Our latest chicken tractor
This is number 4 from last year and my best to date. I've learned the hard way (as usual) from the other 3 and figured out a way to minimize cutting losses and maximize space. This one is 4' x 8' and 31 inches high. It is low and heavy enough not to be affected by the Michigan wind in this part of the state. 8 to 10 chickens is about right for this size as the chickens run around on their own during the day.
Here Helena gets some tips from her dad on how to nail staples
Base is screwed together (I hate nails!) with course drywall screws with 1" x 2" fencing material for the base. Prior tractors were made with poultry netting on the bottom that got clogged with manure very easily. I had to rip it off and will replace with the same fencing material as this. Why fence on the bottom? To protect from dogs and other predators digging under the tractor and chickens getting killed or injured. We have many raccoons and skunks in the area.
Basic frame is constructed of 2 x 4's. The boards are actually 1.5" x 3.5". Height is 31" so 24" fencing or plywood can be used without cutting for the sides.
$5 wheels from tractor supply. Previous chicken tractors were made with 8" lawn mower wheels and way too small. I also went to 4 wheels instead of 2 and used inflatable wheels that would get better traction on snow.
7/16 " OSB is used for roof. It is cheap and easy to use. One 4 x 8 sheet is used with no cutting. Frame is heavy enough not to blow over but light enough to move easily.
Metal roof is now used. I used roofing shingles on previous chicken tractors. Those roofs were too heavy, nails pop out and shingles blow off. The metal roof is easy to install with proper screws, battery powered screwdriver and much less trouble. I rounded corner edges with tin snips to avoid being cut when near the chicken tractor.
Finished chicken tractor in back yard area. I leave the grass high back here for more forage. I am also too lazy to mow and consider it a waste of time when the chickens can do it for me! The grass also helps to cut down on drafts under the chicken tractor. This tractor is used for 10 chickens, more than enough to provide eggs for the family and to sell a few on the side. I plan to install a couple exterior nest boxes soon on this chicken tractor to make it easier to access eggs and eliminate the current boxes that collect too much manure. The chickens currently roost on the 2 x 4 cross braces.
Side view of chicken tractor with a few of our Belted Galloway cattle in the back pasture.
Another view with a couple raised beds in the background. I purposely made the chicken tractor slightly off the ground so the manure would build up below. I will use the manured areas for future gardens or places to plant fruit trees. Chickens can still eat some fresh grass and not scratch up the ground too much. They do enough of that when they free range during the day.
Chicken tractor in the snow. I used plexiglass over one end over poultry netting in Winter for an area for the chickens to get some solar energy to warm up. It gets quite cold in this area and down to -10 degrees not counting windchill. 8 to 10 chickens keep themselves warm in a space this large. The other end stays open to the breeze and fresh air and has a south orientation when parked for a few days.