Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Homemade Chicken Tractor #2

I finally finished our second chicken tractor last weekend. It is very similar to the first tractor we made except that the new one has an actual door. Tractor #1 did not have a true door; instead I prop a cattle panel against the end of the tractor. The good thing about the cattle panel is that I can lower it completely and have easy access to the entire width of the tractor. The bad thing about the cattle panel is that I can lower it completely and all of the chickens run out.

The cattle panel propped against the front of Chicken Tractor #1
Because I sometimes get tired of chasing poultry around my yard I decided to make a small door that swings open for Tractor #2. Big Sister had the idea to use an old baby gate as the door. (I had picked up several in the trash in recent months.)

Chicken Tractor #2. The door is an old baby gate placed vertically.
A baby gate is essentially two wood-framed squares that slide one behind the other to create the desired width. I slid the two sections apart to the desired door height and then drove a few screws through the wood frame to hold the two sections permanently together. The screws splintered the cheap wood in a couple of places but they still held the pieces firmly enough. I covered the splintered sections with duct tape just so they won't snag someone's hand or clothes. I also taped and wired the wooden bars that run down the center. (I am all about the baling wire, people.)

Screws, duct tape, and baling wire used to make the baby gate door.

After I made the baby gate door I realized I needed to find a way to secure it to the frame of the chicken tractor. I went over to my materials pile and pulled out two long pieces of wood. I don't even know what they are called. They're about two inches wide and less than an inch thick. I screwed the bottom of each piece to the wooden base of the tractor and then attached the tops to the front-most PVC hoop using baling wire. You can see both vertical pieces in this photo:

Note the two vertical pieces of wood in front that serve as the door frame.
The next photo is a close-up showing the connection between the wooden piece and the PVC hoop. It looks appallingly flimsy but actually feels quite sturdy. I took a handsaw and dug a shallow groove into the sides of the wooden piece so that the baling wire wouldn't slip up and down. The groove is hard to see in this picture.

Door frame piece anchored to PVC hoop with wire.
After I had the door frame in place I had to attach the door. I didn't want to waste good hinges on this thing, plus I didn't think that cheap wood would survive the necessary screws, so I just wired the door to the frame like this:

Chicken tractor door anchored to frame with wire
Now all I needed was a latch to hold the door closed. Again, I didn't want to waste good hardware so I made a latch out of a screw and a loop of wire. It holds surprisingly well.

The finishing touch was to add an old section of tarp to the back end to provide shade for the birds. Mr. Chanclas helped me carry the new tractor out to the field to join Tractor #1. Here they are side by side. Chicken Tractor #2 is on the left and Tractor #1 is facing the opposite direction on the right.

Our two homemade chicken/duck/guinea tractors.
I moved our 8 meat birds (those extra roosters they added to my poultry shipment) and 4 guineas to the new tractor. The 4 ducks stayed in the old tractor since I need the extra-wide opening to get their baby pool in and out of there.

I should note that the only thing I purchased for Chicken Tractor #2 was a roll of chicken wire at Home Depot. It's hard to find good chicken wire in the trash, especially not in the quantities I need, so I broke down and bought it new. I didn't have to do that for Tractor #1 because I had enough random lengths of wire laying around to finish it. Except for that roll of chicken wire, all of the other materials for both tractors were scavenged or left over from old projects.


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