Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Evolution of a Chicken Tractor

Nick and I have been dawdling on making our chicken tractor for two reasons; 1. I've been growin a person and he's been finishing our lovely living room  2. as good of a team as we usually make when it comes to drafting, we've been getting too fancy and overwhelming ourselves every time we sit down to design the chicken tractor.  This past weekend, however, having finished the bulk of the living room and entertained out easter guests we had a beautiful weekend ahead of us and we had to face the facts.  Our little fuzz balls were no longer fuzz balls and had officially outgrown their brooder.

Enter: Pile of Lumber (5 10' 2x4s, 3 sheets of plywood, quite a few 8' 2x4s and more hinges, latches and nails than you can shake a stick at.  Also 2 rolls of fencing and a box of hammer staples)

 1. Figure out your angles.  We had this figured out on paper and it was fine, but it took us a little finegaling to get it right in practice.  For two people who were once very good at geometry, you'd think we'd have an easier time differentiating between the angle we wanted to be left with and the ammount we had to cut from the board.  Also, thank God and my little brother for his miter saw, which we use constantly.  He may never get it back.  We went with an isoscolese triangle (60,60,60) but that comes down to 2 (30,60,90) triangles...and of course if you cut 60 from a board you are left with 30 and visa versa.... This was prolly the hardest part! Does your brain hurt yet?

2. So our angled pieces are 5'boards (3 of the 10' 2x4s cut in half) and we tacked them onto an 8' top beam. Nick just nailed them in and i really didn't think they'd stay well, but it got plenty of reinforcing as the project went on

3. We put in cross beams approx 2' from the ground and ran the other two 10' beams along that same line. The extra foot protruding from each side will act as a handle for dragging it around the yard.  

4. We rounded the ends of 2 more 8' boards and put them on the bottom as runners.  We elevated the angle beams with the short side of an 2x4 and placed the runners on the ground to nail them in at an elevated, but level height.  We need the runners to slide on the ground and perpendicular boards also on the ground won't help that cause any.  

5. Put on the roof...

... or at least most of it.  

6. Flooring.  Don't forget to leave a hole for the drawbridge!

7. See, there was a reason to only put up most of the roof.  From the standpoint of runaway chickens, it probably won't be practical to open a big hatch like this one every day, but it'll come in handy when you've gotta clean out the fertilizer for your garden.  Don't forget to put a latch on to go with those hinges.  Being predator-proof is key.  

 8. We cut 2 pentagons for the end caps of the coop portion, but broke each down further.

One was cut with a small hole near the top (with a hinge & latch).  It'll get some netting and be used for ventilation, but can be shut to keep warm air in if needed when it gets quite cold outside.  

The other (which also got a hinge & latch) was situated a little lower and on the end where eventually we'll put nest boxes for easy egg retrieval   

9.  We mostly fenced around the bottom (we ran out and used some ply-wood on one end), using the hammer staples to attach the fencing.  We made a point of getting fencing with small enough holes to keep the chickens in and small predators out, but that was a heavy enough gauge to at least seriously deter, if not keep out our dog.  It was a difficult balance to strike.  

10. Shingles! (I dug them up from all over the place, can you tell?) or other protective coatings.  We made a point of buying wolmanized (sp?) lumber so it wouldn't need treating, but we figured the ply-wood would all be roofed.  Didn't think about the ends... they're gonna need to be painted.  

And i'm not actually done roofing the darn thing.  That hinge is proving to be tricky (and i'm nitpicky).  Oh, we also put a door into the run part (which is covered in fencing) and bought new big feeder and waterer at TSC.  

It still needs some tweaking and finish work but it's done enough to get the girls out of their cramped brooder.  


  1. How many hens are you keeping in your tractor. Are you happy with your design?

  2. we have 8 hens and it suits them well, but I'd make it bigger if any more were gonna live there. For the most part, we're happy with the design but we have done some tweaking along the way.

    1. The Big door that runs the length was too heavy for the hinges we bought after a while. We fixed it by hinging it at the bottom, but you could also just invest in heavier-duty hinges.

    2. We REALLY should have painted the floor. We're actually going to have to replace it soon because we didn't. Poo and seeping rain have bowed it significantly.

    3. The shingles made it really heavy (my husband has to move it because I can't) and I never figured out a good solution for where the big side door opens up so rain got in anyways (contributing to the bowed floor). We fixed it by attaching a tarp (through furring strips so it doesn't rip) completely to the side without a door and attaching it just above the door on the other side, and letting the tarp drape over the crack and door with another furring strip at the bottom as a weight so it doesn't flap up. Now, when we open the big door, we flop the furring strip over the top (and the tarp goes with, of course) then open the door. In the future, I'd skip shingles and go with a painted roof and the tarp.

    4. The "runners" on the bottom were eventually removed and replaced with 2x4s attached underneath the vertical supports, more like a sled than the "blade" style shown above.