Chook Tractors: Permaculture's Alternative to 'Free Range'


Chook is Australian slang for a chicken. Chook tractors have long been a part of permaculture lore. Basically they are portable chook pens with open bases. Chickens scratch away at the ground (like a mini tractor), munching on grubs, bugs, seeds, and weeds. Or even your kitchen scraps. And they poop out a rich fertiliser, which adds often much needed nutrients to the soil. Because a chook tractor is mobile it can be moved to a new location once the chickens have worked over an area of the garden. While they don’t get complete free range of the yard, the chickens are protected from the greedy jaws of predators. The tractors usually have a sheltered nest, and an egg laying section, in addition to the airy pen. The homemade version on the left shows the three stages of chook tractoring. 1. chooks preparing the soil, 2. straw mulch, and 3. Vegies growing in the prepped and mulched soil. As with all permaculture design one strives for the greatest productivity with the least effort, by harnessing natural processes. In about two weeks you can turn a patch of weeds into well fertilised growing soil. Don’t have time or inclination to make your own? Consider something like the snazzy commercial model, in the other pic, from McCallums. It’s suitable for up to 6 laying hens. McCallum Chicken Tractors.

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