Monday, January 31, 2011

Chicken Tractor, Weasels & The Hunter Blogs

MONTHS ago I was asked about our newly-made babysitter chicken tractor.  To be honest I don't know much about the chickens....they are The Hunter's deal.   So I asked The Hunter to write something up.  He did.... then began bugging me every day as to why I had not blogged about it yet.  I kept trying to tell him that I wasn't in a chicken tractor kind of blogging mood but he didn't understand that.  I told him if he wants it done NOW then he should get his own blog....then I grabbed my Coke all cocky-like and walked away quickly.  As you can see by the pictures it has been awhile cause everything is still pretty green looking.  

The Hunter Blogs:  I have wanted to raise my own meat chickens for a while now but I didn’t want to have them in the coop with my egg layers. We free-range our egg layers but we do lock them up in the coop at night. I also needed to get more egg layers started since we have lost 11 hens since Oct 27, 2009.

I liked the plans I saw for a small greenhouse in The Big Book of Self-Reliant Living but I tweaked them to my liking for the chicken tractor.

Items needed for this design include:
4- 12 ft 2x4’s
1- 8 ft 2X4
2- 8 ft 1x4’s
3- 10 ft ¾” PVC
2- sheets plywood
6- ¾” conduit straps
1- 4 ft roll of chicken wire
2- Door latches
2- Door hinges
Assortment of zip ties
Assortment of screws and staples
Length of plastic for covering

I built this on a level surface even though it will never see another level surface in the yard. I cut one of the 12 ft 2X4’s in half to use at the ends on the bottom. As you can see below, I attached the ends about 12” from the ends of the runners. I did that because I was thinking that by cutting a small wedge off of the bottom on both ends of the runners, it would make it a little easier to pull around the yard. It also allowed me to attach a length of rope to aid in pulling it around.

I attached one of the PVC pipes to the runners using conduit straps and traced the dome shape onto the plywood ends. After I attached the ends and the remaining PVC pipes, I figured I better find a way to strengthen the structure or it would be too flimsy to pull around. I attached to the top a 2x4 and I notched a space for each of the PVC pipes so it would be flush with the top of the ends. I then cut some 1x4’s to brace the end uprights to the runners and finally, I tied the runners and the end bottoms together to keep the structure square.

In order to get inside the chicken tractor, I cut a door in one of the ends. Having learned from past mistakes, I remembered to cut a couple of inches off of the bottom of the door. This allows you to open the door without it hitting the ground. So I don’t have to hunt for the snap that keeps the door locked, I attached a length of chain to the end. It also keeps the kids from running off with it whenever they get inside to play with the chicks. To keep the door closed when you are working inside, I attached a latch inside so you don’t have to worry about escapees.

Once all of the wood work was completed, I stretched chicken wire over the outside and used staples to secure the wire to the wood. I used zip ties to attach the wire to the PVC and where the wire overlapped.

Meat birds eat a lot of feed and I didn’t want to have to get inside to fill feeders. Instead, I made some feeders out of thin wall 3” PVC. Each feeder needs 2 caps and a 90 along with the pipe. For the bottom section I cut about 1/3 of the pipe off and put a cap on one end. I attach the other end to a 90 and to that gets attached a length of pipe. I made these long enough to stick out the top of the chicken tractor so I don’t have to get inside to feed them. In order for young birds to reach the feed, I attached a board to the bottom for a perch. This board can be removed if needed.

For watering the chickens, I am just using 1 gal chick waterers for now. These I do have to open the door to clean and refill.

For a cover, I used clear plastic and stretched it over the outside. I was still rolling the sides up during the daytime when this picture was taken however, due to moisture buildup and to help with ventilation, I cut vents in the plastic. For warm weather use, I will use dark plastic for shade and only have plastic over the ½ with the food.

My next project is to get an automatic watering system figured out.

*Last Wednesday we had a massacre.  The Pullets were large enough to finally move into the hen house inside their own pen.  We wanted to get them used to being in the hen house but wanted to keep them separated from the larger hens.  Something got into the pen INSIDE the pen and killed all our pullets.  We are thinking its a weasel and The Hunter is hunting it right now.  So....I'm sorry to have to tell you ya'll this but the pullets you see in these pictures are all gone.  But don't worry!  25 more have been ordered and are on their way!


Anonymous said...

That is a Great idea. I will show this one to DH.

Anonymous said...
thanks i saw a chicken tractor designed like this on Craigs list for sale and the guy would never email me back ...i got obsessed with the idea and started google searching it and came up with your site,,,tell the hunter thanks so much for bugging you til you posted ...i think my son and I will try your design!!!! If i get it down good ...I amy even roll it back and try a green house :)