Is your chicken coop portable? If not, you should entertain the ide, a. Chicken tractors are praised among small-scale farmers for more than just their mobility.
This shift in coop design can make a huge difference. Your chickens get to move and munch on weeds and bugs among other benefits, including how chicken manure works wonders for soil improvement.
Building your own chicken tractors is not that far-fetched. Once you wrap your head around the construction elements you’ll need, all that’s left to do is settle on the size.
That’s when you can stock up on material and get to work.
Read on to learn about the best tips on how to build awesome chicken tractors. You’ll save yourself hours of poring over different chicken tractor plans just to get the hang of it.
And you’ll be able to get your chicken menagerie project up and running in no time.
Construct a Chicken Tractor Frame
The frame is the base that holds all other chicken tractor elements together.
There’s a whole raft of chicken tractor designs out there, and your frame will depend on the one you choose.
You can choose from a variety of chicken tractor plans and build, including:
- A rectangular structure
- An A-frame chicken tractor
- A simple structure made of PVC pipes
Tip: Pricing is always a huge factor, so opt to use less expensive recycled materials as many chicken tractor structures often feature.
Now, here’s how to build a frame (we’re sticking to the most common rectangular wooden frame here):
- Choose the size of your frame. Plan 8 sq.ft per bird for large fowl, such as Orpingtons and Australorps. Reserve 4 sq.ft per bird for bantams and other smaller breeds.
For example, build a 4×4 feet frame if you have 4 large hens to house. Or aim for 8×10 feet structure to accommodate twice as many chickens.
- Assemble the base using the appropriate-sized lumber and decking screws.
- Make sure your tractor is lightweight as it’s a number one concern when plotting your portable chicken coops. They should be easy to move. So, go lighter, using lighter lumber or PVC. Also, opt for lumber of smaller diameter, 2×4 or 4×4 inch lumber pieces should do.
- Fix a heavy-duty rope at the front of the frame so the tractor can be easily pulled. You can also curve the base runners to reduce friction when the structure is moved.
- Build a structure that will make up the height of your chicken tractor. After you’ve decided on the nesting and run area height (more on that later) build the side frames for your chicken tractor. These should be at least 4 to 5 feet tall to add more vertical space.
- Next, add in a front frame.
- Use screws to attach the rear frame. Add vertical braces to support the nesting area and the roof once in place.
- A frame is complete only after you’ve attached roof supports. Attach braces that will hold the roof covering, typically made of tin or corrugated plastic.
Furnish the Nesting Area
Next, build a sheltered area for roosting.
This is where your birds will coop at night, hatch eggs and gather for their evening roosts. You can place it inside, on the top, or adjacent to the chicken tractor unit.
But what size should your nesting box be? This depends on your bird preference.
- For smaller bantam hens, build boxes 10 inches deep, 12 inches wide and 10 inches high.
- For hens of average sizes such as Sussex and Leghorns, build boxes 12 inches deep, wide and high.
- For larger breeds such as Jersey Giants build boxes 12 inches deep, 14 inches wide and 12 inches tall.
Your chickens won’t appreciate being cooped up in spaces that are too small, so don’t scrimp on space. A crammed coop house can encourage violent behaviors from your chickens and lead to injury.
Follow the steps below to assemble your nesting boxes:
- Use plywood. Before attaching it to the frame, use a hand saw to cut out the windows and the pophole opening. This is where you’ll fix the ramp so the birds can enter and exit the area freely.
- Position the boxes about at least 20 inches above the floor of the unit for predator protection. This will also add some extra space to the grazing area.
- Next, attach the plywood to the braces in the frame using decking screws.
- Furnish the coop with the nest boxes and a roost bar. A 2×2 lumber works great as a roost bar because your chickens can safely perch on them.
- Add a door flap at the back of the nesting area so you can easily gather eggs. Install one at the front as well so you can close the pophole and keep the chickens safe from predators. Attach hinges and latches to make the openings secure.
- Cover the window openings with wire mesh instead of chicken wire. It’s a denser and safer alternative.
- Attach tin or plastic roofing panels to the top of the nesting area using screws with the rubber washers. Make a slanted roof and add a few inches of space for ventilation.
Enclose the Chicken Run
When enclosing your chicken run, cover the entire area leaving the bottom of the unit open.
This is where your chickens will graze on fresh grass as you move the tractor, preferably every day.
You can modify the chicken tractor plans to suit your needs and downscale them. But the chicken tractors are all about your chickens having some space to move about. A run area 6 ft. long and 8 ft. wide is on the larger side.
Yet, the larger you make it the better.
Now, all you need is some chicken wire, right? Wrong.
Instead, opt for hardware cloth which does come with a heavier price tag, but makes for much better predator protection.
Now, here’s how to enclose your chicken run:
- Before you attach the hardware cloth to the frame, install a hinged door to your grazing area. This is optional, but if you do it, you’ll make feeding and watering your birds a breeze. Or you can install a door flap at the back of the roosting area. This will make collecting eggs much easier.
- Use heavy-duty staples to attach the hardware cloth to the frame, making sure the wire goes on the inside of the structure.
- If your area is prone to hot spells, add shading to cover the grazing area. This can be anything from a shade cloth to corrugated tin roofing.
- If your area is hit by strong and frequent winds, there are ways to protect your birds from the cold. Attach a piece of the wood or a tin roofing panel on the sides of the run to serve as cladding.
Attach the Wheels
There’s one last step to wrap up your portable chicken coop. And you guessed it, it’s the wheels.
Without them, it would be next to impossible to move large tractors. And you’d need horsepower to move some of the most cumbersome units. Most people hitch those up and tie them to a utility vehicle to pull.
How easy it is to move your tractor, depends on how good your wheel setup is.
Here are a few ideas on how to build a wheel setup:
- Use 10-inch wheels or smaller diameter, depending on the size of your chicken tractor.
- Drill a hole in the frame roughly 10 inches from the back and 2 inches up from the bottom of the runners. Make sure the wheels are positioned low enough so they’re gripping to the ground well.
- Alternatively, use big hinge straps to attach the wheels.
- To ensure your tractor lays flat on the ground when parked and prevent the predators from sneaking in, install a wheel lift system. For this to work, you’ll need to fix levers into the frame and install wheels on it. The lever can be pulled up and depending on whether you want to move the tractor or keep it in a resting position.
Start Building Your Chicken Tractors
Now you know the main aspects of building your own chicken tractor.
All plans for chicken tractor structures are open to improvisation. Scale them up or down depending on your unique situation.
With a little determination, you’ll fix your backyard chickens up with a real grazing paradise.
Decide which design and size work best for you and start building.
And as you do so, explore other backyard topics, aside from chicken tractors. The Gardening Channel has a vast range of articles on all things gardening. Become an expert and transform your green space into the haven of your dreams.
Photo from WikiMedia