I haven't talked about it much, but a new chicken tractor has been on my wish list for a long time. My first chicken tractor is in need of a few repairs, and is a bit too heavy to really move around frequently on this hillside. I've been wanting something lighter and more maneuverable so I can let the chickens 'roam' around the yard, while still keeping them safe from predators, and my gardens safe from the chickens.
I didn't have any fancy plans to follow this time, just an idea of what I wanted, and a bunch of extra boards from running the new sawmill. My minimum cut height is about 1.5", so every log I cut up leaves me a nice board at the end, approximately 1.5" thick. I'll use these to make lumber for framing the new chicken tractor.
My first step is to cut the boards to the desired size. I believe that 1.5" x 1.5" will support the weight of this design, and I want to keep all the board dimensions as small as possible, to keep the weight down.
Next, I'll square up all the ends on one side of my lumber, taking care to remove any spots that are split or rotted. It's important that all the ends of the lumber are good and sturdy, because I'll just be screwing the ends together when I build my frame.
After I have one end square, I begin cutting the lumber into the dimensions I'll need for my frame, and assemble that. This new chicken tractor has an 8'x4'x2' base. Half of this will be enclosed with wire, and half will have a roof and siding with perches inside, so the chickens can get out of the sun or the rain when they want to.
Because my smallest board length is 21", all of my scrap pieces are smaller than that. The small pile above is all the scrap lumber I had from the framing boards. This will make nice kindling for our first outdoor fire this year.
Some predator, likely a weasel, was managing to get inside the welded wire fencing I had on the old chicken enclosures, so for the new chicken homes, I picked up some wire mesh with .5" square holes. I figure that anything that can fit through the holes in this will be small enough that the chickens can eat it.
The chickens were getting impatient to try out the new space, and I had to saw up some more lumber for siding, so I threw some deer netting over the unfinished half. This worked well enough to keep the chickens in so they could enjoy the outdoors while I slaved away in the hot sun trying to get their new temporary home built.
Part of the delay in getting the tractor finished was that the sunny days had caused some serious warping and cupping on the siding boards that were on top of the pile. I had to wet down the cupped side, then turn the bowed side toward the sun, and wait for them to flatten out enough that I was able to run them through the table saw.
It was just these three boards that were needing the extra attention, and by the time I was done cutting up all the other pieces, they had flattened back out well enough. The dog tried really hard to 'stare' them straight for me, but I don't think it helped. 😁
The enclosed half will be 4' tall in the middle of the tractor, and taper down to 3' tall in the back. I'll fasten two perches inside that run the entire 4' width, one at 1' high and the other one at 2' high.
I add a little extra 'framing' on each side and across the front and back, for attaching the roofing to. I used spalted siding lumber for the roof, just for now. I'll eventually pick up some steel roofing to cover this with, to help keep it low maintenance. The wooden roof has already warped, and leaks a little in a hard rain.
The only fancy cuts I had to make for this whole project were two little notches, at the bottom of the outside siding boards that I used on the face of the enclosure in the middle of the tractor.
Here you can see it basically finished. The screened top opens up, allowing me to climb right inside to fill up food and water dispensers, or to round up the chickens when it's time for them to move to the new coop. For now it just rests on top, but I plan on adding hinges later. I may also add a door that allows me to lock them into the enclosed part at night, but I hope that won't be necessary.
I have two wheels fastened to a 2"x4" board, a little over 4' long, that I can slip under the frame on the enclosed end. This allows me to move the tractor around really easily on flat ground, but I still need help to move it up the steeper hills. I could probably fix this with some better wheels and handles, but this will work for now, while I finish the new coop. Once that is done, I'll put the finishing touches on the new tractor. In the future, this will probably be where I grow the birds that I intend to slaughter.
My only cost for this was really the wire mesh, which was about $40. The cost of the screws, staples, and wire nails used to hold it together, as well as the gasoline to run the sawmill, totaled well under $3. Used chicken tractors sell pretty fast in the local classified ads, and I may build one or two more of these to sell, to cover the cost of the metal roofing I want to buy.
Well friends, it feels like an abrupt end, but I guess this post will end here. These always feel so much harder to put together when I'm in 'work mode'. I have some time off for the holiday weekend, and I really hope I can get my head in 'writer mode' long enough to get a few posts arranged and scheduled for the summer.
Wish me luck, and if you don't hear from me soon, you'll definitely hear from me later!