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Finally found a good project to work on. A book all about building chicken tractors.

 
Mike Cornwell
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Hello everyone.
I've been a lurker on the forum for quite some time, off and on using it for some permaculture ideas, so I figured this place would be a good place to give back. You know they say the best opportunities come from finding the pain points in life and attempting to do something about them, and I think I've finally found the pain point I'd like to tackle. Helping people get started building easy chicken tractors for themselves!

I'm not sure about you guys, but reverse engineering things isn't necessarily something that I want to do every single time I step into a new topic, but it seems that is just kinda the way it is with some things with working with living systems. But yet, with chicken tractors, man this is really the case. Looking online about the subject will both motivate and demotivate you about it. People build the most elaborate, super duper heavy chicken tractors, or its something that is completely hacked together with rummaged parts. (If that's your style, go for it!) Oh I should say and only include a picture or two, so you're like... "Ok let me imagine what is going on inside of that thing...."

I noticed when I started getting animals and needing to build things that the internet was kind of an all over the place situation. (Try looking up building movable goat shelters that you can move without a tractor, I ended up buying a poly dome, so I could move it with a wagon by hand) Chicken tractors, take the cake in my book and it makes the least amount of sense. Most owned farm animal, people are building bazillions of moveable coops, yet, shotgun of information. I looked on Amazon and they have one book on the subject, but it doesn't reaaaaallly spend the time addressing the building of the chicken tractor (in specific details). Blog after blog says the same obvious stuff that doesn't quite take you to where you need to go to build one, again without reverse engineering, or building a huge heavy, multi-day project. I have dug around and found a few plans, but for me personally they weren't quite what I was looking for.

So I'm sticking my neck out there and attempting to address this need with the fullness that I can! I created a website dedicated to it, and in the process of writing a book on the subject! I am going to build 10 chicken tractors, of as diverse types as possible, and fully document the whole process. I've got about a ton of ideas on it written down, but the main things I'm focusing on is the ease of ANYBODY being able to jump in and build one and providing the motivation to do it. Motivation is everything, and making it as easy possible, is the key to getting people to spring into action. They won't be "the best most innovative" designs ever. People don't need best, they need a chicken tractor to get started, then they can modify it as needed, and figured out how that design may or may not suit their needs. But getting started is always the first major hump for everyone. I mean this project is a major first hump for me, so if my idea ends up crashing and burning, I'm just out my time, and the money for 10 tractors hahaha. I've already built the beginning of the website Build a Chicken Tractor Today. As I go along building these (its my #1 priority in life right now) I will also be updating the website, and just trying to collect all the information I've found on the process making it the go to location for everything building of chicken tractors.

If you guys have any suggestions let me know I'd love to hear about it (the idea, designs, or otherwise). I'm going to keep posting on my progress here if you guys are interested in seeing how this venture goes. I'm sure I'll have to record a few videos of me throwing tools or wood in temper tantrums or something haha. Building can be fun, but when you've spent 30 minutes cutting pieces by hand only to realize you cut them in the wrong direction, ghhha!!!

 
Meryt Helmer
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I really want to learn how to build a quail tractor. do you think you will ever cover that?
 
wayne fajkus
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Do you currently have working tractors with chickens?
 
Mike Cornwell
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I really want to learn how to build a quail tractor. do you think you will ever cover that?

I hadn't thought about that. That could certainly be another angle to approach. I've done a little bit of research on them and had seen a few pictures of people doing it before. I'm curious what the differences really would be, Obviously one thing I'd be concerned about is them slipping out the bottom.

Do you currently have working tractors with chickens?

Not here at the moment. Been busy clearing overgrowth using boer goats! I'll should have some within the next week. I've been needing to get some to scratch up quite a few places. I also need to get a small herd to follow my goats around. I've had poultry eletric netting for awhile.
 
wayne fajkus
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I hope you do some honest testing on them. I lost two chickens to raccoons and the coons never got in the coop!

 
Mike Cornwell
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wayne fajkus wrote:I hope you do some honest testing on them. I lost two chickens to raccoons and the coons never got in the coop!



This is definitely one of those things that I will be testing, and evaluating for. And I personally think, this is just my viewing the situation, that racoons are going to be a big issue in city/suburban locations. Even then you won't have a raccoon problem... till you have a raccoon problem.

Dogs are the other thing. I'm not sure which one is worse. My uncle lost a rabbit to a dog who ripped a small hole in the cage it was in, and ripped it through the hole. Yikes. Maybe the coops should be equipped with spikey edges. har har har.

But then again, how much protection you need should be based on your situation, and from experience. It is one thing if you have larger animals that you paid hundreds of dollars a piece for. Its another if its a chicken or two. Money/time spend on security is anti-productive, but definitely a fact of life.

Maybe I should put test chickens in there, and let my scottish terrier on it. Or get my uncle's pit bull.

 
Jay C. White Cloud
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I hadn't thought about that. That could certainly be another angle to approach. I've done a little bit of research on them and had seen a few pictures of people doing it before. I'm curious what the differences really would be, Obviously one thing I'd be concerned about is them slipping out the bottom.


Hi Mike,

First, best of luck, and know many stand behind your efforts. I like it when someone is brave enough to say..."I may not be the best...but, I would like to try to do something the best I can..."

On that note, if you DON'T have a design and building background, and you DON'T have an avian husbandry background...someone like me could say..."why are going to write a book on something you don't have a background in?"

Perhaps, when I was younger, I would have gotten stuck there on that thought...and perhaps...a tad frustrated that you would even attempt such a thing....silly rabbit....your not qualified to do this...

Now...al these years later...and becoming a teacher myself (and exoteric fiddler of all kinds of things...many outside my normal skill sets)...I could not think of a better person than you (I read your profile)...as you have some of the most important elements behind you...A NEED...A FOCUS TO DO IT TODAY AND NOT PROCRASTINATE...GOAL DRIVEN TO DO WHAT NEEDS TO BE DONE AND NOT REINVENT WHEELS...and...A DESIRE TO SHARE what you took a risk at trying to do...GOOD for you...

Offline (or on) I would gladly edit and critique your designs before publication for anything I may offer, as I have designed, and built countless animal enclosures of all form and fashion from zoo level vivarium for venomous snakes, amphibians, orchids, birds, and mammals to animal husbandry forms for the esoteric and unusual goals of permaculture.

Again, best of luck, and love your spirit...go DO it!

j
 
Cj Sloane
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Your design should be dependent on your location and maybe your chickens. I have yet to find a good way to keep my chickens contained. I built 2 tractors, one with wheels, the other on skis. Both are hard to move on my lumpy landscape.

I'm also on quite a bit of ledge and the 4' electronetting isn't working that well. I had to turn off the power because the chickens kept trying to squeeze thru. They also tend to fly over it. A true tractor they are in permanently would be great but too hard to move, I think.

Back to the drawing board.
 
Mike Cornwell
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Jay C. White Cloud wrote:
Perhaps, when I was younger, I would have gotten stuck there on that thought...and perhaps...a tad frustrated that you would even attempt such a thing....silly rabbit....your not qualified to do this...

Now...al these years later...and becoming a teacher myself (and exoteric fiddler of all kinds of things...many outside my normal skill sets)...I could not think of a better person than you (I read your profile)...as you have some of the most important elements behind you...A NEED...A FOCUS TO DO IT TODAY AND NOT PROCRASTINATE...GOAL DRIVEN TO DO WHAT NEEDS TO BE DONE AND NOT REINVENT WHEELS...and...A DESIRE TO SHARE what you took a risk at trying to do...GOOD for you...

Offline (or on) I would gladly edit and critique your designs before publication for anything I may offer, as I have designed, and built countless animal enclosures of all form and fashion from zoo level vivarium for venomous snakes, amphibians, orchids, birds, and mammals to animal husbandry forms for the esoteric and unusual goals of permaculture.

Again, best of luck, and love your spirit...go DO it!

j


Jay, thanks for the encouragement and at least a total stranger confirming what i truly believe. Until not long ago, I probably would have said the EXACT same thing about "experience". Experience is important, but for things that require experience. I am not diagnosing diseases with chickens, as an example. That requires an immense amount of experience and knowledge of local areas. Hell I consider myself extremely knowledgable about perrenial plants, but can't tell you with any confidence why a few nectarines I planted look terrible, or why my Pomegranate that supposedly loves hot and humid weather, collapsed the other week.

While I will unfortunately have to do a lot of reverse engineering and designing with this, I'm trying to keep that as minimum as possible because other people have already done this work. Its just scattered, undocumented, and not organized.

Permaculture, and especially geoff lawton has really taught me that everything in life is achieved through the mindset of abundance and opportunity. Instead of approaching this subject out of a personal selfish (not necessarily bad) need with the fear of making one that is going to fit my needs perfectly, it is coming from a place where I really want to help people make that FIRST step, or find a new direction to go allowing me to just try them out and report on them. I think may come out of this very knowledgeable about chicken tractor design. (I keep hearing about specializing and focusing deeply on a single topic, then sharing that) I'm building the tractors for somebody other than myself, so I will experiment when I normally wouldn't. If you want a chicken tractor you build it. Then you modify it as you see fit. You don't just go building another and another and another that are completely different.

Let me start with 10 easy designs (starter designs for people starting out), then we'll see maybe I'll be able to write some more experienced articles about really what works and doesn't.

Cj Verde:
Yeah I couldn't agree more. I live where there are no rocks, there aren't really hills etc. Climate, terrain, and obstacles are a huge issue with this kind of stuff. Electric net fencing goats, in forests, will definitely teach you that. (Want to hate life? Try that one out haha). How big were they? I'm surprised the netting isn't working out. I am going to be doing that as well soon, so hopefully we don't have that issue. I may stick to heavier breeds, and fully clip one of the wings. (I've heard about flight issues). The smaller the tractor the less likely to escape and easier to move, but the more overall work you have to do. Heavier the tractor, the more birds grouped in a single space, less tractors to move, much more cumbersome of a process.

For this project, and starting out, I'm specifically staying focused on people who aren't going to be raising more than probably 8 chickens. Backyards, very small areas, quarter acre lots. Maybe this changes, but I'm not sure it will. I have considered building a classic "Joel Salatin" style tractor as one of the designs, but I'm not sure. I should probably really really hone in and narrow on that demographic.

Perhaps I can help this revolution of people in cities and suburbs have their own egg supply. "Meat" production is an entirely different story.
 
wayne fajkus
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Mike Cornwell wrote:



It is one thing if you have larger animals that you paid hundreds of dollars a piece for. Its another if its a chicken or two. Money/time spend on security is anti-productive, but definitely a fact of life.



I would disagree. Think about the customer who would pay for the book. I would think many are back yard coopers and these will be the first animals they raise....and they get attached to them. A stray dog that is taken in and becomes a household member is not less valuable to them emotionally than a purebred dog that someone else spent $1,000 to acquire. It doesn't matter if spending money is anti productive to YOU. It matters to the customer. And my gut tells me the cleintel that would buy the book want it. A chapter should be devoted to it.


 
Meryt Helmer
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Cj Verde wrote:Your design should be dependent on your location and maybe your chickens. I have yet to find a good way to keep my chickens contained. I built 2 tractors, one with wheels, the other on skis. Both are hard to move on my lumpy landscape.

I'm also on quite a bit of ledge and the 4' electronetting isn't working that well. I had to turn off the power because the chickens kept trying to squeeze thru. They also tend to fly over it. A true tractor they are in permanently would be great but too hard to move, I think.

Back to the drawing board.


I also have property that is extremely lumpy and very slanted as it is the side of a hill and my property is a forest. for these reasons I have come to the conclusion that a chicken tractor would probably be really hard to move around here and I have not even tried one. I think one reason I like the idea of a quail tractor is that it might be able to be small enough and light weight enough to work here! but making one that quail would be really safe in and not get injured when i would move it from place to place would be very important and I have not had time to figure that out myself yet.
 
Mike Cornwell
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Thanks for the feedback! I think I didn't quite explain what i meant by anti-productive. I certainly don't mean it isn't worth spending the money on or thinking about. It's the philosophical nature of security. Security protects what you have, rather than grows or adds value necessarily. Expenditures on things that make things work better or easier (say gadgets that allow you to move the tractor faster/easier) are productive. Spending the extra money and getting quality food for the birds, rather than forcing them to get 100% of their diet "off the land" is certainly another example. With that in mind, with the nature of the way the world works, security is clearly an extremely important thing to consider especially with livestock. What is somebody's risk tolerance?

I will definitely heavily consider what you're saying. I've added it to my spreadsheet of chapters. While the focus is on easy tractors, anybody can build, I am also looking at fleshing out some chapters that discuss modifications that can be done (easy ones by anyone) that can help adapt the plans to their specific needs. I also am going to rate every design based on security (some will highly depend on the swappable materials, such as type of netting used). The weight and inability for something to get under it is another.
 
Mike Cornwell
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but making one that quail would be really safe in and not get injured when i would move it

This is certainly a concern of mine. I know at least for the big boys, Joel Salatin has gone to a totally different model because of the number of birds that would continually get killed while moving. Similar issue, much smaller scale.

I definitely don't think tractors are the end all be all. Especially for a diverse homestead/permaculture system, no element can fit in any elements place. The tractor does what it does well. Relatively decent Confinement + Relatively decent mobility. (compare that with a proper coop which you can really hunker down, but unrealistically moveable). I think the challenge we all continually face is finding what are the nails for our hammers, rather than use our favorite hammer on everything.

For myself, I am looking at a combination of tractors and paddock shifting, particularly moving chickens with my goats (or after rather). (That ought to be a real pain in the...beehind until I get a system going). There are very specific areas that I want to hit with the tractor.
 
Meryt Helmer
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I am definitely not the typical person who would want a chicken tractor. for one my property is very unique in that no one has ever gardened here at all unless the native americans in the area did and I suspect they did and that this was their huckleberry garden. but basically this is land that was never gardened on at all in the typical sense and is untouched forest. my only interest in chicken tractors is that if one would work here it would allow me to have chickens sooner because I can't currently afford everything needed to have a paddock system I would be happy with. this is also one reason I am interested in quails, I could have them in a way I would be happy with for less money up front. Also I am very interested in ducks because I think they would do very well here but I would not have ducks in a tractor I don't think.

Good luck with your project though I will be eagerly watching!
 
wayne fajkus
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Another item (which would interest me) is designs for exterior management. Feeding and watering the chickens without getting inside the structure.
 
Mike Cornwell
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I am definitely not the typical person who would want a chicken tractor.

Oh come now. It sounds like you are to me! There definitely haven't been any gardens where I live either, but i wouldn't say untouched forests. It has apparently bounced back and forth between pasture and woodlands, every 30 years or so.

The monetary issue is definitely something I"m considering as well. While it won't be the focus of this project to "make the cheapest tractors possible" I am definitely going to explore those ideas in other aspects. I talked to the wife about working on another project afterwards that could be about creative sourcing, or my experiences going above and beyond to talk to people and getting the cheapest stuff. While I consider myself pretty outgoing, I've got a loooooooong way to go to start being good at getting freebies from random strangers.

Wayne:
I know exactly what you mean. I keep looking at designs and going "where the heck is the water?" Then I go "how can you refill that water without flipping the whole friggin thing over and pulling it out?" I'm completely baffled by some of these designs, so, sadly I might have to reinvent the wheel more than I thought. One possibility is having the water as a separate thing from the tractor with quick disconnect tubing going into it. When you're ready to move, you disconnect, move the tractor, move your water source, connect up and you're on your way.

I'm not sure that will be my primary focus this go around, but I am seeing ALOT, and I mean ALOT of work in that realm. (additions, addons, improvements, conveniences).
 
Emily Cressey
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Hi Mike, It looks like you're off to a good start! I like all the photos on your website.

Here's a frickin' awesome chicken tractor idea for the urban gardener! http://lemoncraft.wordpress.com/2010/02/17/chicken-tractor/ I am so in love with this idea. It's beautiful. It incorporates the chicken run in the annual veggie crop rotation.

I also wonder if you would consider incorporating chicken tunnels/chunnels with the chicken tractor to make it something that could be incorporated into an urban back yard.

Good luck!

Emily

 
Meryt Helmer
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oooh that is a chicken tractor that would work on my property! also that is very close to the one quail tractor I have seen that looks like it would work well. it was little fenced in cage type things like that that fitting right over raised beds. quail can't take much cold so quail tractors only work in mild climates or on mild days in places with less mild climates.
 
Mike Cornwell
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Emily:

Yeah I saw this in my research. This is actually a really good idea. One would definitely have to have a coop to put them in during their non-work sessions. I'm not entirely sure you could have a big enough urban garden to employ chickens year around in it haha. But none the less this is thinking outside the box for sure. My mom sent me I think the original video regarding the chicken tunnels and man was that a cool idea. I'll definitely have to keep it in mind. These ideas I definitely need to get up on the site as well. I'm all about any and all innovative designs. I'm just not entirely they'll all work for this book that I'm working on, which I'm really trying to focus on situations you can build today. I think the tunnels one is one that you have to spend a lot more time thinking about and get that experience in. I immediately think "where is their coop going to be in situation with, the house, garden, the sun" and "how/where am I going to store the tunnels when I"m not using them".

I tell you I would like some, or something similar right now because I have garden beds, I would be quite ok with them just going to town on. I will admit though, that since i made my beds from hand and "following contours" it makes it next to impossible to do without just putting poultry fencing around a few.

Meryt:
I definitely see no reason why one has to permanently keep them in tractors. I don't know about you but I don't live on a tractor. Har har har. I know some guys at the farmers market, who live right down the road from me (I'd hang out with them but I can't ever get a hold of them) they raise quails. I'm not sure what they're doing though. I doubt they're tractoring.
 
Mike Cornwell
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Emily:
Ok so I spent more time thinking about that article you sent, and wrote a blog post on it. Started talking to the wife, and thinking about the new garden we're going to put in (we're going to abandon our old one and turn it into an intensively managed/pruned tree system). The problem for us is we're just not going to do beds like this, but she came up with the idea of a mobile chicken coop that rides along the main paths of the garden, and we run tunnels to beds.

The garden is an "english style" garden, so its surrounded by trees that will be heavily pruned, and inside the beds will be very uniform in shape and size (I have numerous experiences why I'm going that route now). While we couldn't do what these people did (orient the beds around the tractor, which is the best way), we decided we could easily run the tunnels along the human foot paths, and open it up for the beds we want to access. I'll definitely have to write a post about this, and I can already see creating a video or two out of this...
 
Emily Cressey
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Hi Mike,

I think we're in similar stages of our fiendish master plans for chicken and food gardening. I am working on a plan - 50 x 50 ft garden, with fruit trees along basically North and West sides, and open to the sun on the East/South. In the middle, I want to do annuals and bush fruits like blueberries and raspberries. The shaded side yard of my house is 6 x 70 and on the North East side of the garden, so I may have a permanent chicken run there and adjoining coop from which the beasties (birds) will be unleashed on the garden do do their ravaging of it.

I've been working with the idea of doing a "living mulch" such as clover for the pathways that would double as "chicken food"... I just don't know how to control access to everthing. My current plan is to do some sort of short fencing (e.g. electronet or chicken wire - maybe especially low if I do ducks.) which would designate the different beds into "rotational grazing areas". Then I would have some sort of series of doors/chicken tunnels to release them into the desired area.

My main questions at this point are - how high/ugly will the fencing need to be? - I like the chicken tractor idea, but not sure if the shape of paths vs. beds would accomodate it? I sort of see the chicken tunnel idea as a super-light weight chicken tractor.

Have you seen the Mother Earth News Chicken Moat drawing? This is cool, maybe along the lines of what you mentioned:



This is another drawing showing a chicken moat/run with a chicken underpass, so you can still pass through key areas with your wheelbarrow, etc.



I like the idea of keeping the chickens permanently on the paths to handle the weeding, but then just worry about the garden beds being over-run without inconvenient fencing. If you kept them on the paths in a chicken tractor, would you just walk around it if there was a blockade in your pathway? How wide would you make your paths/tractor? 3 x 5 for the tractor on 3' wide paths?


My current idea is to do something like this, but with the "chicken tunnels being through the trees/food forest area. I'm afraid if I put a chicken run around the whole food forest (which is only around 500 square feet) they will be too hard on the understory plants. So, maybe I will just put little tunnels through the food forest, near the base of the trees, which will be disguised from neighbors and seem "jungly" to the chickens.



Warmly,

Emily
 
Kate Muller
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Hi Mike,

Alec and I are getting our first flock of 15 chickens in 2 and a half weeks. I haven't seen a good design for winter weather in places that average 4 to 6 feet of snow a winter. We have gotten over 10 feet of snow one winter here and easily have 2 feet of snow cover for 3 to 4 months of the year. I haven't come up with a solution for a winter tractor that would protect the birds from the cold wet winters we have and still be able to move it by myself. I don't know if you have even considered a harsh winter design for your book/website but it would be a great addition.

The current plan is a winter coop and run so they can be warm and dry for the winter and tractor them spring to fall. I would love to free range the birds but I don't think I can keep them safe till we can fence the 2.5 acre property in.
 
Mike Cornwell
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Emily,

Very cool pictures thanks for sharing. The chicken moat idea, is an interesting one. I think I would be quite ok, cool with it, if the chickens weren't there 100% of the year. The one thing I do like about that idea, is the idea that any of the areas that might be "up hill" will wash down into the garden, I like those kinda things and have an area above the garden that is perfect for those kinda things. I was going to till it up and throw perennial and annual chicken forage mixes and let them go hog wild. I've ran the goats up there a few times. The one thing regarding the moat, is I'm not entirely sure what its purpose is? I do like the idea of keeping back grasses. Good god that is the biggest problem I have, and I personally believe the reason for that is because i haven't cleared ALL grass in and around my garden. But then you end up along fences, well if you have chickens running around the edges, that would be nice. I am a tad bit concerned at how much the fencing would cost to put in a system like that (depends on the size of your area of course).

Why not put heavily pruned treas around the whole garden? Tallest ones starting North West, smallest south east. I have blueberries, with a few elderberries all along the south (they'll be topped off at 5 foot max, and in the winter time, no issues there). On my east I have satsuma trees that I'll top off at about 6 foot. In my personal case, that size of a tree, just isn't going to shade really anything, at least not but maybe an hour in the summer time, and almost nothing in the winter time (because of the angles). I have a large native black cherry to the west of the garden, we planted a pecan, but I wish praying would make it grow faster, because I need that dude about 30-40 foot tall, like yesterday, to end that 3-6 pm sun.

In my case I will have a small foot walkway that will go all the way around the garden, so the areas that could be shaded via the southern blueberries will be mostly walkways in the morning. As far as the chicken tractor idea, I think right now I have 3 foot walk ways in mind, so I probably would do like you said, 3 by 5. I would put it on BIG tires. I'm thinking like the gorrilla kart tires. The one doubly good thing about this idea is you can roll that tractor right out of the garden and off into the hill sides. The wife basically said "create a variable run" with a set coop. Not a bad idea, I might say.

Kate:
Howdy! Encase you didn't realize (I just have to put this so its obvious) this is the same Mike who you went to Ben's PDC with. =) That's very cool about the chickens. Yeah I definitely don't have either the snow nor the cold problem here, but I certainly am aware that, that is an issue. My first reaction to it, is like you say. Stationary coop/setup, with a mobile one in the spring. Like I said in an earlier post, when you do an element analysis on a chicken coop (as you would with any other permaculture element) you'll certainly see it has needs and limitations, of which you're perfectly describing one. 2 feet of snow cover = not moving. The only thing I could think of would be "put it on skiis or a sled" but, I just don't see that ending well. Cull down the numbers that you have, make space for your breeding / excellent egg layers, over winter, come out strong in the spring. Even here I think overwintering too many animals, is a bad bad idea. It'll cut down your feed costs, remove the amount of space and amount of care necessary, then when there is the all clear, you build back up your stock.

Free range is one of the most interesting topics ever. My friend free ranges his birds, and they've gotten more and more ballzy as the days go by. They stayed really good before, but just kept getting further out, and more daring. You don't necessarily have to fence in the ENTIRE 2.5 acres. There is always the idea of "large paddocks" especially using something like step in posts, and electric twine. At least with that setup you can take it down any time you want. Granted as I hear the best setup is high tension wire that is electrified. Just keep the weeds off it, and phew, that'll put a hurtin.
 
Mike Cornwell
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So I've almost got the first tractor built. I had a feeling it was going to take me a bit longer than it would normally require. I'm building an A-Frame tractor that is as small as I see reasonably going. I haven't put the back door on it (where you'll collect your eggs) yet, nor the wire, but as of right now I can pick it up with one hand (I wouldn't move it with one hand, but just referring to the weight). That was my goal. I'm thinking about adding some handles with it so you can drag it around by yourself no problem. Fits 2 chickens snuggly. It's 6 foot long, 3 foot wide. Are the chickens going to be the happiest chickens alive? No, but I think it does it's job verrrrrry well. For those skeptical about its lack of weight for protection, I've got a few Aces up my sleeve I'm going to test... But I'll wait until I try them first (then report on how bad they were, or useful). I think I'll get some pictures up on the website blog of the action.
 
Kate Muller
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Mike Cornwell wrote:Emily,



Kate:
Howdy! Encase you didn't realize (I just have to put this so its obvious) this is the same Mike who you went to Ben's PDC with. =) That's very cool about the chickens. Yeah I definitely don't have either the snow nor the cold problem here, but I certainly am aware that, that is an issue. My first reaction to it, is like you say. Stationary coop/setup, with a mobile one in the spring. Like I said in an earlier post, when you do an element analysis on a chicken coop (as you would with any other permaculture element) you'll certainly see it has needs and limitations, of which you're perfectly describing one. 2 feet of snow cover = not moving. The only thing I could think of would be "put it on skiis or a sled" but, I just don't see that ending well. Cull down the numbers that you have, make space for your breeding / excellent egg layers, over winter, come out strong in the spring. Even here I think overwintering too many animals, is a bad bad idea. It'll cut down your feed costs, remove the amount of space and amount of care necessary, then when there is the all clear, you build back up your stock.

Free range is one of the most interesting topics ever. My friend free ranges his birds, and they've gotten more and more ballzy as the days go by. They stayed really good before, but just kept getting further out, and more daring. You don't necessarily have to fence in the ENTIRE 2.5 acres. There is always the idea of "large paddocks" especially using something like step in posts, and electric twine. At least with that setup you can take it down any time you want. Granted as I hear the best setup is high tension wire that is electrified. Just keep the weeds off it, and phew, that'll put a hurtin.


Glad to see you have been busy since September. We bought a house at the beginning of the new year. The front yard is covered in swales and Hugleculture beds.
I need to take updated photos. We built this garden a month ago. I am still planting it out.
http://www.permies.com/t/36459/introductions/Kate-Hampshire#284521

My chickens are currently free ranging at my friend's house. She has been raising them for me. I figure I am going to loose a few before winter since I don't know how bad my predator pressure will be. It will be my first livestock and I am sure there will be a sharp learning curve...
 
Tina Paxton
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Mike Cornwell wrote:Hello everyone.
I looked on Amazon and they have one book on the subject, but it doesn't reaaaaallly spend the time addressing the building of the chicken tractor (in specific details).



I assume you are talking about "Chicken Tractor" by Patrician Foreman? I have it and you are right, it spends much of the time talking about "upping" the soil through no-till. It sells the idea of a chicken tractor but leaves much to be desired in terms of "best practices" for building one that actually WORKS. From my experience, either you build a Fort Knox tractor that is too heavy to move, or you build one that is not worth bothering with...

I'll be interested in seeing what you come up with.
 
Mike Cornwell
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Kate Muller wrote:
Glad to see you have been busy since September.

Quite the understatement haha. But it would seem you guys have been quite busy as well! Which is quite nice. The more action you do, the more you realize what can be done with a little "elbow grease". Other than the swales I did everything by hand as well, so it's been slow moving work. In fact I probably should write a little book on that subject. Doing EVERYTHING by hand, is certainly an adventure. I don't even own a riding lawn mower haha.

Kate Muller wrote:
It will be my first livestock and I am sure there will be a sharp learning curve...

Nonsense. You'll be just fine! As Jack Spirko always says "it's just a chicken". By sharp you must mean in a logarithmic fashion... =) You'll be just fine. Must be nice to have somebody taking care of your animals... THAT is the way to go. "Yes I'll come by and collect my spoils now, thank you."

Tina Paxton wrote:
I assume you are talking about "Chicken Tractor" by Patrician Foreman? I have it and you are right, it spends much of the time talking about "upping" the soil through no-till.

That's the main one. If you dig around there are a few other ones that kind of approach the topic, but they're not like at the top. I considered purchasing it as personal homework for this project, but decided its not worth it. I did buy the backyard chickens book for the same purpose. I'm considering returning it because other than a single design, it's completely out of scope of what I'm working on. The projects are all too high in scope, take too long, and I'm sure are quite expensive. Not that the designs aren't good, they're just not "easy tractor designs you can do today".

Fort Knox tractor. Excellent verbage. I'm thinking about building at least one of said tractors, but getting the wheel system right to be able to do it. Or, I have something in a similar spirit. The problem with the Fort Knox tractor is its trying to be both a coop, and a tractor, and the more I go along, I'm not sure that's really the best approach.I do think more and more about having a mobile coop, that you can create an enclosed run for. (Similar to having a mobile coop with putting an electric fence around).

 
Tina Paxton
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Mike Cornwell wrote:

Fort Knox tractor. Excellent verbage. I'm thinking about building at least one of said tractors, but getting the wheel system right to be able to do it. Or, I have something in a similar spirit. The problem with the Fort Knox tractor is its trying to be both a coop, and a tractor, and the more I go along, I'm not sure that's really the best approach.I do think more and more about having a mobile coop, that you can create an enclosed run for. (Similar to having a mobile coop with putting an electric fence around).



Either a mobile coop or a stationary coop with multiple doors leading to one of 4 paddocks.

Me, I'm currently using a system of free ranging chickens who are smart enough to avoid becoming hawk food and knowing that such a flock comes after a process of "survival of the fittest". It's not idea because I hate loosing any but I can't afford Fort Knox and anything less is either ugly (can't have ugly--Mother's rule) or ineffective thus not worth the expenditure.
 
Mike Cornwell
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What are you doing for eggs? Do they just continually go in a single location? That's usually the downside to free range. Do they have a single coop that you leave open and at night they go in there and do their business? No issues with chickens acting like a nuisance, or at least sounds like its minimal?

Ugly I also have a problem with. The major reason for that, is "ghetto" normally breeds "ghetto". Its really with all things in life. We're very much the product of our environments, so depending on what we surround ourselves with is what we'll think and feel. Doesn't have to be perfect, but, stuff thrown together, always feels like its "thrown together". But I tell you what a good paint job and detail work can certainly help!
 
Tina Paxton
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Mike Cornwell wrote:What are you doing for eggs? Do they just continually go in a single location? That's usually the downside to free range. Do they have a single coop that you leave open and at night they go in there and do their business? No issues with chickens acting like a nuisance, or at least sounds like its minimal?


I made nestboxes out of rubbermaid storage tubs with holes cut in the side and stuffed with hay. I set them around where the rabbit hutches are (the chickens like to check out what the rabbits are dropping) and they use the nestboxes to lay eggs -- well most of the time. They do occasionally get a burr up their collective butts and decide to play "hide the egg" and get really upset when I find the hidden nest. But, mostly, they are well behaved about using the nestboxes. They stay mostly within boundary line of my property as they learned that beyond there "there be monsters". There is a single coop that they are supposed to use -- currently only one is using it. The others are roosting in the Camellia -- up high enough that I can't reach to get them down. Now that I have some new hens, I'm hoping to get most to use the coop again. I'm also planning a redesign where the dog kennel which is next to the coop (not used by the dogs) will be reshaped and covered by a hoophouse-style roof that will incorporate the chicken coop into the area as an "animal barn" for rabbits, ducks, and chickens and then the ducks and chickens get moved to a "paddock" (fenced in area) during the day. Eventually, I hope to have my whole half-acre property fenced in with different "paddocks" and thus the birds can move around as I need and where I need.

As for destructive behaviors: the chickens do like to redo garden beds and always come to see what I'm doing in the garden so they can "help". I distract them with something else and it is all good.
 
Mike Cornwell
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So I am building my second chicken tractor and I figured I would share some of the pictures of it!

It is a conduit PVC dome design with a wood frame. The wire will be held via the PVC conduit. The size of the tractor is 5 x 10 feet long, and actually doesn't really weight "too much". Yeah you can't lift it over your head, or try to pick the whole thing up (yourself), but it should be no problem to move once I get wheels on it.

This project should have taken me only a few hours to complete from start to finish, but man I've been hammered by forgetting to get things at the store, or getting an hour or so into the job, just to realize that I needed some part I didn't quite think of.





I also wrote a quick blog post about this, but there isn't much more in the post that I didn't say here.
http://buildachickentractortoday.com/update-dome-chicken-tractor-build/

While working on these projects and getting organized I have been in the process of completely redoing the website. I think I finally have it how I want it and should be launching it hopefully in the next week and a half. I have gone completely away from wordpress, and developed the site more or less from the ground up using Python's Django framework, and the Mezzanine CMS platform. The primary reason why I redid the site away from Wordpress is I'll be able to start work on some really cool features to the site like an indexed and searchable catalog of everything I can find on the internet related to chicken tractors. It is my intent that "Chicken Tractors You Can Build Today" will be THE website for finding information on chicken tractors. Eventually with that I'll turn that functionality over to users to really beef the site up and keep it up to date with the latest information on what people are doing with chicken tractors.
 
I agree. Here's the link: https://richsoil.com/wood-heat.jsp
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