I started the GAPS diet last spring and needed to find a source of soy-free, pastured, organic eggs. It is not a requirement of the diet, but clean food is best for optimal healing. A small retail store near my home offered a local, stable supply, but they were very, very expensive.
So my dear husband and I began considering getting our own chickens to save on the cost, but we were concerned about keeping them safe because our area has raccoons, possums, coyotes and hawks. After a trip to see some friends who have a few acres, we were introduced to a chicken tractor. It is basically a movable chicken coop with nests and roosts incorporated into the design.
The triangles in the center are two nests, and the crisscrossed branches are the roosts.
This was a great option and would not require us to build a separate coop and pen. We could move it around our backyard and it would keep the chickens safe from predators. But by the time we made the decision to make this move, it was too late in the season to find a good flock. So we decided to wait until this spring, when the choices would be plentiful.
My husband did some homework on Craigslist, and found a couple of tractors within our budget. One came with two chickens and the other came with one. I decided to choose the tractor with one chicken because it was larger, and we needed between 4 and 5 hens.
It took all afternoon to get it safely on the trailer, but we finally brought it home.
The chicken’s name was Gloria, a Leghorn, and she’s inside the SUV in a carrier. Since we both have family members with that name, we changed her name to Morning Glory. Unfortunately, she doesn’t live up to her new name because she can be a bully! I’ve heard Leghorns can be like that, though. I call her Glory for short.
A couple of days after getting used to her, we were ready to add to the flock. The folks we got the tractor from told us it can be difficult to incorporate young chickens with older ones. Since Glory is 3, we searched Craigslist for some one-year olds, and I was able to find some just a few miles away that were in our price range. After some phone calls and a trip to the bank, we were on our way. The family had quite a large flock of pastured birds, which was exactly what I was looking for.
We needed 4 more chickens because I knew they would not lay every day, and I had already calculated how many eggs our family eats per week. We choose a Pearl Leghorn, two Golden Sexlinks and a Black Sexlink.
They all pretty much got along that day, but the next day Glory was beginning to pick on the Sexlinks. The previous owner of the 4 chickens we just purchased assured me they would figure it out and not to worry.
A few days later, Glory calmed down and now she only picks on them when they are eating. They just wait their turn and eat when she is done. She really likes the other Leghorn, and I think she likes to look after her because she is the smallest chicken of the flock.
Eventually, we choose names for the rest of them. The other Leghorn is a creamy color, so I call her “Creampuff.” For our hobbit friends, we choose “Second Breakfast” for the Black Sexlink. It turns out to be a perfect name for her because she is very laid back. Since we can’t tell them apart, we call both Golden Sexlinks “Nuggets,” which is short for Chicken Nuggets. Yes, my family has a strange sense of humor.
They are fed 1/2 to 1 cup of organic, soy-free, locally-grown feed mix. Sometimes I mix in some whey or buttermilk to make a mash.. We also feed them kitchen scraps and baked eggshells that are chopped real fine. The eggshells give them calcium and helps keep their eggshells hard. On rainy days, I take my shovel around the yard hunting for slugs. They love them! I try to put some apple cider vinegar in their water to help their intestinal health, and they love it when I have extra kombucha scobys! I was given some advice today to add diatomaceous earth to their feed and spread it on their favorite bathing areas to help with mites.
After a few weeks, my husband decided he wanted to put skids on the tractor to make it easier for one person to move. He purchased some chicken wire and made a temporary pen for the chickens while he made the changes on the tractor.
While they were in the pen, we couldn’t help notice how happy they were. They gave themselves dirt baths, ran around, happily scratched and took naps.
I asked my husband if he would consider making the pen permanent, and he graciously agreed. We have been moving them from the tractor to the pen after they are done laying for the day and back into the tractor at dusk. It seems to have made a difference, because their production has increased and the egg yolks look even more golden in color.
So far, we have been getting an average of 3 eggs per day, which is exactly what we needed! After doing the math, I have determined we will have recouped our investment within 5 months, which makes us very happy. I am learning so much about how to care for chickens, and we all are enjoying the yummy eggs, I am especially pleased and feel very blessed by how easy this step towards self-sufficiency has been so far.
Do you have chickens? If so, how many? Do you sell your eggs? If you don’t have chickens, do you want some? Can I help you get started? Please leave me a comment below. I’d love to hear from you!