July 24, 2008
The Scoop on Coops

IMGP3373.JPGMarty Mathis was pretty excited about showing off his seven acres of cabernet sauvignon when I visited him yesterday at his and his mother's winery, Kathryn Kennedy, on the lower reaches of the Santa Cruz Mountains at Saratoga. But he kicked up the volume a couple of notches when the subject turned to his "chicken tractor," a large wheeled contraption he built to house his four chickens as he moves them through the vineyard to help keep down the weeds, fertilize vines and control insects. It's a portable coop, without a floor, but a compartment for roosting and buckets for depositing eggs.

Mathis acknowledges that his excitement over building a chicken tractor sort of got out of hand, and he ended up with the veritable Airstream of chicken tractors. The materials he used were so fine and the size so substantial that he figures every egg he's getting from his brood costs him $10. Nonetheless, he doesn't rue the investment. He figures those eggs, combined with produce from his garden, provide him with one home-grown meal a day.

Apparently a movement is afoot to convince city folk to build chicken tractors as part of the locavore philosophy. You can find a whole gallery of chicken tractors here.

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