Friday, March 29, 2013

Chicken Tractor at work

We have already moved the chicken yard (but not the tractor) to a position beside it's first space. We found that even though we had clipped the hen's wings, they were still athletic enough to make it over the yard fence. We raised the sides and checked their wings.
We found the ramp which husband had made too steep for hen feet and claws so I added a longer, rougher plank propped up by the tyre.

I also, found the hens do not like being in the sun as much as I had thought. I had to put up several extra pieces of shade cloth or they would all crowd under the tractor in the shade. When we move them again- this time to fallow beds in the field- I will put up some small sheets of corrugated sheeting over the thick grassy areas I want them to mow. The shade will mean they will be happy to do so.

I have not had as many eggs as I thought I'd get (6 is the most from 11 layers and 4 is average each day) and after some research I decided I needed to up their feed. As I said before, they come out of their yard in the afternoons to free-range all over and the yard is around 12m x 3m. I really thought that would be big enough to keep them busy but it seems my hens are greedy for more! I bought in some layers' mash but also soaked some white beans, chopped them in the food processor and left them to dry. They did not like them until they were dry. In future, I will be growing enough beans, lentils & chickpeas for their needs and ours.

I also discovered that it is cheaper to buy mash and crushed maize for feed than to grow your own. Since almost all our maize in SA is GM, this is not going to be an option for me anyway. More mielies to plant! I think I will need 3 plantings of about 1/2 a hectare each to ensure enough quality maize for all to eat and for seed. Such a great crop to grow with so many uses. I think it will be a mix of Indian rainbow corn, Stowell's evergreen and a sweetcorn ( variety TBD).

And how about these for nice harvests. We think this is a small Lesotho Charlie but will never know since the seeds were handed down via several people. It was yummy though.

 And as for these sweet potatoes! This was the first of 2 this size along with around 10kgs of various others. We thought the big ones would be floury inside but they were lovely. Made the best roasted wedges.

Other than these we have had great lettuce, swiss chard, basil, Blue Peter beans,  Crimean Black tomatoes, yellow pear cocktail tomatoes and a bunch more. Such a wonderful thing to work with nature to grow your own food. I really believe everyone must try it.


  1. I heard of, and tried, a mixed bed of sweetcorn, sunflowers and squash / pumpkins. The sweetcorn certainly helped shade the squash pumpkin plants and I had a terrific harvest of squash.

    Sunflowers - they were just for prettiness, as I don't have chickens (yet) to feed the seeds to :)

    1. I tried the 3 sisters, Dani- corn, squash & beans. Glad yours was successful but I think my corn was too close for it to work this season. I will try again though with a smaller crop of corn. And WHAT! no chickens??? You are missing out on some real fun (and games). Who knew I could love a bird so much? They are such personalities and if you get them when young and interact with them, they are such great family members. Do you want some chicks when mine have more? I wouldn't advise a rooster at first although Rocky (our latest charmer) is a real gentleman and not nearly so noisy as the last one.