Making a tractor

A chicken tractor, that is.

What the heck, you may ask, is a chicken tractor?

Think of it as a mobile chicken coop without a floor, sometimes with wheels, sometimes not, sometimes holding just a few chickens, sometimes holding a bunch of them. The chickens can be free ranging when let out of their tractor, or they can be kept just in the tractor, being moved to fresh grass when they’ve worked over the ground they’ve been on.

Most of the time, the penned birds are the meat chickens. They are just too big and too slow to be able to run for cover when a predator shows up. That’s how my meat birds will be. The layer hens will be allowed to come and go as they please, with nesting boxes available for them to do their thing.

Why is it called a tractor? Mainly because the chickens mimic the use of a tractor, pecking and scratching at the ground, and leaving manure on the ground they cover.

For people with backyard chickens, the tractor is often a light A-frame type structure, housing a few chickens. For more chickens, the designs vary widely.

Ours is a rectangular tractor, built using pvc and chicken wire. Once the base is in place, the rest of the assembly flies right by.

Top level completed except for the crossbar I’ll attach a tarp to, in order to shed rain. With a flat design, you have to do something about the water that will collect on the tarp when it rains, and it rains quite a bit here.

With the frame finished, I moved on to making the doors. There are two in this build, one in the front and one in the rear. I want to have their feed under cover, since they’ll be receiving it in a trough versus the no-spill, no-waste feeder I made for the layers. Their water will hang from the crossbar that holds the tarp.

This was the beginning of the front door.

Both the doors will be covered in chicken wire, just as the rest of the coop is. I put together all of the upper part of the tractor, plus built both doors, plus skinned the frame in chicken wire. This while I was also handling business stuff, and helping people out of their jams.

The completed shell, wrapped in chicken wire, with the frames of both doors lying on it, zip ties holding them in place so I can get their hinges on and put chicken wire on without having to squat down if it were on the ground, because my knees were yelling at me pretty loudly by the end of the day..

This tractor is about 12′ long and 6′ across, so will hold lots of birds. This time, it will only be holding ten birds.

I plan on finishing it tomorrow, and my brother is working on the chickshaw, a mobile coop based on the design of rickshaws. That one will hold layers hens, and I’ll be able to move them around the property – they will peck and scratch far more than the meat birds, who only want to eat, sleep, and poop. I have a PT appointment tomorrow right in the middle of the day, and I’m a little bummed out that I won’t be able to film the whole chickshaw build. I might be able to rope my mom or my bro into running the camera.

The meat birds weigh just under a pound. Keep in mind that these birds were just as tiny as the layers when I picked them up from the post office on August 1. That’s 12 days to a pound.  If they keep that up, they will likely be ready in about nine weeks. If their weight starts to accelerate, they’ll be ready sooner. Most of the time, they’re ready in eight weeks, and that’s what I’m basing things on.

You can see how large they’ve gotten in about a week and a half. The bird on the perch I added to their brooder is a layer.

Birds huddled up to nap. The difference in size is readily apparent.

Nifty watering bucket. It took them awhile to understand it when I put it in the brooder, but eventually, they got it. Some of the fat meat birds settled themselves right in front of the bucket where the nipples are. They also have a tendency to plop themselves in front of the feeder to eat, then sleep, then eat, then sleep. It’s like Mr. Creosote, except in chicken form (luckily, no vomiting, but plenty of pooping).

By the end of the week (and hopefully sooner) the meat birds will be taken out to their new tractor – their home for the duration until it’s time to end their happy, although brief, lives.

I’ve eaten now, and the day is getting to me, telling me to go to sleep. I may catch a nap.

Until next time, peeps: be well.

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