We've wanted chickens for a while and finally made the move this year. Although our city ordinances allow hens in the backyard, if the neighbors complain you have to get rid of them. Faced with this stipulation we designed a chicken tractor to look like a kids' playhouse. Hopefully we'll win over our neighbors with the cuteness.
In that we live on 1/4 acre we can't have our chicks free-range all the time. (That said, I do realize that we will be sacrificing a section of our lawn to the chickens, We're not naively hoping we can keep our lawn even with the chicken tractor. Out of concern for the local, urban wildlife of foxes, skunks. opossums, and racoons we enclosed the chicken run with 1/2" hardware cloth.
Another stipulation was that our kids (ages 5 & 7) had to be able to take care of the chickens without Mom or Dad's help (my wife & I are raising kids, not chickens!). Therefore, we "plumbed" their watering system to a hose hookup outside the coop (seen above). This will fill the 5-gallon bucket with watering nipples. Below is a picture of our "plumbing system."
The ramp is suspended with rope and has 3/4" square treads every 3," and secured with brad nails and Gorilla Glue. I had to keep the ramp elevated off the ground so the whole ensemble can move as a system without too much hassle.
There are 4 nest boxes and 3 roost bars. We put the roost bars closer to the watering system rather than the feed so their poop doesn't get mixed in with the feed. We also only put a window in the door closest to the water so if rain does enter the coop it won't spoil the feed. The door closest to the feed (through which this picture below was taken) is made out of a 2x4 frame so there is more distance for rain water to travel before accessing the feed. The door seen in the picture only has a 2x2 skeleton of a frame that is holding up the plywood.
This picture is in the middle of the coop in the ceiling. The trap door (leading to the ramp down below) can be opened and closed via a pulley system (see the pink rope) that, again, can be accessed outside. We wired the outlet to a plug below the coop so we can connect it to an extension cord in the winter for light and an aquarium water heater. Also seen in this picture is the hardware cloth used to seal off the eaves from bats or unwanted birds entering the coop.
The picture below shows how the outlet in the roof is wired to below the coop so an extension cord can be attached and kept out of weather in the winter.
We designed the coop around a 4x8' sheet of OSB (not wanting to piece boards together for a larger coop). The design stipulations mentioned above made for a heavier-than-desired coop. It takes 2 people to move. The 1,000 lb weight (as calculated by my computer software) is concentrated on four 4x4" posts below the coop, notched around the 2x4 frame. These posts also are the mainstay of the axle system, which is 1/2" flat cold-rolled steel bent into a U-shape and connected to the other side with a 1" square tubing (1/8" wall). The axle is a lever-pivot type found elsewhere in the BYC forums. The pivot point is 5/8" cold-rolled steel rod welded to the U-shaped yoke. The wheels are airless, 300 lb max capacity from Harbor Freight.
It is not shown in the picture above, but in transport mode the lever handles are held near-vertical so the force vector is nearly completely downward. To keep the handles in this position we use 2-8" x 5/16" galvanized bolts with large-diameter washers (seen in the first few photos) to keep the handles from jumping out of their position (which still can happen, but it's not as easy). The 8" length of the bolt gives me wiggle room if a bolt gets jostled out in transportation.
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