There are lots of website that show you how to build these handy things. I’ve going to give you some links that helped me and then go over some tips that I did that I’ve found worth their weight in GOLD!
So while I love the idea of chickens running around my property… and my dogs think it’s a FANTASTIC idea… the chickens are not thrilled about being chased around by two large dogs all day long. BUT it’s important to me (and cuts down on feed costs!) that the chickens get to free range.
Solution: Chicken Tractor!
It’s really fantastic. There is a regular indoor chicken coup, as well as a large outside area where they can peck at the ground. Then all we do is move it with the tractor once the grass and nutrients have been eaten from that section.
You can go to some great links such as:
backyardchickens.com has some neat designs
Instructables has some nice step-by-step directions to build one from old pallets. I love anything made from pallets!!
This — is a great YouTube video about how to build a very standard chicken tractor.
Sidebar: you’ll notice one thing on the ones in those links that mine doesn’t have yet. Wheels. Lol. Currently we’re replacing the wheels we had on there before with some wider ones.
Here are a few of my own personal suggestions that you might want to keep in mind, no matter how you build it!
1) Ease of cleaning: There will be more on this when I do the post tomorrow about the INSIDE set up of my coup, but the idea is you want it to be EASY to clean. As comfortable as possible. And simple. For mine, I just open this door on the side:
And I GO inside (I’m pretty short, lol) and with a scoop shovel, I am able to just PUSH all the poop out. I do have to stoop over inside the coup, but I’m planning on putting hinges on the roof at some point, so I can just flip the roof up. This will allow me to actually stand inside the coup making cleaning that much more comfortable.
So whatever you do, keep ease of cleaning as a high priority.
The easier it is to clean, the more it’ll get done, and the happier and healthier the chickens will be.
2) Height!: If possible, I suggest having the inclosed area be off the ground. Why? Two reasons: (1) it makes predators less likely to get to the chickens and (2) it very simply gives an outside area that is still protected from rain. You’ll notice in this picture:
That the chicken wire is wrapped around the OUTSIDE here. So the area under the actual coup becomes a great outdoor area for the chickens to not get rained on.
Added bonus: In the winter, when it snows, much less snow collects there and the chickens have a warmer place to forage. I’ve noticed that when there is snow on the ground, even if it’s warm enough for the chickens to be outside, they tend to hang out under the coup where there is no snow.
3) Clear roof for the coup: It lets sunshine in, and holds the heat in well. It’s just a simple “why not?” to allow a little more natural light and heat into the coup in the winter.
4) Ventilation: No matter what type of coup you have, generally there is an indoor part and an outdoor part. Be sure the indoor part has plenty of ventilation. Our way of handling this was to make the roof about 8 inches off the top of the coup (but enclosed with chicken wire so predators can’t get in) Here is what I’m talking about:
Plus the weighted door I’m going to talk about next is of course open all day. One note on this one: we have not had chickens in this in the dead of the summer yet. We may need to add in some windows, because it may get pretty stifling in there, they may need a nice breeze coming through the inside space. I will keep you all posted on what we do. This way they had plenty of air flow, so for the winter it was perfect.
5) Weighted door: This is a big one. So while it depends on where you live, most places will have a concern with predators. This is a fantastic way to protect your chickens from predators. We bring the chickens in every night. But I didn’t want to have to go through any major process to do that. Like I said, around here, the easier it is to do, the better!
The three pictures below show how we have a weighted door connected to twine for SUPER easy opening and closing of the coup door. This first picture is the actual weighted door:
It’s quite literally just a door that runs in between thin strips of wood to keep it in place. Predators can be tough, so the weight makes it just THAT much harder for them to get inside. Plus, it makes closing the door a snap!
This next picture is the twine attached to the door so we can easily open and close it by pulling on that handle (which was from an old bucket):
You pull that handle, the door goes up. You let it go and it comes down. Simple.
But it needs to be open all day so the chickens can come and go as they please. No problem. This picture shows the little hook that we hook the handle to, keeping the door open (it’s towards the bottom right of the picture:
(I also want to highlight the FANTASTIC doorknob/handle that my husband made from an old ax handle. It’s my favorite doorknob ever. I would really love to make all the handles in my house look and feel like this.)
So again, pull the handle, door opens, hook handle around hook, door stays open. Unhook it at night, door closes. Doesn’t get much easier than that! And the chickens are safe as safe can be all night long!
In case anyone is wondering: (Because I was when we did this) It is not any trouble to “get them” to go in at night. Once the sun goes down they naturally go where they feel the safest. So far, I have not once ever had to “get” one of them to go inside at night. I just go out, and pop the handle off the hook.
This way we have 100 percent protected chickens all night long, and it really doesn’t get much more hassle free!
So that’s my chicken tractor! I’d love to hear about yours.
Any problems you came across, and how you’ve solved them (or even if you haven’t, maybe we can help!)
Check back soon and I’ll give you more details on the nesting boxes we have inside the coup and the water heater. All made with stuff we basically had laying around!!
A chicken tractor! How cool is that. I learned something new. My husband says he has read about your idea. Wish we could have chickens on our property, on the Illinois prairie. Cluck, cluck!