The chicken tractor

Let me be the first to say that this is not my design. No, it is a mishmash of lots of ideas I have stolen mostly from the web. I should also here mention that I have become amazingly tight-fisted in my dotage and really wanted to see if I could build a chicken tractor under $100. And I did.

Today is cold and rainy. Normally, the tarp is not covering it and there’d never be a light in there…and it would never be near the buildings

My original design was a lot more elaborate. I had envisioned hoops of cattle panels (which are actually hot-dipped concrete reinforcing: they’re flat grids of small steel rods that’ve been welded into panels 4’x16′ long), arched tall enough that I could walk in there. That idea went away when I couldn’t get them from the store to the farm. So I started scanning the nearest big-box home impoverishment store and decided on PVC conduit, sunlight-grade, as the hoop material. The base is 2x4s, untreated (untreated are less prone to warping IMHO) and the door side is 3/8″ plywood. The ridge beam is another 2×4. So it’s 6’x12′ long, the 1/2″ PVC conduit are 10′ long; it stands 42″ tall. I got a tarp large enough to cover three sides (12’x16′).

It is fairly lightweight. I can move it easily without wheels, though I plan on snapping a PVC pipe, cut lengthwise, to the back base to act like a sled runner. I worry about it tipping over when the wind whips through, especially with the tarp attached, so I have placed some conduit clamps on the outside of the base to guide step-in tent stakes into the ground.

Honestly, I wanted to create something more elaborate for the chickens themselves. I am glad I had a bit of time to get to know them before I undertook this endeavor. The meat birds really do not want to roost; they want to be on the ground huddled in a chickpile. This design, then, contains a fair amount of ground space for them to do what they do: sleep, eat, and poop, with the occasional wing-flapping session and (roosters only) chest-bumping jousting with the other roosters in there. That’s all they ask. No roosts, no great area to run around. No grass, either, from what I can tell.

This design, frankly, is easily adapted to make many things: larger stationary coops, for example; chicken runs, and…greenhouses! Danielle and her family used basically this same design, minus the ridge beam, add 30″ pieces of rebar into the ground to anchor the PVC, and some greenhouse plastic. 6’x12′ is probably large enough for more than the 23 birds who today inhabit mine; it feels roomy enough to me, though. It was cheap enough I could build another one easily, even taller, for turkeys or ducks or geese.

Still cute, at least to me

14 responses to “The chicken tractor

  1. I’m loving it! Meg and I are trying to find the time to make a tractor for our girls. Our main concern is weight. We want it to be structurally sound, but we don’t want it to be a struggle to move. Thanks for the design idea.

  2. Kelly, would it just be a day tractor? I’d think with your three girls you could make it 8′ long or so. You could always join two PVC conduits together to make a higher arch: the conduit typically has one belled end and one straight end for that reason. So…if it were a day tractor you might not need a perch, but if it were for night you would need to put one in there. Somehow.

  3. Snazzy chicken house, El! (and so big! Mine is only 4×8′ for 12 birds.) I’m going to hope you don’t have bears in your neighborhood. Jamie (10signslikethis) had a tractor very much like yours that was obliterated by an area bear. It ripped open the chicken wire like it was spaghetti. Scary!

    You mentioned in your last post about their chests not being feathered out “yet”. Based on our experience, I wouldn’t hold your breath waiting for more feathers… That’s part of the appeal of meat blob chickens: less feathers to pluck! 🙂

  4. Liz! WOot on the plucking! (I love all this advice I am getting.) No bears here (amen) but we’ve been known to have a puma in the area…it killed a horse a couple of years back. Oh and coyotes. They’re really shy, though. SO: how long before yours went into the freezer? 8 weeks, more, less?

  5. we just made our coop for our chickens that we got this past weekend and now we are going to build a little corral to keep them in when we clean out the coop. is this what you call a tractor? i like your design, by the way. we are going to use a mashup of different ideas, too. next we are building a coop for my mom, improving on what we learned with the first one. it cost us about $150 to build. we want to try using scrap materials and see how cheap and practical we can make the next one! i think my chickens are cute, too. 🙂

  6. We did 8 weeks. We could have let them go longer, but they dressed out between 4 1/2 – 5 lb and that’s plenty for us!

  7. Hi Seagrass: congrats on your coop! Nah, this tractor is just what it sounds like: a movable coop. They’ll spend the rest of their short lives in here, and we will move the coop once or twice a day to give them fresh grass to eat, lie down on, and poop upon. I am glad you’re getting your mom in on the chicken action too. Everyone, in my humble opinion, would benefit with a chicken or two around. But yes, this coop was all new materials; we’re pretty good at recycling our farm junque and didn’t have any to spare for the new tractor!

    Liz, thanks. I swear a couple of our birds are near that size now. I think they’re five weeks but I would need to check. Sigh, This will be a bunch of no-fun days for me, chicken butchering. I know you split the chore with some of your friends: lucky. Nobody is stepping forward, though I might have to institute a draft and MAKE people help.

  8. El – I love this. We have all the pieces (or similar) already. Was it tall enough for you to go in and collect the eggs?

    and you are not overwintering your chickens, are you?

    Thank you for sharing. I love what you write and HOW you write it.



    • Thanks, Sylvie! Actually this chicken tractor was for our meat birds. I ended up raising only one batch in it; the 2nd batch got to live with my other chickens. I really just couldn’t get around the idea that confinement is confinement, no matter how often I moved the darned thing. So I am not quite sure what its future is here, if it becomes a garden structure or what. It could be a goose or turkey brooding area if I am lucky! But yes it’s fairly low; you do have to squat to get in it but our 4 year old could get in there just fine. I only needed to get in there to get a bird out to, uh, butcher it so it wasn’t a hardship for Me. Our egg girls though all live in a big coop.

  9. Pingback: Build a PVC Chicken Tractor | Chicken Coop Plans

  10. Hey from a fellow chicken fan – I look forward to more.

  11. Thank you! Great idea. We are on Kauai so most likely will use PVC for the bottom frame also, related to moisture. My sustainability instructor recently told me that increased protein boasts egg production and prolongs life of laying. Aloha from Kauai!

  12. Pingback: Spring Chickens « The Ward Family

  13. does any one have ideas about how to build a chicken door the one on sliders and raised with wire or whatever ? Del

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