Wednesday, August 17, 2011

The chicken tractor

There are tons of benefits to having your chickens outside, but per Ontario law, we're not allowed to free-range the chickens (plus with dogs/predators probably not a great idea). We're quite close to the road, with a pretty clear view of the pastures so decided to play by the rules (For now, I'll talk about that in another post).

So hubby built this fantastic chicken tractor!

 The whole thing cost us less then $15 because we built it from all the materials left by former owners. If I had to guess, I think we did it for under $100.

The frame is made by 1x6, re-enforced by L-brackets in each corner, and nailed together. Then we use electrical conduit (really any flexible plastic conduit would be fine, I've read using UV protected stuff is a really good idea) to create the three arches. Then stretched small-gauge wire from one side to the other, and on the ends. There is a door on this end (made out of wire so hard to see). The whole thing is very nice and light! You can see the handle, there are also wheels on the other side so we don't need to carry a dolly.

Right now I've been moving it about 2-3x time a day. Slowly getting it out of the sac paddock and into the main paddock to travel around. The chicks do a pretty good job of chewing up all the vegetation. We're also giving them some feed because we want them to be nice and fat ! Although we may stop doing that, depending on how things are.

This is a slightly smaller coop then you'd want for 50ish birds, but it's a good idea not to give them too much space or they run around and loose all their weight. If it turns out later that it isn't enough room, "we will not be free-ranging them. "

We need to make some hanging water-ers to make it easier to fill them/move the coop. Right now I feel like this song should be playing every time I try to move the chicken tractor...

Gotta be really careful not to run over any of the chickies!


  1. Is it really the law Ontario wide, and not just your municipality/township? Seems odd if it IS province wide, because I see free rangers everywhere! I live in Springwater Township.

  2. No it's the law across Ontario. has most of the ordinances for small flock chicken growers.

    I can't even start on how mad the whole thing gets me. For instance, you are not allowed to raise/slaughter/sell OR consume more then 300 chickens a year without buying quota. Doesn't matter if you're eating them yourself or giving them away to the soup kitchen.

    I got some great help with this over at PoultrySwapOntario

    I'm still wading through all the rules to figure out what is and isn't allowed before I want to kick up a fuss.

    You aren't allowed to free-range birds because it goes against the biosecurity requirements that you prevent interaction between wild and domestic birds. Something that really makes a lot of sense in terms of not spreading disease; but I don't think bird-flu is something many backyard growers ever have to give two thoughts about.

    There are tons of free-rangers around here too, but it's like speeding down the road. Lots of people do it, you only get in trouble if you're caught, but it can causes serious accidents, so we have speed limits.

  3. And like I mentioned, our farm is very visible from a moderately populated road. If i was on a back 40 somewhere, there'd be chickens running all over the place!

    You can set up a tractor/electric netting situation out in your pastures and still be within the rules. That works well for layers, but ours have a big enough run that they don't eat all of that down.

    There is a small band of "chicken police" who visit farms they think are toeing the line, inspectors from CFIA.

  4. Wow! Thanks so much for the information. I had no idea...

  5. One more comment, haha.

    So even though there's no rule that says "free range not allowed", a CFAI agent can fine you or whatever for potentially allowing a biosecurity hazard by allowing birds near people, pets, wildlife, etc?

    Seems ridiculous to me...

  6. To get to the rule about biosecurity you have to go to the food inspection agency's website and search for "bird health basics" (because none of the links actually work) eventually you can find a chart that gives an over-view of what you have to do for bio-security. Those sites are so hard to navigate, I can't seem to find it now.

    I think it would be pretty easy to plead ignorance, they make it so difficult to find that you're looking for!

    It IS ridiculous! We're also supposed to disinfect anyone who comes on property & not allow them anywhere near the birds. Like my inlaws from Whitby (near Toronto) who live in a subdivision come in contact with many live chickens in their day to day lives.

    I really don't like being told I can grow, process and eat how ever many birds I want to eat in a year! What if we really really liked chicken and wanted to eat a whole one every day of the year? I think it's within my rights as a Canadian to do that!

    -grumble, grumble, grumble-