Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Chicken tractor!

Our poor hens, or chooks as I've taken to calling them, are sick and tired of their pen.  They're feeling quite cooped up, as it were...
Trouble is, green things are starting to poke up through the soil in the flowerbeds and and lawn.  And everyone with chickens knows that fresh green sprouts are chick magnets, so to speak.  A chicken tractor, or chook tractor (hee hee!) is the perfect solution.  It's a bit like a playpen for poultry.  We never used a playpen for Chirp-chirp, so I'm not sure if this means we're kinder or crueler to the birds than we are to our own offspring. 

Chirp-chirp, would, I think, argue crueler as she started her braces treatment today.  So far, she just has the little rubber o-rings fitted between her teeth that will attempt to make some sort of a gap for the metal bands that will go around her teeth to fit down into.  Yes, she would argue that we are cruel.  The joys of parenthood.  (And the COSTS!!! Oh my!!!)

Anyway, back to the chook tractor.

Using lumber we had on hand, we cut down one 2x4x10 into two 5 foot lengths.  These became the ends.  Two 2x4x8's became the sides.

We used 3.5" long wood screws to hold the boards together, and then use some small braces left over from another project to further anchor the corners together.

We bought six of these 1/2 inch electrical conduit braces for approximately 75 cents each.  These are at each corner, and one pair exactly halfway down the length of the frame.

Electrical conduit is made of PVC and cuts very easily with a hacksaw.  The common length of each piece is ten feet long, which includes a small bell shape on one end that we removed for this project.  We paid just a bit over a dollar for each section, of which we needed three.

The clamps held the conduit in very firmly, but to be on the safe side, we used a wood screw that went very easily through the conduit and into the wood.

As you can see, the conduit arched beautifully, and the ten foot length resulted in a nice height for the structure.

To add a little support, we ran a 1x2x8 down the length of the tractor, right at the apex of the arch.  We secured the wood to the conduit by drilling a small hole through both pieces and then tied them together with baling wire.  Is there anything you can't do with baling wire? 

The biggest expense was the chicken wire, which ran us about $20.00.  Ouch.  We do have several sections laying around, but we chose to buy a new roll and spare ourselves the hassle of trying to piece together scraps to make-do.  We could have used bird netting, which would have been much cheaper, but we wanted something a tad sturdier. 

The rolls of wire were exactly 4 feet wide, or one half the lenght of the tractor.  I'd like to say we planned that, but it was really just a very lucky accident.  We secured the chicken wire to the conduit with zip-ties (about $2.00 for 30), and then stapled the wire along the bottom to the wood frame.

Our original plan was to put wire at the ends as well, but we changed out mind and used 1/2" plywood instead.  We simply traced the outline of each end onto a sheet of wood and used a jigsaw to cut out the shape.  Wood screws hold one end onto the frame, and the other end is hinged to allow us to get the birds in and out.

Here they are in the tractor, working up the soil in one of our raised beds!  I put a bucket of water in there for them, and throw down a little bit of scratch to get them started.  After the beds are turned up nicely and have been planted, I'll just move the tractor around the yard so they can nibble on grass and bugs, and NOT on my vegetables or flowers.

Although, all this garden and yard talk may be a moot point.  We're looking at another house tomorrow.  Three acres!  A goatpen!  A woodstove!  A bigger mortgage!  Oh, wait.  That last one is a big downer...

I'll keep you posted.


  1. Love your chook tractor and I am sure your chooks will too.
    I think the $20.00 spent on new wire, is definitely not a waste, would've saved you alot of frustration.
    So nice to watch the girls scratching in the garden enjoying themselves.

    Great job ,

    Claire :}

  2. That has got me salivating...I'm thinking it would be a great addition to the front yard...I could stick a couple in there and get THEM to do the weeding!!! Craig loves the design and frugality too. She's beaut mate. (another Aussie piece of terminology for you to practice now that you have the "chook" down pat)(beaut - like byoot: meaning great, wonderful, ripper, bottler and bonza.)

  3. Lovely chook tractor! Definitely puts my little box to shame...LOL The chooks look so happy now! My chicks are free range and only get penned up when I lock them IN the garden!
    The orange pastry thingy looked good...I'll have to go read that post.
    PS- I clicked over from Chickens In The Road. :)

  4. Thanks, everyone.
    Tanya~If you have any questions about the design, send me an e~mail...I'd be happy to help!