If you have chickens in your yard, you might know what this is. But I don't, and didn't. It's a "chicken tractor" belonging to Michaelann Velicky, who calls herself a "front yard farmer" in Elkins Park. She has only 1/3 of an acre, but she packs a lot of useful, beautiful and beneficial stuff in her raised and in-ground beds.
Her friend Meei-Ling Ng, a fellow artist and farmer from Center City, created this cool thing out of recycled chicken wire from Michaelann's garage and discarded irrigation drip tape from Weavers Way Co-op Farm. Michaelann puts two chickens at a time in there, where they're protected from harm, and they go to town - scratching for insects, digging (aerating the soil) and fertilizing. The tractor can be moved around. Quite an efficient little system, especially if, like Michaelann, you're converting more and more of your turf grass lawn into plantable space.
I visited with Michaelann last Wednesday. She shared her story, along with honey from her bees, freshly picked strawberries, homemade herbal ice tea, and a strawberry-rhubarb custard bar that was out of this world. Michaelann is a believer in the tenets of permaculture, which is a way of planting and growing (and living) that attempts to mimic the systems in nature. Chickens and the "chicken tractor" are an integral part of that.
Story this Friday. If you're interested at all in bring more of the farm life to your city or suburban property, be sure to read about Michaelann. She's an inspiration.