What is a Chicken Tractor?
Often, we forget that not everyone is aware of all the terminology and topics so familiar in our day-to-day lives. When Rhenda told our son that we had built a chicken tractor for our new hens he asked, “A what?” What was obvious to us was foreign to him. He had no idea what such a contraption was supposed to do nor how one might look.
Before starting the construction of a chicken tractor there are a few basic questions to answer.
- Purpose of the chickens?
- How many chickens?
- What type of climate?
- Who are the predators?
- How much space available where it will move?
- Will you move it by hand or with a machine?
- Do you want to get in it from time to time?
- What are the materials you have on hand? or what is your budget?
- What tools do you have on hand?
- What are you construction skills?
Use those answers to start designing.
For me the answers were:
- Two purposes and thus two sets of chickens, egg laying and meat.
- 12 or so layers and 50 meat birds for the year. (those numbers are based on our personal consumption plus what we plan to share)
- We have wet and windy spring, hot and humid summer, comfortable fall, and cold winter.
- The predators include aerial predators, coyotes, dogs, raccoons, foxes, snakes, and more I am sure.
- While we are still planning our overall farm plan, we are confident that a six foot width will fit through any areas where we intend to take the chickens.
- We want to be able to move them by hand.
- We prefer standing or at least crouching to work in the chicken tractor if needed.
- For our most recent chicken tractor (CT), our new design, we had all the materials on hand. For the next CTs we will need to purchase much of the material and
- thus I will create a parts list.
- I have accumulated the tools I understand how to use to build almost anything I can design. If you are not as well equipped you may need to either acquire what you need or adjust your construction plans to use the equipment you have on hand.
- I am not a craftsman but I am a rough fabricator. If you are unfamiliar with construction I suggest you find courage and figure it out as you go. You will learn more by constructing then by merely reading and thinking about it. By all means, read books, watch videos, get advice from other who have construction knowledge, but get started!
What do you do with your answers?
- For layers the CT needs to have nest boxes. No special requirements for meat birds.
- The number of birds influence the CT dimensions. Layers will be full sized while meat birds will start small and end before they are full sized. Provide three square foot per chicken. This is a rule of thumb and advice will vary. Less space means they may need moved more often. My layer CT is for twelve birds and is 6’X10′, well beyond the three square foot rule.
- We placed a tarp over the entire top for rain and sun protection. The CT is open on both ends and the bottom two feet of the sides for ventilation. During the winter we have a chicken house or will move the CT into our barn.
- Consider you conditions and plan accordingly.
- We put hardware wire around the bottom two feet of the CT and over both ends. one inch chicken wire over the remainder reinforced with a welded wire. We place two door latches on the door and will add a lockable hasp before fall. Predators could dig under the frame but that is the only entry possibilities, fingers crossed. We are considering donkeys as guardians for our pastured animals. We tend to overdo against predators and suggest you consider the cost of loss when planning you predator response.
- Where will you keep you chickens? How much maneuvering space is there? Are you able to adjust spacing to permit the size of CT you expect to construct?
- Choose construction technique and materials which match the weight of the CT to the means you have to move it.
- If you plan to enter the CT for management purposes than you will need to construct it that way.
- Your budget, materials, equipment, and construction skills are completely up to you.
Creating Your Chicken Tractor Construction Plan
Some people need detailed drawings and extensive assembly details. I truly admire them, really. On the other had. I do better with a well thought-out idea created from the questions above. I may sketch out a few rough drawings where I feel a need to confirm that my intentions have a chance of working. My approach often requires adaptations to adjust where I overlooked some joint requirements or proper fitting. This is a chicken tractor and the residents are not too picky. If I had the patience and the inclination I imagine that my projects would go smoother if I prepared more detailed plans. Usually, I am sourcing the materials from my scrap pile and have to adapt to get everything to fit and match well enough to get the job done. Maybe someday I will have the luxury of starting a project where I can source all the right materials and be able to create a plan that I can actually follow to completion without deviation.
Building a chicken tractor by the seat of your pants is not the best choice but the more I do these kinds of projects the better I become at completing them with happy results. My advice, do not plan yourself out of building you chicken tractor. Think it through and get building!
- Sourcing your materials and tools.
- Cut sheets (on paper or in you head) and preparing the materials.
- Preparing for the chickens
- The Heartiness Acres CK-V2 Overview (Chicken Tractor version 2)