I finally managed to finish the chicken tractors this weekend, what started as a Saturday project ended up eating the better part of 3 weekends but these things happen. The design is entirely my own, I’ll go into more of the details as I go along.
For those of you who may be unfamiliar with the concept of a chicken tractor (Europeans typically call them arcs). The idea is to place the birds in a space that meets their needs for green forage for one day, then they are moved each day to fresh forage.
There are a couple of advantages to doing things this way compared to other methods of keeping chickens. With a traditional coop, any grass in the chickens run is typically gone within the first couple of weeks, after this if you feed them fresh greens they will have to be cut and hauled in. In addition, because they are moved daily, chicken tractors don’t generate a bad odor, which is often the case for more traditional coop designs.
The tractor also provides protection from the elements and from predators, whereas birds who are free-ranged, while they get plenty of fresh forage, don’t have this level of protection. This is particularly helpful for smaller flocks where the loss of even one bird is pretty devastating. The tractors are also helpful for people, such as myself, who are involved in urban or suburban agriculture. The neighbors after all wouldn’t appreciate having chickens running crazy in their yard.
The tractor gives me an aesthetically pleasing way to keep the chickens exactly where I want them. For more details read Chicken Tractor
I patterned these tractors to look like a miniature version of a little red barn. As you can see they are accessible on both sides via the doors. This makes it relatively easy to access them to get the eggs out, feed, and water. We have been getting 8 eggs a day so far, which is pretty impressive since we only have 8 birds. As you can tell from my post “Mini Farming”, the hens are very glad to get fresh greens everyday instead of every few days.
Inside I have chosen to use plastic crates for nesting boxes. I love to use them because they are cheap, easy to find, and have a variety of functions around the farm. Versatility is a must for small scale, low acreage operation.
The waterers are kind of special so I’ll mention them here. This is a new design I encountered when I picked up my chickens. I was unhappy with traditional designs because they tend to get dirty very, very quickly and in our hot summer time weather that can be a dangerous thing for the birds. These waterers are built using poultry nipples which the birds peck from below. Each time they peck at it they get water. Because the water is enclosed in the 5 gallon bucket it stays fresh and clean. These systems are also cheaper on price point, a five gallon traditional style waterer costs $35 or so. I got a set of 5 poultry nipples for only $9 and the bucket was free. You could probably get the bucket for $5 though if you didn’t already have one. These are also super easy to make. All you do is drill a 5/16 in hole in the bottom of the bucket, wrap the threads of the nipple in plumbers tape and then use a drill and an 11mm socket to screw it into the hole. It might have taken me 5 minutes total.
These tractors have been customized for Alabama’s incredibly hot summers. The birds will need lots of shade come summer, so I brought the sides all the way to the ground on two sides and left the front and back open. I will face these east-west so that the birds get plenty of morning and afternoon light but are well shaded in the heat of the day. The heat is also why I put in the roof vent, which you can see is screened with poultry wire.
For anyone interested in building something along this design, most aspects of the build were relatively easy. I bought all the materials new and it ended up costing me about $150 or so each.
If anyone wants more details I’d be happy to share more information on how I built these. Just email me or leave me a comment.