Spring on the farm brings an unbelievable amount of work: new little animals to tend to, a garden to get prepped and planted, grass that’s constantly in need of mowing … Add to it the professional demands of an election year, and I’ve barely had time to come up for air in the last month. I even spent Saturday and Monday of Memorial Day Weekend in front of my computer, delivering analyses for a client. I reminded myself that this is all part of of the “package” of being self-employed. When there’s work, it needs to get done. I can take my own three-day weekends (or, heck, three days off in the middle of the week) when there isn’t work that needs to get done.
Right now, on the farm, even the new Cornish Cross meat chicks are hard at work. They just don’t know it. (They also don’t know that they’re going to start getting butchered this week, but that’s another story. And another task that I’m somehow going to have to fit in.) Our garden is so large, it takes a while to get the whole area planted. That means we’ve had a good-sized section that is still sitting fallow, and has been pushing up nothing but weeds. And that’s a good thing, because it’s provided an excellent place to run a chicken tractor.
This is what the garden looks like when I first arrive in the morning. Notice all the chickens, lined up, waiting to get moved to fresh green stuff.
The first thing I do is remove the rocks from the lid (the half that isn’t screwed down), and flip it over. I then pull out the feeder with supplemental high-protein grain (far left), and the waterer (still inside the pen in this photo). Note the foot-wide strips of plywood around the perimeter, held down with rocks. Those are to keep raccoons from digging into the pen.
This is how things looked inside the pen, a moment earlier, before I pulled the feeder out. The white bucket has fresh water, to refill the waterer.
I then remove the protective plywood strip at the end, and drag the pen forward one length. Look how eagerly the chickens are already going to work, eating those weeds. Right after taking this photo, I replaced the feeder (and the newly-filled waterer).
After moving the pen, it becomes clear just how much damage the chickens can do to those weeds in a single day — and how much manure then can leave behind for the garden. We’ll of course let this fresh manure sit for a while, and work it into the soil, before planting in this part of the garden. (BTW, most of the remaining weeds you see below escaped eating because they were under the feeder or waterer.)
All I need to do now is move the protective plywood strips and secure them with rocks. And that’s it. I’m done with the chickens for the day. But their work is just getting started. They’ll be busy munching on weeds, fertilizing the garden … and getting closer and closer to their optimal butchering weight. They don’t know it yet, but in a few more days their work here will be done.