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Another chicken tractor

After a few posts on chicken tractors, its time for some more details.  Well we did have to make life difficult for ourselves and hatch 16 chicks just at the end of summer, with several other poorer hatches over spring, we have ended up with too many groups of chickens that can't be in the same cage due to size difference, so here we go again building another tractor!

At least we are getting better at it.  Our first large tractors took 3-4 weekends to build, with the doors and wheels being particularly fiddly, this one took only half a day for Farmer Pete to cut and weld the frame and then another day with me "helping" to finish it off.

The only things we had to buy were 30x30mm box section for the frame, cut to 4m lengths, about $150 worth, the hinges and catch for the door ($20), and the wheels ($9/each).  We already had the corrugated iron and wire at home.

To start with, Farmer Pete measured up the wire and the car trailer to determine the size of the frame.  Very cleverly, he used the 4m length, with overlap at the bottom back for the wheels to attach and overlap at the front top for handles, this saves fiddling around attaching the wheels and making handles.  We decided to use only one door near the middle, as the back doors were also very complicated and require more hinges and catches.  This is all designed to minimise the amount of box section used and the number of cuts required.

frame - note handle at the top front

door

overlapped frame for wheel attachment (and bolt for attaching the wheel)
We had the choice of either iron that was left over from re-roofing our previous house, or the old iron that was on the roof.  I was embarrassed to see the terrible condition of the old iron, can't believe it was on the roof, rusty and full of holes!  We decided to use the new iron because it is lighter, has no holes to be filled and is zinc-alum so wouldn't need painting, it was the quick and easy option.  The old iron will be used for something, don't worry!  For previous tractors we have used old iron sourced from demolition yards or dump shops, it just needs to be wire brushed, holes filled with silicon and then painted to keep it in good condition.  

Even with our design optimised we estimate that we would have to sell these for $1000 each if we were to make a living from it (it doesn't cost us that much to make them, but when you factor in the labour time and if we used new materials, it adds up), I don't think anyone would pay that much!  If you're handy, the labour is worth more than the materials, and if you don't mind using a bit of scrap this and that, you can make one far cheaper than we could sell it to you, so I hope these instructions will help.

The old roof (back) or the new rood (front)??

After the iron was decided, we pulled out the mesh to use.  We took down so many dodgy fences around our place in Nanango when we moved in, we have lots of spare mesh rolled up behind the shed to choose from.  We used the narrow weave around the sides and the larger weave on top because its wider overall, so it stretched over the gap.  Farmer Pete sized the frame height to suit the narrow mesh.  For previous tractors Farmer Pete has welded sheets of "weld mesh" onto the box section, which does look very neat, but takes ages and is more expensive, and does start to pull away from the frame when the mesh is used to lift the tractors..  He was pretty happy when that roll of mesh was used up and we could start using the woven mesh instead!!




Tek screwing the iron in place, we folded it around
the corners to save time on cutting

The wheels mounted on bolts welded to the frame

The finished door, very flash, ended up like this because that sheet of iron
was a little short and we had some left over weld mesh from the dog box!

A bar welded about halfway along the top of the frame is used to
support the roof and to hang the feeder

Cheryl also "helping"

Chime not even pretending to help

We attached the mesh by weaving through thin "tie wire" using a bobbin
This is how the bobbin works, the wire pulls very tight.
The tractor is heavy, but can be moved easily using a trolley


And here is the finished product

approved by Bella

The chicks seem happy too, note that Farmer Pete screwed in a little
extra mesh on the roost just in case the young ones could stay up there, ohhhh.
And I didn't bother to hang up the feeder before taking the photo, but it does have a beam to hang from.

Did I think of everything?  Any chicken tractor questions?  Any tips to add?



By the way, my chicken eBook is now available if you want to know more about backyard chickens and using chicken tractors.  More information over at the chicken tractor ebook blog.  Or you can get it directly from my shop on Etsy (.pdf format), or Amazon Kindle or just send me an email eight.acres.liz {at} gmail.com.




What's the eBook about?
Chickens in a confined coop can end up living in an unpleasant dust-bowl, but allowing chickens to free-range can result in chickens getting into gardens and expose them to predators.

 A movable cage or “chicken tractor” is the best of both options – the chickens are safe, have access to clean grass, fresh air and bugs. Feed costs are reduced, chickens are happier, and egg production increases. 

 But how do you build a chicken tractor? What aspects should be considered in designing and using a chicken tractor effectively? In this eBook I aim to explain how to make a chicken tractor work for you in your environment to meet your goals for keeping chickens. 

I also list what I have learnt over 10 years of keeping chickens in tractors of various designs and sizes, from hatching chicks, through to butchering roosters.


Reviews of the Design and Use a Chicken Tractor


Comments

  1. I like the look of this design, it should be light and also strong. I have seen some wooden ones built here in Virginia that almost need tractors to move them. Do you need tie downs for wind where you are?

    ReplyDelete
  2. I'm super impressed by your chook tractor. When you move it though do the occupants make a run for freedom or are they content with their home? Well done both of you and the assistants for their "help"...vbg.

    ReplyDelete
  3. That farmer Pete sure is one handy mn to have around.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Wow that looks great adn so easy to make. This is all chickens need? Do they not need all those fancy hutches? I'm getting in the summer time and thought I had to buy a fancy hutch for them.

    ReplyDelete
  5. That looks great. Thanks for putting such detailed instructions in. We will definitely look at mobile accommodation at the farm instead of a fixed pen like we currently have on our smaller property. It just gives so many more options. I want to build our vegie garden beds to match in with the chook tractors so the can turn over the beds when needed also.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Thanks for the comments everyone, sorry I've been so slow to answer questions!

    Gil - no tie downs needed, it gets windy, but no hurricane/tornado windy, and they are quite heavy.

    Calidore - we do occasionally have escaped chicken when we move the tractors, but they generally run along with the tractor, and we don't have to lift it very high to move it, so its mainly a problem for small or very nervous chickens.

    Madeline - I think you mean nesting boxes - this tractor was for raising small chickens, not for laying hens, our big tractors have nesting boxes in them for the hens to lay in.

    Debra - yes its great if you can plan vege garden and chicken accommodation at the same time, there are many synergies to be had.

    Cheers and let me know if you build a tractor yourself, I'd love to see improvements on our design!

    ReplyDelete
  7. hi great design looking at making one my self just wondering what were the overall dimensions and how many chooks do you have in there?

    Thanks

    Matt

    ReplyDelete

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Thanks, I appreciate all your comments, suggestions and questions, but I don't always get time to reply right away. If you need me to reply personally to a question, please leave your email address in the comment or in your profile, or email me directly on eight.acres.liz at gmail.com

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