Pastured chickens

Not long after I posted that entry wailing “can I get these huge chickens out of my house yet?” I got to work on an honest-to-goodness chicken tractor.

See, OhioFarmGirl had inspired me months ago with her post on her new turkey hoophouse. It looked so simple! And hers looked so svelte, so well-constructed, so sturdy! That was how I was going to get free-range, pastured organic chickens, I decided. I was sure I could get it all done in a single day. I got some PT 1x6x8s and got to work.

I made some modifications, though – I wanted it 8×8, not 10×12. And that meant I’d have to find an alternative to the standard-sized hog panels that OhioFarmGirl used. No problem. I thought I’d use some 48″ welded wire fencing I already had. I’d save some money and a trip to the farm store.

But, uh, whoops. Turns out hog panels are stiff and can hold a curve, and wire fencing cannot. So I had to attach ghetto-ribs at the last minute. And now I have a saggy, squashy chicken tractor, which is in circumference a lot larger than a perfect half-circle would be, which means the tarp I bought is far too short to reach over both sides and looks dumb. Sigh.

Who cares. It still works. I don’t think I put the wheels on right since they unscrew themselves and fall off every time I move the thing (a grand comedy of errors, this project), but they work more or less.

Oh, and no, I’m not feeding the chickens cat litter – that Scoop Away bucket is their water. I’m using the DIY hanging waterer chicken nipples (tee hee!) from Avian Aquamiser and I’m loving them so far. There’s no open trough that they can poop in and kick dirt in all the time. All I have to do is refill the bucket once a week. Pretty sweet!

The heat lamps draws the chickens to roost sleep (they’re too lazy to get up on the perches) in the safest part of the house. The sheet of plywood helps with extra draft protection. I’ll have to figure out a better solution soon because propping up a piece of plywood is ghetto-tacular.

Cost for the project: $3.50/5 boards, $3 hinges, $20 fencing (half a $40 roll), $15 hardware cloth, $5 tarp, $8 screws, 2 $7 wheels comes out to $82.50. It sounds like a lot unless you consider that it will last several years and be a good alternative to a second coop for several generations of layers and broilers.

11 Responses to “Pastured chickens”

  1. Rose Says:

    Looks wonderful in person too!

  2. Ayse Says:

    That looks really nice. I need to get to work on my own chicken tractor, or maybe the odd chicken hallway I thought up in a dream the other night. (Like a big habitrail made of chicken wire. It was a dream, so not very practical.)

    One thing you might want to consider: PT lumber exposed anywhere near chickens would disqualify them for organic labeling. If you can cover it so they can’t peck at it that would be better (for you and for them).

  3. ohiofarmgirl Says:

    GREAT WORK!!! wow! excellent use of kitty litter buckets – you know i use them for everything! and um.. you said “nipples” (hee hee hee hee).

    way to go!

  4. diana Says:

    Hey Rose – thanks! Though I’m still determined to build something, SOMETHING that actually looks good, SOME day. :)

    Ayse – thanks for the tip about the PT wood! I hadn’t known that. I’m in the process of covering the lower half of the inside of the coop with 1/2″ hardware mesh for predator protection, which will help prevent pecking (wouldn’tcha know it they insist on sleeping in the ONE as-yet-unprotected corner and one dumb broiler got her head chewed on last night – she’s ok but, like, DUH!) Your habitrail idea sounds fantastic. Kind of reminds me of the “chicken moat” idea for deer fencing protection I was reading about last night.

    Ohiofarmgirl: I love those buckets. But the manufacturer has now discontinued them in favor of a “New! Improved!” plastic BAG packaging instead. I suppose it reduces landfill waste… but I might now have to BUY my plastic buckets! Oh woe! :)

  5. Amy Says:

    so THAT’S a chicken tractor- how cool!

  6. diana Says:

    Yeah, it’s an awesome concept. You move it a little bit every day, and the chickens get constant access to completely fresh grass and new bugs. They fertilize the lawn while reducing my feed budget. I love it! Now, if only the stoooopids could avoid getting run over while I move it… -laugh-

  7. Mrs. Brent Parker Says:

    I can’t believe this can move, it looks so big!

  8. diana Says:

    It’s actually very light!

  9. Heidi Says:

    so when they finally move outside, will they
    be “pasteurized” chickens???

  10. Ginny Says:

    Neat looking chicken dwellings…wish my hubby wasn’t so stubborn :o(…Maybe I’m not praying right.

  11. diana Says:

    Thanks Ginny! I got the idea from OhioFarmGirl, like I said, though hers is so much nicer!

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