Backyard Chickens, Maker, Woodworking

I Turned a Broken Wheelbarrow Into a Chicken Tractor

Chickens, they say, are the most industrious of all birds. They are not content to while away the hours just pecking and clucking; they want to be put to work. For this reason, I built for our chickens a chicken tractor.

Unlike its human counterpart, a chicken tractor does not have an engine or even a cupholder. A chicken tractor is a portable chicken coop-like structure that allows the chickens to be transported to different locations around the yard, where they may then eat bugs, scratch at the dirt, and perform other chicken duties.

I began my tractor journey by designing the structure in Sketchup.

It’s essentially a box with a door at one end and a roof with a 5º slope (to match the main coop, of course).

Rather than butt-jointing and toe-screwing all of the boards like in the main coop (what is this, an anatomy lesson??), I decided to try using half-laps for all of the joints.

I found this to be time-consuming. I also found this to create a lot of sawdust.

I made one frame for each side of the tractor and then screwed them all together.

To increase the structure’s rigidity, I added some supports across the top (not shown) and some supports in the lower corners (shown below).

The door fit perfectly (of course) in the taller end.

For the handles and wheel, I took this broken wheelbarrow and chopped it up.

The axle is angled up at about 10º so that the bottom of the wheel just barely touches the ground when the tractor is stationary. Then, when I lift up the handles, the frame of the tractor will be off the ground, engaging the wheel.

I attached the roof panels (extras left over from building the coop), and hardware cloth over the side openings, and voila! A box with a wheel!

The chickens love it! They were all like “Cluck cluck cluck cluck!”

The single wheel idea, while ingenious, did not work out in practice. I had to lift the end of the tractor much higher than I wanted to in order to get clearance under the far end, so I added two wheels, taken from a bike that I’m sure my kids won’t miss probably. This raises the end of the coop up two inches off the ground, but it makes it much more maneuverable. If I ever put chicks in here, I’ll have to add some sort of skirt that prevents them from sneaking out.

Only one more touch was needed to turn this tractor into a home.

Now you might be saying, “Chris, did you build this entire project just so you’d have an excuse to use this chicken knob?” In response to your question, I have a lot of questions. Number one, how dare you.

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Backyard Chickens, Maker, Woodworking

Building a gravity chicken feeder (for gravity feeding, not gravity chickens)

It’s not that I don’t enjoy feeding our chickens every day, but when they started pecking at my toes because their food dish was empty for too long (a.k.a. more than five seconds), I decided to build a gravity-powered feeder that would keep them fed for weeks at a time.

Here’s the finished product. Note the happy chickens who are not pecking at my toes.

There are two main aspects of a gravity feeder. One: a hopper that you can empty feed into, and two: an opening at the bottom that is big enough for the chickens can eat from but small enough that it doesn’t continually spill all of the feed onto the ground.

With this in mind, I free-handed a chute design on some half-inch exterior plywood left over from building the coop.

The rest of the feeder is just rectangles of plywood.

It was hard to get a photo of it, but I also added an angled piece of plywood at the bottom of the feeder to divert feed towards the front. This reduces the amount of feed that needs to be added to the feeder before the chickens can reach it.

I added a hinged cover for the bottom of the feeder in case we decide to restrict the hens’ feeding times. For now, I just lifted it open and held it up with a screw.

The lid is another piece of plywood with a basic handle and guides on the bottom to fit it into place.

Tada! The total build time was about an hour plus another 20 minutes for paint. We’ll see whether I need to make any modifications, but for now, it’s working as expected.

Update: The chickens were spilling a lot of feed while they ate, so I added a lip to the front of the trough so they have to reach in to eat, and the amount of wasted feed has dropped to almost zero.

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Backyard Chickens, Maker, Woodworking

There ain’t nobody here but us chicken coops

My wife texted me this about six weeks ago. She had ended up in a farm supply store with her mom and our kids, and they had baby chicks for sale:

We ended up skipping the duck, but six weeks later, we have two six chickens and a very sturdy coop.

I began buying coop materials as soon as the chicks came home, but I only really started building in earnest when they first escaped their cardboard brooder in the laundry room.

I bought plans for a 6’x10′ coop from The Garden Coop.  At their request, I’m not including any in-progress construction shots, but I will say that the $30 for the plans was money well-spent. The hardware kit they sell was also worth the money, if only to avoid a couple dozen trips to Home Depot.

The six chicks are now pullets — three Bantams and three Gold Sex Links. (Gold Sex Links? I think I saw that advertised in a spam email once.) We moved them into the coop full-time once they reached six weeks, and they seem very happy. Chickens lack the ability to smile or otherwise describe their feelings, so their happiness is a subjective judgment on my part.

They won’t start laying eggs for another few months, at which point we can begin the long journey towards breaking even against the tens of dollars we would have spent each month on grocery store eggs.

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