Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Finally, A Chicken Tractor!

It has been a regular construction zone around here, once the hot weather broke and my heel cooperated, with four chicken tractors cranked out in three days.  I am really happy with this year's design, which appears sturdy but is lightweight so I can move it easily.

It all starts with a basic two-by-four board frame, four feet wide by eight feet long.  Across the bottom, I've opted to staple some chicken wire rather than leave it open.  The chickens are going to be out in the wilds this year, and I am sure some intrepid creature could get underneath and snaffle them up...so I'm hoping the chicken wire bottom will slow them down.  Of course, I have to leave a gap to slide food and water underneath, so perhaps any creatures will be ignorant of the 12 inches they could squeeze into.

My 2012 design uses plumbers tape (metal with holes to run screws through) wrapped around the ends of 1/2 inch PVC pipe, to hold them to the base so I can create a series of roof arches:

Two supports run lengthwise, with a third in the middle.  They all get zip-tied together at the crossing points and seem to be really stable.  Then, I wrap the whole upper shebang in mesh hardware cloth.  If I were smarter, I would outfit myself with long sleeves and gloves, but I am apparently NOT so smart and I have the scratches to prove it.  Hardware cloth is ridiculously sharp and pokey, in case you've never tried working with it.

Of course, you wind up with a box of wire mesh at the end of stapling it into place, so I found that if I pleat the corners, it helps to mold the wire in place and make the tractor more smooth and svelte in appearance.

A tarp thrown over the top and stapled/zip-tied in place makes for the right amount of shade while still allowing good airflow through the tractor to help prevent overheating.  To help the tarp fit tightly, I pleat and staple (with my trusty office stapler) on the top ends like so:

These are, I think, my best chicken tractor incarnations to date.  Lightweight, stable, seemingly secure thus far, they fit into the back of Lucille Laverne easily, and they are kind of cute.  Once out in the fields, they look like pup tents!

Maybe I should call them chicken "campers", instead?

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