We have been working on one of the umpteen jobs on this year’s Project List.

PROJECT: Build a Chicken Tractor

This winter my poor chickens have not been able to go on walk-about for a long time. With it getting dark so early, I am not able to let them out after getting home from work. On the weekends we either had cold or rain or some other reason they could not be let out of their run. Even though they have more than enough space in their coop and run, they did not have the enrichment of scratching, eating bugs, and the general pleasure chickens get from free-ranging. A chicken tractor would solve this problem.

A Chicken Tractor is a durable, light weight, movable chicken coop and run with an open floor. It can be moved around every couple of days, so the chickens always have fresh pasture to feed on. This lets chickens have access to grass and bugs while also being able to scratch and peck and deposit their manure to fertilize the ground. Chicken tractors allow chickens to live with the benefits of a free-range lifestyle without having to worry about predators or the manure build-up and other issues that a stationary coop and run can have.

Letting my chickens free-range and eat bugs and fresh greens, while still being protected from predators, will be so good for them but it’s beneficial to the homestead also. I will be able to control where they go and keep them out of the gardens (and the neighbor’s yard), they can help keep the rapidly growing grass in check without stripping an area bare (like they have done in the chicken run), lower feed costs, and several other perks.

The first step of this project took a couple of weeks – researching and deciding which of the dozens of versions of chicken tractor to use. There’s the Joel Salatin version, the Suscovich version, as well as A-frames, hoop houses, drag-along versions, wheeled-versions, the list goes on and on.

As it turns out, I used none of the ideas I found on-line. I am going with a modified hoop house (you know how much I like building with cattle panels!). So, as usual, we are figuring out this build as we go.

Figure-it-out-as-we-go tends to be fraught with difficulties. Oscar’s building skills have really come along over the past three years. My translation of what I see in my head into useful information remains a challenge. I can express the elements of what I want to do (put wheels on it, must be light enough for me to move but sturdy enough to keep the neighborhood dogs from tipping it over, has an easy to clean coop area, has nest boxes – even though my chickens have yet to lay in any of the nest boxes I’ve tried🙄, etc.) but I struggle to verbalize what I see in my mind, or important information like measurements, and I can only explain more specifics about the next part of a project once the previous step is complete. We’ve gotten through this before though so I’m confident we can do it again!

It’s always a big step to move from researching and analyzing to Doing but the step must be made to actually accomplish the goal. Until you DO it’s only a wish, not a goal.

The day finally came for action so the first weekend’s activities included working out the shape and overall size of the chicken tractor and purchasing the boards for the frame. We also looked at wheels, but I didn’t know what size of wheels to get and couldn’t explain how the wheel assembly is supposed to work (when they aren’t in use for rolling, they need to be retractable).

So, more research was needed. By the time we got home with our supplies, the weather had turned nasty. Determined to get more done than spend money for supplies, we built the frame and before calling it a day.


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