In late Spring of 2012 I found myself obsessing over chickens, and the hubby finally gave in when he saw the neighbors had a tractor that allowed them to range but be protected from predators. And so I began my quest. I researched and researched, reading everything I could find and finally ordered my first three chickens online. Then I got another locally. Then another and another..... and, I was Bit By the Chicken Bug!
My original tractor design would have housed 3-4 chickens. It was an ark style that had all the features I wanted to easy access to birds and for cleaning.
That didn't last long. Soon I was designing a coop for 8-10 chickens….
The project was slated to be worked on during the week of July 4th, when family was coming to visit for a week. I was so looking forward to this as a family project, plus I would have the much needed help of my Step-step father, who is a contractor. Their trip was postponed due to illness, then again for work reasons, and again for illness. It was now September, and I had aquired EVEN MORE chickens and needed to design something bigger and badder than the last. And, since I'm no carpenter, it had to be SIMPLE. Colder weather was on the way and I had all the youngsters growing out in a horse stall, and that stall would be needed very soon. So, I drew out yet another plan, with considerably less angles, and set off to Home Depot.
Here is a photo journal of my project (which I never did draw out, just kept it in my head) ---Which as is turned out, was anything but simple!
First I framed out the sides, making the coop about 12' long x5' wide. I decided to use truss plates in addition to toe-nailing the boards together. From the get-go I had anxiety about how heavy this thing was going to be, and knowing it was to be mobile, I wanted it as strong as could be. Later I would cuss those truss plates as they got in the way, however they work well as reinforcements. Then I found these fabulous joist hangers that made attaching the four sides together a breeze.
With the help of the house itself I managed to get the four sides locked together. I was very proud of myself at this point.
I had scored some cheap outdoor vinyl flooring from Lowe's to line the floor of the coop with for next to nothing, and the guy threw in about four extra feet. Who says tight shirts don't pay.
At this point I had to move the tractor back into the garage to start covering the walls. I used old treated plywood that had come off some old loafing sheds. This day I learned how tricky a reciprocating saw can be while trying to cut the not-so-perfect holes for the windows and nest boxes. I wanted huge windows to let in all the light and air. Summers in Middle Tennessee are stupid hot.
With all the sides on I was now ready to start working on the nest boxes, and I had enough vinyl left to line them as well. They're about 12"x14"x12" at the lowest point. I had received advice from a breeder friend not to build the boxes to large, as more then one bird will cram into them and possibly break eggs. Good tip I thought. This same person uses scrap carpet (unattached) to line the boxes with, since the birds can't scratch that out and it pads the landing for those ladies that prefer to birth their daily offering standing like a squaw. Wish my doctor would have let me do that.
Then I covered the window openings with hardware cloth and made slides for the acrylic windows. Winters in Middle Tennessee are stupid cold.
It's been over a week of this thing in the garage, so I figured I'd better figure out how to mobilze it pretty quick. I bought a 6' threaded rod for an axle, some nuts and washers, and 10" tires that I got a screamin deal on. I put racers in the holes the rod went through to prevent it from chewing up the wood over time. Duallies seemed like the only way to go for this beast.
This project is moving painfully slow since the only time I can work on it is during my then 20-month-old's 2 hour nap time, and occasionally at night after I put her to bed. All the farm chores and house work has been neglected.
Meanwhile, my husband's car sits outside......…
Next I worked on the pop door. This went surprisingly smoother than I had expected. Just a 6' length of rope, a couple hinges and a couple screw eyes. I used a small pipe elbow and conncetor to run the rope smoothly through the frame. I made a lock that can be worked from the outside of the coop using two conduit straps and an anchor bolt.
I know I just reinvented the wheel here, but again I was pretty proud of myself.
After two and a half weeks I finally moved the tractor back outside after hanging the skirt. This day I discovered I couldn't move it by myself on any surface other than the garage floor. My heart sank. And for the first time, my lovely husband laid a finger on it to help me move it. (Keep in mind he is a full time professional engineer and a full time MBA student--so no hard feelings for the hubby.)
Did I mention how NOTHING else around here was getting done??? I was on the home stretch--I thought-- and it was time to paint. Horse owners might want to keep this little tid-bit in their back pocket: A sure-fire way to round up and kill all your fly predators is to use an oil based paint outdoors in the evening.
Of course the NIGHT I got it painted it poured down rain. I'm sure the squirrels were falling out of the trees laughing at me in my pajamas, going through towel after towel drying this thing off like I just pulled a boat out of the lake. Now I find out the nest box lids leak in rainwater like a sieve where the gaps from the hinges are. I needed to work on the man door and that got help up by these darn lids. After a second night of rain and lost sleep over how to solve this problem, I headed down to Lowe's hoping something would jump off the shelf. It did. Perfectly white: garage door seal. Voila!
Lesson #814: For Peet's sake DON'T USE CHEAP HARWARE!!! Go-go-gadget hacksaw!
After two days of working on the door, another two of hanging the hardware cloth, an afternoon to build and paint the ramp, and one more night to bolt on the roof, it was finally time to wheel this thing down to the garden about 500 feet away. It took three people about 20 minutes. Darn this thing is heavy! But it rolls great. (and to date, after my husband and I moving it several times, once every three days or so, I'm proud to say it moves like a dream for the one footprint needed each time. Very simple for the two of us for such a short distance.)
Miss Skylar demostrated how good and tight I hung the wire. She also learned a few choice words during this process, which she has since had to unlearn.
It took another afternoon to attach all the hasps and latches and ramp hooks, and then--Move-In Day was finally here!
This cat....well you'd have to know this cat. He sees a dozen cat toys, wrestling partners, if you will.
I couldn't be happier. MISSION ACCOMPLISHED~!!!
And of course, I'm still collecting more chickens.....to fufill my quest to have one of everything............…
.....................and so I call it my chicken menagerie, and formally, the Cluck Wagon.
(Yes I stole it. But I asked permission first, even though I didn't get a response, lol!)