Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Building a very shotty chicken tractor

I am not a craftsman. i have grrreat ideas and can draw them out pretty well, but the combination of my lack of knack and the crappiness of my screw gun's battery life create pretty poorly constructed projects.
That being said, this didn't need to be THAT sturdy, just a little day playpen for the girls to get some nicer front yard grass, and maybe borrow the neighbor's grass on occasion. Needed to be lightish weight, sturdy enough to compete with the cats, and roomy enough for 2 - 4 wandering chickens.

The best laid plans......   did not come out as they were planned, but i think it'll do the trick:

I planned to do a triangular structure at first... then changed my mind to do a little square, then went back to the triangle idea. I should have put the handle on the inside for better integrity, and i should have used a screw driver, but as i said my gun sucks so i stuck to mostly nails.

I soon discovered that the old scraps of wood i had laying around were insufficient and employed the husband to pick up some supplemental (and just the right amount of) lumber from Lowes.

I was going to cut nice angles at the top of some pieces of wood to make the top of the triangle, but sticking them at an angle together seemed to work just fine.

The frame held together alright, though the ricketyness of nails is obvious. I used a skillsaw for most of my cuts, but used my miter saw for some smaller pieces. To patch up some of the ricketyness i added some little scraps of masonite to hold the separating pieces together.

I scavanged some plywood from my neighbor's house (shh, don't tell them) to use as the door, and had some hinges left over from a salvage of the other neighbor's old cupboards.

I had some chicken wire scraps laying around and used those to cover the two ends. Was going to use some bigger wire for the rest of it, but it is a pain in the butt to use, has too large of holes, and i'll have other uses for more wire anyway so i took another trip to lowes to get more chicken wire and some staples for my staple gun. The wire is attached with both staples at frequent intervals, and bracket v shaped nail things that are a pain to nail in but quite sturdy - those are at strategic structural intervals.
I also sandwiched the chicken wire at the two ends with two pieces of wood to hold the wire down and hold the bottom of the triangle together.
I also attached a big honkin clasp to the door that my husband brought home the other day. it is huge. but i like it.

After all the chicken wire is wrapped and tightened aroudn the top and sides, i cut a piece of the larger wire to fit along the bottom. This will ensure no knocking over of tractor will result in 'get the chickens from underneath'' as well as preventing the girls from completely decimating my lawn.

Voila! Add a water cup and some chickens and you have an instant play date or snack bar. They were a bit confused at first, but the lush grass is keepign them occupied.

The ladies left behind were quite displeased at the removal of their friends, but i found them a tiny patch of grass in the back to keep them occupied and they quickly forgot they even had other friends.

A success!
This project was quite inexpensive. The two pieces of wood we had to buy were about $10 total. I had all the nails and screws and the rest of the lumber already from previous projects, and the chicken wire was about $20 with lots left over for fencing around gardens. I wouldn't recommend a structure like this to be a long term habitat, but it's just fine for a portable 'eat the grass over here, girls' type enclosure.
PS: both these girls have laid today already, i think i will be sure to make it a habit to only bring the chickens who have already laid into this enclosure as there is no nest box.

Do you have urban chickens? Do you let them free range in unfenced areas, or do you use tractors?

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