Without a doubt, my least, very least, favorite job on the farm is moving chicken tractors. Unfortunately, I am the only woman we have had here capable of moving them. Mom can't move it. Dad can definitely do this but his knees give him a hassle while moving it so we try to keep him from this job when we can.
JB can move it.
(We have not had a male WWOOFer here since we started the chickens this season and none of our female WWOOFers have been strong enough to move the tractors.)
This leaves JB. Or me.
If JB works ... it's me.
Our birds spend the first two weeks in a brooder which controls temperature for them. After that, they move out into these tractors. We have two tractors. Each one holds 75 birds for a total of 150 (or so.) These tractors allow them to be on fresh grass, get sunlight, get shade, and get protection from the elements. But it also requires a movement to that grass 1-2 times a day.
Last year, we moved the tractors with two people. One person held a furniture dolly under one side of the tractor. The other pulled the tractor. This was a major pain. Trying to time two people to be able to get out there is very tough. So this year, we made it a point to figure out how to do it with one person.
We had a special dolly made just for this purpose. You can take a look at JB's website to see more about what this dolly looks like. So I go out to the chickens, put this dolly under one side of the tractor, prop the side up, take all food out of tractor, and then pull the tractor from the other side until it on fresh grass. Once it is in the fresh grass, I reload the food into it in the new spot.
After that I go back and I drop the dolly down. I've tried numerous ways to do this, but there truly is no slow way to drop the tractor. Your only choice is to try and make sure all chickens are away from the sides and then D-R-O-P the tractor.
I have been doing this all season and have not hurt or killed a chicken yet.
As usual, I dropped the dolly and sort of just closed my eyes, praying it didn't guillotine a chicken. I've always managed to avoid it in the past but yesterday the tractor came down on a chicken.
It was horrible. I don't want even want to describe it here on the Blog but needless to say it was NOT a pretty sight. The good news is, the poor bird didn't suffer. That is totally for sure.
But I have to clean it up, put it in a bucket, and give it to the pigs.
The whole thing is horrid.
I've learned that working with animals means making mistakes -- especially with birds. We've had some get tangled in fencing and when they were really tired, we had a water container fall on three birds. You try hard, but you aren't perfect.
But still ...
Honestly, I'm grabbing this dead chicken and just shaking my head and saying to myself, "Seriously? Wendi? What are you DOING?" I feel like a fraud. I really do. I feel like this is some weird reality show and I am the star of the show. That at some point someone is going to jump out and tell me that I am on the show What Would You Do? or something like that.
I do wonder if this life will ever feel normal to me at all. Will I ever feel like a farmer? Or will I always feel like a city girl faking it.
I look forward to continue letting you know how I'm working all this out as you read the Blog. Stay tuned!