Building the bigred tractor (PICS)

Discussion in 'Meat Birds ETC' started by petrelline, Nov 17, 2009.

  1. petrelline

    petrelline Songster

    Feb 13, 2009
    Los Gatos, CA
    Somewhere in some other topic that I've since lost bigredfeather posted pictures of his chicken tractor, which he made from 2x2s and plywood, with a door on the side to let the birds free range. I'd been researching tractor designs for a long time and needed something that was not quite so huge and bulky as a traditional Salatin tractor, but not as light as a PVC tractor. Bigred's tractor seemed to be just what I was looking for!

    Armed with bigred's photos and my own ideas, I set off for the hardware store and over the course of a full weekend (plus a day or so) DH and I put together my own version of the bigred tractor. Right now I'm not using the tractor as an actual movable tractor because I don't have any usable pasture, so it's more of a barn pen for the 24 barred rock chickens I'm raising for as a meat experiment and as layer hens. Later on when I've mowed the eight foot high weeds and bramble in the back ten we call the "pasture" [​IMG] I'll be able to move it out of the barn and use it for a real tractor.

    The frame of the tractor is 2x2 lumber. This is good quality pine from the local Ace hardware. The Home Depot 2x2s are *significantly* cheaper, as I found out later, but they are much poorer quality wood (crooked, knotty). The corners are plain 2x4s for strength. Overall the tractor is 8x8x2 foot. I used these dimensions to reduce cutting. Everything is attached with 3 inch deck screws.


    DH was certain that this straight-up-and-down design would torque sideways and break the moment we picked it up to move it and wanted to put in cross braces along the top. But it is totally sturdy and does not shift diagonally in any way.

    I couldn't find any thin pine plywood for the closed half of the tractor (strangely enough), and I didn't want to use thicker plywood and rosk the tractor being too heave to move. So the closed part of my tractor is 1/8" pressboard...which is not exactly weather safe, its just one step removed from cardboard. It's the kind of stuff that totally comes apart when it gets wet. It's double-primered on one side and I didn't have time to primer it on the other but I'll get around to that at some point. I'm not especially happy about that but it was really cheap, and the tractor will be inside out of the rain for now. If it dissolves in the weather later on I can always just put more on later.


    And here it is, the completed tractor in place inside the barn. Its not that heavy -- I can lift one side of it onto a mover's dolly, and then pick up the other side and move it fairly easily, and I'm not that strong. With handles the two of us could pick it up and move it without too much trouble (it was kind of awkward without handles).


    The design of this lid I stole directly from bigredfeather's original photos, complete with the wood tabs to keep the lid from falling in. All my chicken pens and brooders have to have hasps because we have enterprising racoons that know how to open lids. The whole open side of the tractor is enclosed with hardware cloth, tacked down with sturdy staples. Note to self after this project: buy an air stapler.


    One change I made to this tractor from most of the other tractor designs I've seen: I split the lid into two halves. This has turned out to be a good idea because I can fill feeders and waters from one side or the other. It reduces escape attempts.


    Another view of the completed tractor. I butted it up against the corner of the barn, where there's an access door. The access door is important, because I designed the door in the tractor to match it....


    Here's outside the barn looking in through the access door to the door in the tractor. Bigred's tractor had this door and a little light went on in my head when I saw it. Ah! A door!


    With the door open, the chickens can come out of the pen into the yard to free range.


    This will be the yard they come out to, once I put the electric fence up. You see what I have to work with in terms of "pasture" here. Mow, mow, mow the weeds, gently down the hill. [​IMG] I actually only discovered there was a concrete ramp here this year, after I dug out the weeds to get to this side yard. I think it was to lead cows into the barn. I've only lived here 12 years....


    And here are a handful of my 6 week barred rocks, very happy to get out of the brooder where they were squished in beak to tail. The "roosts" you can see in the back aren't built into the tractor, they're just tacked into the corners for this set of chickens.


    Hope this was helpful! Many thanks to bigredfeather for his original ideas and photos!

  2. bigredfeather

    bigredfeather Songster

    Oct 1, 2008
    Yorkshire, Ohio
    Very nicely done! I am glad your where inspired by my post. You can easily replace the 1/8" MDF sheeting with steel siding "cover sheets". I used that instead of plywood on the second one I built. A cover sheet is what is on top of a stack of steel siding/roofing when a lumber yard, or Lowes, HD, ect gets shipments in. My local lumberyard sells them for $.50/foot. It's light, durable, and maintenance free.

    Once again, nice tractor. I know you will like using it.
  3. willheveland

    willheveland Songster

    Jan 29, 2008
    southern tier,NY
    Yes, very nice. I can tell you take pride in your work,thumbs up. Will
  4. Kansaseq

    Kansaseq Prairie Wolf Farm Asylum

    Feb 12, 2009
    NE Kansas
    Really nice! I may have to try something like it in the spring.
  5. Excellent job! Barred rocks are great, I wish I had gotten more. Maybe this spring.
    Have fun with that tractor and give yourself a pat on the back!

  6. Buster52

    Buster52 Songster

    Jan 28, 2009
    Geronimo Oklahoma

    You're going to keep the tractor in the barn?

    Nice looking job.
  7. jaku

    jaku Songster

    Very good looking construction, and great design!
  8. Ldyjarhead

    Ldyjarhead In the Brooder

    Nov 11, 2009
    South/Central OH
    Nice! I need to get my coop and pen finished and then a simple tractor of some sort will be the next project.

BackYard Chickens is proudly sponsored by