Chicken Tractors in UK 1943

Modern Farming; Agriculture in Britain, 1943. Edward Raines, poultryman on a Hampshire farm, moves a poultry fold into line with the others in the field. Each of these chicken ‘sheds’ contains 25 birds. They are moved their length every day, providing fresh ground for the hens to feed on and also making sure that the chicken manure is spread across the whole field. According to the original caption: “the folds are portable and, with the aid of simple, wheeled moving-gear, are easily moved”. Photo: Ministry of Information Second World War Official Collection.

(Note that Thursday is Luddite Photo Day at B.P.A.)

8 thoughts on “Chicken Tractors in UK 1943

  1. rjs

    ok, someone better explain why this is more efficient than just building a fence around the whole field and letting the chickens roam free over the entire area.

    reminds me of British gardening books ive read…always seemed their whole purpose was to make everything as much work as possible..

    1. K. McDonald Post author

      Maybe because foxes guard henhouses.

      From wiki: With the coop on only a small area at any given time, the field has time to wholly regrow and more birds can be fed than if they were allowed to freely roam. A chicken tractor also gives some shelter from predators and weather. Moreover, hens lay eggs in nest boxes rather than hiding them in foliage.

        1. K. McDonald Post author

          A lot of make work projects get passed off as necessary activity. Regarding the photo though, it truly was a war era project. And having read about Salatin’s methods, I like the chicken tractor idea. It keeps them out of the vegetable and flower gardens, too, eh?

    2. Trog

      Chickens can’t take direct sun/heat. Without the shelter of these “folds” they would all clump together in any shade they could find in a fenced pasture and would not cover the entire ground equally. And hawks will swoop down on chickens in a large open field, even if fencing keeps out predators on foot.

      I, too, think that moving chicken tractors daily looks like too much work and verges on factory-farm confinement. I am working on designing portable shades to solve this too-much-sun problem for my own chickens–otherwise my hens and chicks stay under the chokecherries most of the day and don’t eat the grasshoppers out in the grass around my garden.

      The shelters need to be easy to move but stable in the wind, plus the chickens need to like using them. My first attempt at a small A-frame worked in the wind but the hens ignore it, though the youngsters use it some of the time. Suggestions anyone?

    3. ryan

      Main reasons I use chicken tractor style is for: predator protection, and impact on pasture, and to encourage more even grazing, parasite/disease reduction. Most chickens (especially the cornish cross) won’t really range and graze more than a couple hundred yards from their roost house. If they do range farther the places near the house will still get the most impact to the point that it will ruin the pasture in that area and build up diseases and parasites. Modern light electrical fencing allows for day ranging….you can move a whole house on wheels to a new pasture every couple weeks. That doesn’t really work well for the cornish cross who are lazy birds and really need to be forced onto new pasture. Plus you can’t put young broilers out exposed to hawks and the like in the same way you can with larger layer hens. Bottom line….I don’t think the british were looking to create more work for themselves, chicken tractors still have a place on the modern integrated small farm. Do check out Joel Salatin’s work for more information on the beautiful ways in which chicken tractor style grazing has been integrated into his pasture based farming.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>