Tucked away in the Associated Students Outback Farm among students’ gardens and trees are fat, fluffy chickens eating bugs in a triangular coop. A plan for a chicken tractor is in the works for the Outback Farm.
During spring quarter 2014, Western freshman Cassy Brown hopes to build a movable chicken coop, called a chicken tractor, which allows the chickens to roam around the garden. The chickens help with the labor by eating the bugs and dead plants and till the soil.
Brown first learned about chicken tractors in her human ecology course through Fairhaven College.
The chicken tractor is a pen, typically with doors and wheels that can be moved depending on what kind of compost one wants, or what kind of prep is needed for the garden.
“They’re making this sort of nice compost for you,” Brown said. “You don’t have to do as much manual labor.”
If the chicken tractor is built, less work would have to go into making sure the garden plots are being well kept, as well as the chickens, Brown said.
Making the chicken tractor as comfortable as possible for the chickens is on Brown’s list as well, with even the possibility of a chicken hammock, Brown said.
“You want something comfortable for the chickens,” Brown said. “They like nesting beds.”
Junior Jasper Gibson, a facilitator for the human ecology course through Fairhaven College, taught students how to interact with the world through sustainable systems.
Many students choose to do projects outside of the class after they learned more about sustainable living and use the green energy fee to fund their project, Gibson said.
“Students can do either small or large grant proposals and use the money from the student green energy fee, which all the students pay into, and use that money to propose a project,” Gibson said.
Without the human ecology course, the Outback Farm may not still be part of Western’s community, said Gary Bornzin, a faculty sponsor of the human ecology course.
In the mid 80s, the class started and began to utilize the Outback more and urged Western officials to not use the land where the Outback is now for parking spots or residence halls, Bornzin said.
“It used to be that the entire Outback was kind of a playground for that class,” Bornzin said. “For many years, it was that group of students advocated for keeping the Outback as an educational space for the university.”
Outback Coordinator Eric Nelson seems excited about the project, Brown said.
Once the project proposal is sent into the green energy fee for this quarter by Wednesday, Feb. 5, hopefully a grant will be given, Brown said.
Brown is applying to receive a small grant from the green energy fee, which would give her about $500 to $2,000 for the project, according to the Western sustainability website. Brown would need about $100 to $200 for the entire project, she said.
“The green energy fee has different due dates of project proposals about every month,” Brown said. “I’m hoping to get it approved this quarter and build a team and build it in the spring.”
Brown hopes to someday have a garden or farm of her own, but for now, the chicken tractor is her current project, Brown said.