2nd installment Building my first lightweight Chicken Tractor

Discussion in 'Coop & Run - Design, Construction, & Maintenance' started by Scruffyfeathers, Mar 15, 2015.

  1. Scruffyfeathers

    Scruffyfeathers Out Of The Brooder

    Feb 16, 2015
    Griffin Georgia
    Building my first lightweight Chicken Tractor is a work in progress I would like to share so to make it easier to follow I will post the same title in sequential order: hence, this is the 2nd installment on the same subject. Also, I would like to acknowledge and give thanks for the ovations I received for my initial thread posted on 03/12/2015. Thank you. You are the inspiration to continue this thread and perhaps turn it into a DIY video to share with other members.

    Before any structure goes up there is the necessary site preparation. Even though I am building a mobile unit I still need to consider the site where it will be utilized. The following pictures show the 8700 sq. ft. section of aged pines where I have cleared the underbrush to make a range for my girls to graze and exercise. It is about 135 x 65.


    I have plotted out 23 plots measuring 240 sq. ft each. This gives me about 3 months of grazing if I move my tractor every 4 Days. The sky is filled with raptors so I need the tractor and enclosed run.

    The following picture shows the pile of underbrush that I culled from the area.[​IMG]

    I plan on burning the brush pile and tilling the ash into my clay soil to help my garden. A trip to the firehouse, about a half mile down the road, will be necessary to obtain a burn permit. Due to the size of the brush pile (9 feet high, 14 feet thick and 35 feet long) I intend on offering to supply the burgers, hotdogs, chips, salad and soft drinks for the men and women of the station if the Chief will consider staging a fire truck on my property during the burn. I am surrounded by a little more than 100 acres of old Pines and scrub brush. I think this would be a small price to pay when considering the horrific consequences of an out of control burn.

    This last picture shows the next area I intend on clearing after the first burn.


    This area is a little smaller, about 5800 sq. ft., but the underbrush is much thicker. There appears to be the remnants of an old house or barn that needs to be cleared out as well. Needless to say, there will be another offer of burgers and chips next month. Oddly enough in this smaller area ( about 161 x 36) I can get about 24 staging areas for my tractor here as well. The trees form a natural line and open up to part of the lower end of my garden with the branches and boughs overhanging 25 feet of the area. To save time, because this is just a long narrow strip I think I will use the backhoe to rip out the brush and debris. The first area took me about 3 weeks to clear because I cut the brush by hand and dragged it out using a small ss16 suburban garden tractor so as not to disturb the ground too much. I will try the backhoe first (it has a 16 foot reach) and if it doesn’t make too much of a mess I will continue. Otherwise, I’ll have to clear it the hard way which will take me a lot longer.

    The towering majestic pines offer filtered sunlight to reduce some heat related stress on my flock. As a bonus, because there is a 6 month resting period for the land between use the trees easily regenerate the area with fresh pine needles and organic material springs anew. The necessity of a durable light weight tractor becomes obvious now that you have seen the configuration of my grazing range. It would be impractical to constantly move a 4 or 5 hundred pound tractor over this area. Also, it is highly unlikely that a stick built structure could survive the constant wracking and weathering without constant maintenance.

    In my last post I mentioned that I was a “Lower Level Structural Engineer.” Clarification: what that means is that I have no formal education in Structural Engineering. However, I did attend UT&E (University of Trial & Error) for more than 25 years. My favorite professor, **** Thatwontwork
    , was patient as well as persistent. He took me under his wing and taught me well. I enjoyed his tutelage as he had a tendency to stray away from conventional practices. It was not uncommon for him to introduce some outlandish or impractical ideas into the simplest projects: and they worked! Those were the days.

    Although I am not, nor ever was, a licensed structural engineer, I do have 25 years of experience as a licensed General Contractor building homes, commercial buildings and office complexes with metal framing. To date none of them have failed, imploded, crumbled to the ground or suffered any unusual problems. That having been said, I intend on deviating from a few conventional construction methods that may appear a bit peculiar. When I do, I will explain the purpose and reasoning in doing so.

    As did most contractors I began my career building with wood. “Stick Building” as it is known in the trade. After a few years of beating my thumbs black and blue with a hammer I decided there had to be an easier and less painful way to build things. I switched to building with metal because it is lighter, stronger and reduced waste as most steel components are cut to length at the factory. Most importantly, I was not required to hold a nail between my thumb and forefinger in hopes I could move them out of the way just before the hammer came crashing down on the head of the nail. When you stop to think about it, whoever invented the hammer and nail concept must have been a closet masochist.

    For my Tractor and Run I will not be sending my plans to a factory to have the metal pre cut. I am going to wing it. This project is actually nothing more than a basic shell or a box of sorts; four walls with a roof and a floor with the primary goal being reduced weight and added strength.

    As for materials, most home improvement stores handle 25 gauge studs, track and hat channel. Typically 25 gauge steel is used for non-load bearing walls while 20, 18, 16 and 14 gauge steel is used for support, in trusses, floor joists, load bearing walls and long spans. For this project I am electing to go with the 25 gauge for two reasons: material availability and reduced weight.

    The only tools required for the framing of my tractor will be: Gloves, a 30’ Tape Measure, a Cordless Drill, a manual Riveter, a Tri Square, a pair of straight cutting Aviation Snips, a 3” Metal Break, several small Spring and C- Clamps, and, much to my chagrin, a 16 oz Hammer. Oh yes, a narrow tip Sharpie comes in handy for marking. All these tools are light weight and can easily fit into a small canvas tote.

    When working with light gauge steel I cannot stress enough on the importance of wearing gloves. I suspect at one time or another in most people’s lives we have all received a paper cut. Paper cuts happen quickly and unexpectedly. They can be annoying and sometimes sting a bit. Handling light gauge steel magnifies this sort of discomfort ten fold. Cuts from steel happen in the same manner but are typically deep, hurt considerably and may require immediate medical attention. Also, the sun can heat steel to a blistering temperature in a very short time. On cold days steel can numb your fingers before you know it. Bottom line: ware a pair of gloves.

    In my next installment I will have the materials on hand and the build will begin!
  2. aart

    aart Chicken Juggler! Premium Member

    Nov 27, 2012
    SW Michigan
    My Coop

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