Chicken tractor 101

You’ll see I’m pursuing several of my original seven projects in parallel. While I’ve been talking to water sub-contractors re: the cistern, we’ve added chickens to our lives.

For the first time, I don’t feel like I’m wasting my time when I mow my lawn. As Joel Salatin explains, he’s become a grass farmer, which then takes care of all the grazing animals (and other aspects) on his farm.

We’ve got 15 egg laying chickens (aka “layers”) in a 10 foot square Salatin-inspired chicken tractor. I found four different styles of tractors locally and on the web, plus some additional research about the digging preferences of coyotes and raccoons, and did a mash-up to create our current tractor design.

The main addition I made to other designs was the hardware cloth skirt to thwart digging predators and the water ski style ropes on each side to easy portability. See additional photos of the tractor and the various components like a portable dust box to the right in the streaming photo collage.

The chicken tractor gets moved to fresh grass daily. It’s light enough that my thin but strong wife can drag it as well. I tried hard to design one made of something renewable like bamboo, but since it rests 100% of the time on the ground, I would have to drench the bamboo with toxic chemicals to ward off mildew and rot.

I ended up using the dreaded PVC, which is terrible for our environment and health when created and when it leaches into our food and water. Because we do not get extensive, intense sun, this PVC will remain stable for years. But I still hate using the damn stuff.

This tractor is clearly version 1.0. I’ve already got a list going of things I would change for the next one, including the addition of a second trap door. When we add three 5-gallon buckets for them to lay eggs in, that one area under the only trap door is going to get crowded. And we’ll see how this tarp design survives a few snowfalls this winter.

Why a chicken tractor rather than a coop?
  1. Fresh grass daily means healthy happy chickens = healthy eggs = healthy family.
  2. Moving the coop daily means no buildup of droppings, thus no smell nor diseases.
  3. My lawn is finally useful. 🙂