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How to Build a Portable Chicken Tractor

DIY Chicken Tractor

A modified chicken tractor at 37 Acres Farm in Camden, Ohio.

When building a chicken tractor, keep in mind that in any type of poultry containment the old rule of thumb is to provide at least 4 square feet of floor space per bird, although up to 6 square feet might prove beneficial for some of the larger breeds. There should also be plenty of head space to allow for free movement and natural activity.

Chickens have been used frequently to follow cattle across pasture; utilizing some of the lower, finer stemmed plant materials left behind by the true grazers; feeding on some insect life; and even helping to break down manure pats. They will still need to be offered a full feeding of a good laying ration to maintain desired levels of egg laying performance, however.

The challenges will be how to best tend the birds so contained and to protect them from predation. One- x 2-inch or 1- x 1-inch patterned, welded wire is a strong, durable choice, although it will add to the initial cost of construction. Continue Reading →

Tractor Time Episode 16: Douglass DeCandia, Farmer and Advocate Against Food Apartheid


Welcome to our 16th episode of Tractor Time podcast, brought to you by Acres U.S.A., the voice of eco-agriculture. My name is Ryan Slabaugh, and we are fired up to bring you another hour of conversation about ecology, agriculture, and this hour, we’re even talking about saving the world.

Doug DeCandia

We have two guests on our show today. One is Mary Battjes, and I have the pleasure of working every day with Mary. She’s our project manager, and recently wrapped up a survey of young farmers around the country and world. We spoke with a lot of them, and found their look at the world and their role in the world so inspiring. Speaking generally, they want the same things most of us want — safety, security, family and a healthy environment. Yet, they see the obstacles very clearly. Climate change. Technology disruption. And an economy that favors the big devouring the small.

Yet, there is hope. And it comes in the form of our second guest, Douglass DeCandia, a young farmer from New York. He grows food using natural methods, but he does so with an even greater purpose – to serve those who are forgotten by our food system, who are systematically discriminated against because of who they are, where they are from or where they live. His “farm,” and he uses quotation marks around that so I will ask him about that later, serves youth and adults who are incarcerated, students at a school for the deaf, and young adults who are part of a residential treatment program. He also supports a number of his area’s food growing products, and when we talked to him today, he was wandering around the gardens at the school for the deaf.

Find all of the Tractor Time podcasts here, or for free in the iTunes store.

Raw Milk for Real Health, Wealth

Soil Scientist, Author Joseph Heckman Examines the State of Raw Milk Dairying & Challenges to Consumer Choice

Joseph Heckman, Ph.D. is a tireless advocate for common sense and good science regarding producing, selling and drinking fresh, unprocessed milk. A professor of soil science at Rutgers University, he teaches courses in soil fertility and organic crop production. He conducts research and extension programs on optimizing nutrition and soil quality in support of plant, animal and human health. He has served as chair of several professional organizations including the Council on History, Philosophy, and Sociology of Soil Science, the Committee on Organic and Sustainable Agriculture, and the Organic Management Systems Community of the American Society of Agronomy. He is also a member of the Board of Directors of the Farm to Consumer Foundation. Dr. Heckman was the lead author of the Soil Fertility in Organic Farming chapter for the agronomy society’s book, Ecology of Organic Farming Systems. Most recently he co-authored Fresh Milk Production, The Cow Edition and Fresh Milk Production, The Goat Edition. Heckman’s determined insistence on sanity, science and sense has done a great deal to lift the reputation of raw milk in this country.

Interviewed by Chris Walters

Fresh Perspective

ACRES U.S.A. Dr. Heckman, how did you find your way to the subject of fresh, unprocessed milk and all the science, politics and controversy around it? Did you arrive at this debate via research, personal background, or lucky happenstance? Continue Reading →

Book of the Week: Cure Your Own Cattle

By Frank Newman Turner

Editor’s Note: This is an excerpt from Acres U.S.A. original book, Cure Your Own Cattle, written by Frank Newman Turner. Copyright 1950, 2009, softcover, 96 pages. $10 regularly priced. SALE PRICE $6.00.

I left university with the deep bewilderment about animal diseases, which I imagine is common to all agricultural and veterinary students. The only certain thing about animal diseases seemed to be man’s inability to prevent or cure most of them. It was not until I had experienced these diseases in my own herd and started at the beginning in my attempt to eliminate and prevent them, instead of accepting the diseases and treating them as inevitable, that I discovered the root cause of most of them. Until in fact I discovered that there is only one disease of animals and its name is man!

Cure Your Own Cattle, by Frank Newman Turner

The solution was then simple. If I could get the animals back to a life as nearly as economically practicable to what it was before man perverted them to his own use, and provide them as fully as possible with all the requirements of health available under natural conditions, it was reasonable to assume that health would be restored and maintained. That in fact has been my experience, and in this section of the book I publish the treatments evolved from this assumption, which have been proven effective when used by farmers themselves on their own cattle in all parts of the world. But first let me give you some of my experiences that led to the discovery of the simple natural cures for diseases, which have hitherto seemed incurable by the involved methods of orthodox veterinary science.

I have previously written about the diseases that drained my resources and nearly ruined two herds of cattle; how artificial manures were dispensed with entirely and how manuring entirely by natural means and feeding my cattle mainly on organically grown (See Fertility Farming) food and herbs, I restored my herd and my farm to health and abundance from the stage when 75% of my animals were suffering from contagious abortion, sterility, tuberculosis and mastitis. I spent large sums of money on vaccination and the orthodox veterinary treatment of sterility and the only result was increasing disease. Some cows aborted their calves as often as three times after being vaccinated, and one after another the cows were declared by the veterinary surgeon to be useless and incapable of further breeding after he had applied a succession of orthodox treatments and failed. He told me that I should never be safe from these diseases until I adopted a system of regular vaccination of all my cattle as they reached the age of six months; I must also fatten and sell the sterile animals and tuberculosis reactors. In spite of pressure, I resisted all this advice, largely because I had not the capital to replace the “useless” animals which I was advised to dispose of, and partly because I was in any case becoming convinced that we had been tackling disease from the wrong end. Continue Reading →

7 Keys to Dairying, Cheesemaking Success

No one becomes a dairy farmer or dives into cheesemaking because they are looking for a simple, easy life with a large pot of gold at the end the rainbow. But if a cheesy (I like to think of that as a complimentary word) life appeals to you, and you choose to turn it into a business, it must be one that is sustainable — worth continuing from the aspects of workload and income.

Being a successful farmstead cheesemaker is no longer just a matter of gathering together a beautiful herd of dairy sheep, cows, goats, or water buffalo and making great cheeses.

Not only are feed and infrastructure costs higher than ever, but the artisan cheesemaker faces stiff competition from imported cheeses and those that appear to be made domestically but are made in part using imported milk (in the case of some water buffalo mozzarella), imported frozen curd (for some fresh and ripened goat cheeses), or simply made overseas (utilizing milk from mega-dairies) to make a custom-label cheese. Continue Reading →

Meat of the Matter: Deep Nutrition for Better Health

Dietician, Educator & Author Diana Rodgers Talks about Nutrition, Organic Farming and Taking Back our Food System for Better Health

Photo by Heidi Murphy

Diana Rodgers believes in the power of real food to improve health and well-being and help reverse chronic conditions. As a registered dietician, she works with clients from her Concord, Massachusetts, office. Her practice focuses on all too common conditions of 21st century America such as weight, metabolic and digestive issues. As a dietitian Rodgers is unusual in her preference for nutrient-dense foods, including red meat and a diet low in industrially processed, hyper-palatable processed foods. Her concern for and knowledge about environmental sustainability, animal welfare, regenerative farming and social justice also make her an outlier in her profession. And she’s really good at getting people to listen through the use of story and occasional heartfelt turns of phrase, like her comparison of “taking a pill to lower cholesterol to cutting off a smoker’s fingers.”

In addition to her clinical practice, Rodgers is a passionate educator. She hosts fascinating guests on her Sustainable Dish Podcast, maintains an active speaking schedule at universities and conferences, and is the author of two cookbooks, The Homegrown Paleo Cookbook (2014), written with her farmer husband, and Paleo Lunches and Breakfasts on the Go (2013). She’s at work on a feature length documentary Kale vs. Cow: The Case for Better Meat, which promises to influence the broader conversation about food ethics, sustainability and animal agriculture. I first heard Rodgers speak at a 2017 Grassfed Exchange plenary session, where an audience of 500 conference goers responded enthusiastically to her presentation. Continue Reading →