We have a nice chicken coop where our layers live but I wanted to build something to put a group of meat birds out of the way a the far end of the yard.
1) Low maintenance
2) Costs nothing (or almost nothing)
3) Access door to let the growers range, especially if we go for freedom rangers next year
4) 2 self supporting hinged top access doors covering the whole 8x4 structure. One waterproof one to cover sheltered area and 5G food/water buckets, one over the open area.
5) Reusable to cover an enclosed vegetable patch when not in use.
6) Possible to bolt in a nesting box in case chicken math sets in.
7) Spent little time on predator-proofing. Layer coop is impenetrable, no need to spend a lot of time doing that for an 8 week use meat tractor.
I had a look at all the designs on BYC, there was nothing exactly like I wanted to make, but lots of similar tractors to get some cool ideas.
Initial build: 2 hours
The meat birds were in the garage in a watermelon box and I was getting tired of filling the water container and food containers every morning and every night. Plus it's Pennsylvanian summer, 75 degrees at night, so let's see how these 10 day old chicks do outside in a tractor.
Chicks on arrival from tractor supply. How did that Silver Laced Wyandotte get in there!?
Chicks in the watermelon box, quickly drinking all the water and eating all the food. The goal of the first build was to get the chicks out of the garage.
Scribbled an 8x4 design on some paper in bed the night before.
Rough plan of 4 2x4 sections.
Started off my looking around the garage for some 2x4s and ripped them all into 2x2s. Decided to use all 2x2s to keep it light while keeping it strong.
Made the bottom pieces longer with beveled ends to slide on the grass easier.
The thing is so light, and the cross pieces are a touch higher to avoid friction when moving, so there's no need for PCV under the front to back runners.
Used pre-drilled pocket hole screws on either side of each beam to avoid any twisting when the wire attached under tension.
Use of feed bags because I didn't have time to cover the whole structure in chicken wire on day 1.
Stapled on enough leftover chicken wire for one side so we could watch "chicken TV".
We put in two 6 week old pullets to see how they would get along, and surprisingly there was no trouble. It must have helped that they were outnumbered 12 to 2 by the smaller Cornish Rocks
Popped our broody chicken in the "broody breaker" on top. That helps get some more air circulating underneath her. Hopefully she'll be back to laying soon.
Patridge Barnevelder and Wheaten Marans getting along fine with the 2 week old Cornish Rocks.
First night all huddled together to keep warm. Went to bed praying that no animal is going to slash at the feed bags and break in.
The next day everyone was fine and even hanging out together.
Suspended 5 Gallon Bucket Waterer and Feeder Station: 1 hour
Keeping the feeder and waterer off the floor means you can drag the tractor without having to take anything out. Plastic buckets brought home from PreK work well to stop the chicks roosting and pooping on top of the feeder and waterer.
Put 3 street elbows instead of one into the feeder as the tractor is being primarily used for hungry meat birds
2 horizontal nipples on the waterer. I would have preferred 3 because they drink a lot of water, but I only had 2 left. I made a 2x2 square to raise the water up further when the chicks got bigger. Looks like it's time to stack another one made of 2x4s.
Suspended Nesting Boxes: 2 hours and a 1 hour drive
I loved watching Justin Rhodes "5 Chicken Coops That Work - 5 Brilliant Ways", and started the design for this tractor from that video. With the sole intention of using this coop for a meat bird experiment, I was browsing Craigslist and found someone giving away free milk crates. Justin's externally accessible floating milk crate nesting boxes with landing bar is such a great idea I had to add that feature to this meat bird coop. There are a couple of non-laying chickens I put in there due to them getting in the way of the nesting boxes and pecking the layers while laying in the main coop, so it's a nice to have if they decide to lay one. Who knows, when it's finished I might give this away as a coop for someone who wants to keep a few layers in it.
It's great the way it moves with the tractor, and chickens can shelter from the sun underneath it, doesn't take away from the ground space, and adds vertical space without much weight. I moved the tractor today and didn't feel any difference.
1 year old Blue egg laying Crested Cream Legbar "Ohagi" is pictured below.
April: 2 eggs
May: 12 eggs
June: 9 eggs
July: 6 eggs, some with blood in
August: 1 egg with blood in it
September: Broiler room - tick, tock.