Thursday, October 23, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

Michaelann and the chicken tractor

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.

Michaelann and the chicken tractor

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.

Virginia A. Smith Inquirer Staff Writer
About this blog
Ginny Smith, a Philadelphia native, joined the Inquirer at 1985. After stints as both reporter and editor in the city and suburbs, she’s been happily writing – and learning - about gardening full time since 2006. She’s won two silver medals of achievement from the national Garden Writers Association and in 2011, Bartram’s Garden honored her with its Green Exemplar award for her stories about “the region’s deeply rooted horticultural history, cultural attractions and bountiful gardens.” She plays in her own – mostly - bountiful garden in East Falls. Reach Virginia A. at vsmith@phillynews.com .

Virginia A. Smith Inquirer Staff Writer
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