Monday, April 16, 2012

The Chicken Tractor That Kevin Built

Boy, did I marry a good sport or what?

My husband, Kevin, has always been supportive (albeit a tad skeptical at times but always supportive) of all my frugal/homemaking/homesteading endeavors, but when I mentioned a couple years ago that I think it'd be so nice to have our own little flock of backyard chickens, he put on the brakes.  For a period of his childhood, his family had several chickens. Turns out, he kind of told himself at the time that when he grew up, he would never get chickens. To him, they were messy and not worth the trouble. I can just see in my mind's eye my husband as a cute, spunky kid, cleaning up chicken poop and making a secret vow that things would be different when he was grown-up, feeling some sort of justice in that knowledge. I think it's kind of a cute thought. That thought also makes me feel a little guilty since I talked him into breaking that vow.  

But don't worry -- we made a deal. If he built our chicken tractor (basically a mobile house and run), I would do all the chicken chores (which is cool with me -- that was my plan all along). Oh, and I have to play an entire video game by myself (my husband just happens to be a video game artist by day and a video game enthusiast 24/7). It's probably going to be Portal 2 or one of the Uncharted games. 

Anyway, our little chicks have turned into awkward teenagers and it's about time for them to upgrade to their bigger home outside. The chicken tractor turned out marvelously, so I thought I'd share how it went.

We looked at a bunch of different ideas for a chicken coop online and decided that we wanted to go with a mobile coop and run instead of a permanent coop. We looked at various designs and plans, even some prefabricated coops and runs, but we just kept coming back to the chicken tractor (complete with detailed building plans) in Ashley English's Keeping Chickens

So one weeknight Kevin and the boys headed to the Home Depot with the supply list, and the building began the following Saturday. The supply list is great because it tells you, down the last little washer and screw, exactly what you need and what it is used for in the project. We found everything at our local hardware stores (Kevin went to Home Depot one day, I went to Lowe's another to pick up a few more items).  

I'm no builder. I mean, I feel proud when I put something from IKEA together. So, glancing at the plans didn't really mean much to me. However, as Kevin read and worked through the instructions, he kept commenting on how they were easy to follow.  Our son, Max, was also inspired by the plans and made his own set to follow.

Here are a few snapshots of the building process, spread over a couple Saturdays...

This is the interior of the hen house, complete with a perch for roosting and a nesting box. Also, that's me making a cameo in the top-right corner, working on the mini-greenhouses I mentioned a couple posts ago (I SO hope they work...).

Almost finished -- just needs some paint and roofing.

Kevin decided on spray paint for this project -- and in my favorite color, no less!  A couple days later, he did the roof with some leftover shingles we had (that we bought a few years ago after a wind storm ripped a few of ours off).


It was ready for the chickens!

We put the girls in their new place and almost immediately they started looking around and scratching in the grass.

And the pecking order squabbles began shortly thereafter. So silly.

I couldn't be more pleased with the way the chicken tractor turned out. The plans alone are worth buying the book for, especially since some plans for similar tractors cost more than the whole book! (That said, the book is totally worth getting whether you make the tractor or not --  it's such a wonderful guide.) I love the mobile housing for our little flock because the chickens will also fertilize the lawn.  It's been a lot of fun watching them busily scratch and search through the grass already and I think they're going to be a great addition to our backyard! Now we just have to wait a few months to start collecting those eggs.

Looks like I've got some video gaming to do now.

Note: Some of the links in the post above are "affiliate links." This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. 

- This post is linked up with Homestead Barn Hop. Check it out -- lots of great ideas!--


Heather Dixon said...

wow, that looks very well put together!

I lol'd at the awkward teenager line. It's funny how even animals go through that ugly stage. I remember our neighbors had a cute baby buffalo, then the next year it was small ugly, gangly, hairy thing.

Your chickens look very happy :)

Beth in NC said...

Love it! Adorable! I might want one of those sometime. Come over and see my chickens and coops. I posted them today.

Have a great night!

Beth in NC said...

BTW, I just subscribed to your posts via email.

Anonymous said...

Hi there! I just came across your blog and had a quick question for you. I'm actually in the process (nearly complete hopefully) of builder a chicken tractor myself using the same plans that you did from Ashley English's book. I was just wondering how you like yours so far? How is it working out in practice? I've also got 3 girls (estimated 6.5 week) who are so ready to be out of their makeshift brooder! Haha. Thanks for the great posts! - Kelly

Heather said...

The chicken tractor is working out great for us! Our chickens seem really content in it, too, even as they get bigger and bigger. The size is just right -- enough for them, but not so big that it takes up a bunch of yard space (our yard is 1/4 acre). It has held up really well in the elements (after some big wind storms) and it stays nice and dry inside the henhouse when it's raining or getting hit by the sprinklers in the morning. I also really like how it closes up at night -- the girls stay nice and safe in there (we have lots of skunks and raccoons in our area).

I love that we can move it all around the yard -- and that it's not too hard to move. We've been moving it every couple days or so. When we move it, we just rake up the poop and feathers (and any other debris) and put it into the compost pile.

Anyway, hope that answers some of your questions. We've been getting lots of compliments on it from our neighbors ("You guys built that?") and even people saying that they might get chickens of their own after seeing it. Hooray!

Thanks for stopping by and reading!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the reply Heather! Yeah, it looks like you guys did a great job building it and I'm glad to hear that it's working out so well and that you've had such positive feedback!

I do have one last question (sorry, I'm full of them! :) - I'm just wondering how do you guys keep the floor inside of the actual house clean? I know in the brooder, I have shavings in there now and they make their mess and I do a big clean out once a week. But since the floor in the house also opens to the ramp going down everyday, how do you go about keeping this clean-ish? Do you just fill it in with leaves/shavings to catch droppings at night and let it fall when you open it in the morning? Or do you use some other method?

Thanks again, Kelly

Heather said...

I hope I'm doing it right because we don't put anything on the bottom of the henhouse. We have the nesting box full of pine shavings, but nothing along the bottom because, as you know, we open it everyday and the shavings would would just go onto the ground (which seems wasteful and a big mess). Often, the chickens don't even sleep on the bottom of the henhouse, but up on the perch. I figure they don't need bedding at night since they don't sleep on it and they don't really need it during the day (like they do in a brooder) since they've got the grass.

So, in the mornings, when I've let the ramp down to let them out, the droppings they've left behind (which are fairly dry by then) often just roll out. If they don't, I just scrape it off with a piece of wood (the wood leftover from the little "steps" on the ramp) and push it onto the grass. We move the coop every other day or so (depending on how much poop there is in there -- if there's a lot, we move it more often). Whatever droppings don't get worked into the grass (which fertilizes it -- yay!), we rake up and put in the compost. I also spray it out with the hose at least once a week and I plan on doing the cleaning/sterilization mentioned in Ashley English's book.

I'm no expert on this -- I'm still learning myself, so if anyone reads this and thinks I'm doing it wrong, please let me know. But it's working for us right now and our chickens seem totally fine with it.

Anonymous said...

Sorry for my late reply. Yes, I've ended up cleaning mine exactly the same way and it has been working out great. Wow, those chickens grow so quick and I'm glad they have such a secure house to live in as we've had a resident fox that has been coming by for visits! All good so far though- thank you so much for your help and advice. And happy homesteading! ;) - Kelly

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