coops can be anchored with simple weights and stakes to avoid being blown away!
The mobile coops are so lightweight that picking them up to move them every night is as easy as moving a small tent. They simply lift the tractors a few inches and gently walk to a new fresh patch of pasture. Our farm dog, Cutie stands watch to wrangle any chickens that might sneak out! She’s an expert at chasing them back to where they belong! Why move them every night? Easy – the chickens will eat the pasture within their coops in one day. They’re hungry little monsters! We supplement their pasture diet with organic feed to ensure the chickens are getting adequate nutrients and proteins.
This particular day hit about 90 degrees and the chickens drank every last drop of water we gave them just 10 hours earlier. So the boys provided the chickens with extra shade by extending the cover tarps over the entire coop. The tarps are secured to the coops with bungee cords. This provides the chickens with a cooler environment and reduces their stress and water intake. Stressed out chickens are no good! We like them happy and healthy here at Hoffman Organics!