After rewinding to the start of our little hobby farm, we now come to the current year – the year of the first CHICKENS! Since hubby was learning to post on the blog and discussed that we are currently working on chicken tractor #3, I thought I’d add some chicken tractor photos.
What is a Chicken Tractor?
A chicken tractor is a moveable coop. Some chicken tractors just have a “play yard” – aka a “run”. Others have both a run and an attached coop. And still others are just a coop and the chickens free range without fencing.
We went with the full coop/run chicken tractor. The tractors allow the chickens to be “pastured”, meaning they have access to fresh grass/dirt/bugs, without being left in the open to get killed by predators. And there is less work than having to move the chickens every morning and night to/from their coop and play yard. We just open the chicken door in the mornings and at night, the chickens get in their coop and we just shut the door.
Chicken tractors are also a plus because they don’t stay in one place long enough for the chickens to rip all the grass up.
Choices, Choices – Blueprints and Building Plans
If you’ve ever researched chicken housing, you know there are tons of different styles. After researching in books and online, looking at free building plans as well as blueprints for sale, I concluded I wasn’t going to find any plans that had everything that I thought I wanted. And buying ready made housing was not an option.
The chicken tractors available ready made were either too small for our needs, didn’t have what we were looking for, were too poorly built, or would cost a small fortune to have shipped to us.
Fortunately for me, hubby does his best to make my ideas a feasible reality and the drawing of chicken tractor plans commenced. It came out pretty well. We’ve changed things along the way and we will probably change building as our needs and wants change, but so far, these tractors are turning out quite nicely.
And we’re off…
This first tractor is large – total size 8×8 feet with a coop that is 4x8x6+ feet tall (large enough for us to get in and stand up). The coop portion sits 2 feet off the ground, allowing the chickens room to get under it as part of their “run” space. We knew it would be heavy and would require being moved by a vehicle or the tractor or riding mower. No problem, right? ….. ha ha ha
Note to self: bigger , wider tires are better
We thought it was doing fine until it rained a little and the pasture got soggy. The thin tires on the tractor bogged down too much with the weight of the coop. Hubby actually broke some of the framing boards of the run while he was moving it. After repairing the damage, hubby made some changes to it that these photos don’t reflect – mainly the addition of larger, wider tires (meant for trailers/riding mowers/etc) mounted on a 4×4 post “axle” on the back side. Now the coop looks like it has racing tires. Hubby likes the new tires so much that he is considering making another axle assembly with the wide tires to replace the smaller front tires of this chicken tractor. Many thanks to Northern Tool and Equipment for having a fine selection of DIY trailer supplies that includes axles, spindles, wheel hubs, etc.
The beginning – the floor and one wall framed
For framing, we’re using 2x3s – commonly found in mobile home construction – to decrease the weight of the chicken tractors.
I spaced the floor joists at 16 inches. Just because you don’t think you’ll ever have to get inside a chicken coop – even a small tractor coop – think again! Your floor should be able to support a human unless the tractor is so small that you can easily reach across it, into a corner, when standing outside.
The wall studs are set at 24 inches since this is not a human house and the walls have no need to support a heavy asphalt shingle roof.
Insulation – not just for cold climates
The outside walls are panels of rough sided wood siding. Inside the walls, between the studs, there is metallic-backed foam board insulation. That leaves some space for an air pocket between the foam insulation board and the interior wall – which is the least expensive “tile” board they had. It is water resistant if the edges are sealed.
All framed in with a black marble vinyl floor.
Ventilation – more is best
The roof is “plastic” corrugated roofing panels with a ridge cap that keeps out rain but is not air tight. Underneath the roof is open, allowing air to flow up under the roof from the outside for coop ventilation. The outside and inside air can escape under the ridge cap.
There are several windows as well as vents near the floor to allow for more airflow and ventilation. The windows have storm flaps and the frames allow for clear acrylic panels (“plexiglass”) to be inserted – letting in light in while keeping out cold wind.
The vents are lightweight plastic that can be closed if needed – normally used for A/C ducts in houses.
We are building these chicken tractors utilizing many homebuilding principles rather than just throwing scraps of something together like many people do. This is mainly because we don’t want to have to replace them any time soon. Since they will be moved around the pasture, they are going to be subjected to stresses that stationary coops would not experience.
Hardware cloth, for predator safety, covers all ventilation openings – including under the roof.
The people door.
Stay tuned for photos of the completed (almost) Chicken Tractor #1.