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Chicken Tractor Forager
Our Chicken Tractor/Forager
March 27, 2010
At the time of the building of this chicken tractor/forager, we have 14 chickens (4 are bantams). We have a spacious back yard but I didn't want the chickens destroying our annuals and garden, pooping everywhere, (my children would like to play in their back yard too!) or roaming into the neighbor's yard. Their run is sizeable but I wanted them to have the opportunity to forage on grass and thought our lawn could benefit from the activity as well. So...I asked my husband to build a chicken tractor for me. The intention is not to house the birds in it but just to get them some exercise, to give them a mobile change of scenery and to cut down on our feed costs a little bit. Ok, plus it's fun to have new chicken toys!
We will be modifying it to include inclement weather coverage (a tarp or something less of an eyesore like heavyweight, opaque, plastic contractor sheeting). We decided we don't need a roost because they will always be brought back to the Big Girl Coop at night to sleep.
Many of the materials we used were left-over and repurposed items from other projects (ie: the droppings pit that we replaced with a much more workable droppings BOARD). We did buy the lumber for the bottom frame, the skinny top piece of wood, the little clampy things that hold the tubing in place, screws, hooks and eyes and a hinge, (for the front door) and the wheels (at TSC on clearance for $6.99 each). We had the irrigation tubing for the "hoop" leftover, we had spare lumber for the doors and nesting boxes, two spare knob pulls, and we re-purposed the hinge for the nesting box. So it's ended up costing only about $60.00 for the whole project. Entertainment value of building it and watching the flock enjoy it: PRICELESS!
My husband receiving instructions from my daughter:
After the base was built and the wheels attached, in went the rudimentary nesting boxes. There is a door on the back of the nest boxes that is hinged (with a re-purposed cabinet hinge) and opens up from the outside for ease of egg retrieval.
The black, ribbed material used to make the "hoop" portion of the tractor is Irrigation Tubing, which is used for underground sprinkler systems. We had some leftover from a project last year, so it was "free". It's hollow and very lightweight. Originally we planned on using PVC for the tractor but we learned that PVC isn't very durable for this purpose and will crack eventually.
The only predators we worry about during the day are the many hawks in our area, so we didn't need to use chicken wire or hardware cloth for this project, just plastic netting. Plus, it was important to me that this tractor be LIGHTWEIGHT in order to move it easily by myself and this plastic netting weighs nothing. I can only find this product at Lowes; Home Depot & TSC don't seem to carry it. It cost $12.00 for a 36"x 50' roll and is found right next to the chicken wire and hardware cloth. We have tons leftover. I'm sure we'll find a use for it some time in the foreseable future. My husband attached the netting with zip ties.
Hauling the tractor/forager down to the girlz to give it a test-drive:
We pull it up to the run door and they waste no time piling in:
You can see some of the "work" the girlz have done in the mulch behind the tractor/forager. That's part of the reason for wanting to build it. There will be plants trying to poke out of the soil any time now and they don't stand a chance at the hands of my little flock!
I added the heavyweight plastic construction sheeting today b/c it's raining.
This is the chicken door. It's not perfect, but it's functional!
Chicken door, latched shut. Do you think the brushed nickel door pull is too fancy for this hoopty? It's like putting lipstick on a pig.
Nesting boxes after I stapled some vinyl tablecloth for "privacy curtains".
View of the back of the tractor where the nesting boxes are w/egg door opened:
I covered the tractor with temporary plastic sheeting with a few staples so I can let the girlz out on rainy days. I won't keep the plastic on tractor unless it's raining though because I want to be able to see them and want them to enjoy the sunshine if it ever comes back to Connecticut! I need to tarp the whole thing b/c they didn't stay under the tarped portion of the tractor and got all wet.
We originally did not think we were going to let our flock free-range, which is why we created this tractor, for them to get out of the run. HOWEVER, our flock got bigger and the tractor was too small for it AND we decided to let them free-range. This tractor has been indispensible in other ways though. We use it as a broody-breaker. On several occasions, one of my bantam Cochin Frizzles has decided to go broody and I have put her in this tractor for two or three days by herself. It has broken her of the mood, but it makes me feel better not to have her in a cage by herself and her friends can still visit her. :) I have also used it after having hatched chicks under a broody mama. After they were about a week old, I put them all in the tractor with the mama hen and they could be confined, get some fresh air and sunshine while mama taught them how to forage, yet stay protected from other bigger birds.
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