Building our Chicken Tractor - 4-H and HomesteadingsteemCreated with Sketch.

in homesteading •  6 days ago 

At three months of age, our chicks are fully feathered and have spent the past week or two in an unheated garage, preparing them for life outside. We gained permission to keep the chickens at my in-laws' house. They have a few acres of land that doesn't have much going on beyond the wild turkeys and Canada geese as well as the odd deer.

As this is a 4-H project as well, the girls were very much involved. Unfortunately, the work day coincided with Mother Nature turning on the "summer" switch for Wyoming.

One of the cool things about 4-H is that it gets the children involved in a hands-on way. Here, the girls (@emberskydragon and @wolfspirit) are learning about measuring and figuring out where the cuts are going to need to be made on the wood. (It's also a good lesson about why multiplication and division are important to learn!)

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Using real tools is important too. This is Ember's first time using a bow saw (or any saw, I think). WolfSpirit did a good job as well.

Once we got into the construction part of the project, I forgot about taking pictures.

The girls learned important lessons about how to put a concept into practice - as well as how sometimes things aren't perfect - and how it usually doesn't matter. We also learned to work together better as the blended family we are.

It was our first 90F day for the year and we definitely felt it! Still, we got the job done.

Here is what it looked like after basic construction:

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It's 8'x 4' x 2'. I designed it to require as few cuts as possible. (It also makes a good size of garden bed so they can do the weeding/tilling between seasons.)

The next day, we took the chickens to their new home. We also stapled a new tarp over one half to give them decent shade. It was really windy while I did this (fairly typical in Wyoming) which showed that the tarp won't be a great long-term solution, but it definitely works for now. (We did add some bricks to weight it down on top and give it some extra staying power.)

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The chickens seem to be enjoying their first taste (literally) of grass and their new task of weeding and tilling the soil for future garden beds.

Photos taken in May 2020 with my Nikon D7200.

Past issues...

Poultry

Chickens - A Little About Our Breeds
Chick Update and the new Warming Plate



Lori Svensen
author/designer at A'mara Books
photographer/graphic artist for Viking Visual
(Buy my work at RedBubble, TeePublic, PicFair and DeviantArt.)
verified author on Goodreads
(Buy my books at Books2Read and at LBRY)
find me on Twitter





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Great seeing s girls being taught to be able to handle tools!

Will you let the chickens roam more freely when they are older? Here in Thailand they make a bamboo version of your chicken run, but they use it only at night. In the daytime the chickens roam freely around kitchen gardens and they all KNOW (not sure how they train them to do that bit. Food?) to come back to the bamboo cover to roost at night.

I hope to let them roam more freely at a later time.
Thing is, we're borrowing space from the in-laws, so I can't be there all the time.
We do plan to build a larger coop before winter, but the long-term plan is to get our own land and allow a bit more roaming then.

We also made some improvements to the tractor today to keep them safer.
https://hive.blog/hive-114308/@viking-ventures/reinforcing-our-chicken-tractor-4-h-and-homesteading

Great job on the safer tractor - it's a BIG issue on rural properties.

Coons, of course, are city dwellers as well. I do hope this thing is now secure enough.
I appreciate your comments.

Such a great learning project for the children. This is the type of experience they need first, before much of what the Public Education System teaches.

I'll actually be heading out to Wyoming/Colorado later this week. The higher elevation really keeps you cooler there. My best friend lived in Cheyenne for a while and when I visited the windchill was like -60°.

Agreed totally about the learning. Children are meant to be taught how to live - and most people nowadays haven't a clue about how to live without all the modern trappings!

Yes, the high elevation can be fun... And I've never lived in a windier place than Wyoming! The most challenging parts of our location though is the soil. It's arid and is comprised mainly of sand and salt!

How often will you move it? Do you have raccoons around you?

I'm watching right now to see how frequently we need to move it. I'm guessing weekly. But generally when they're done eating the grass and scratching up the ground - though since we only have 7 and they're still small, it might take them longer. I'll probably move them weekly anyway though.

Yes, we do have raccoons, but I don't know how many, etc.

Just a warning, if you don't put poultry netting around it, raccoons will reach through the wire and tear of wings, legs, etc.... Not pretty

It's only 32 sq. ft for 7 birds. Generally one allows 20 sq. ft. per bird to prevent behavior problems. So you might want to move it more frequently to give them something to do...

Poultry netting as being something different from the normal chicken wire already around it? The back portion with the tarp is stapled down pretty good, so they should still be safe from the raccoons, I hope. We'll have to keep an eye on them. I'm more used to dealing with owls and mink (unfortunately...)

Yes, poultry netting is electrified.

Raccoons are amazingly strong. They would easily rip off a tarp.

Ah, electric netting. I don't know if this will be an option for us or not. So, I'm going to get some of the hardware cloth as soon as I can find it. (I did check two stores today, one more to check tomorrow.) I also read about doing a coop apron (which I'll do when we build a more permanent coop) and even just putting bird/fruit netting around the tractor (or whatever) because the coons (apparently) don't like the feel of that stuff.

The problem with bird netting is that you might catch birds in it, not chickens but wild birds. So we don't use it here on the farm. An apron around the bottom would deter predator digging, but can make the tractor hard to move unless you can secure it up for each move.

Okay, I've done more reading now. Looks like I need some hardware cloth. I'll get some ASAP then. The only problem then is that it's going to make it more difficult to move the tractor... Oh well, we'll work out something!

Thanks for the heads-up.

How has your circus-tent design worked? I worry about owls. Or do you go ahead and coop them at night?

We are still thinking about the more permanent design.

We designed and built the tent in 2008 and it has worked excellently since then. One is used seasonally in the pastures, the other permanently in the layer pen.

Our birds, pastured and layers have VERY secure coops EVERY night before dusk and well after dawn.

Awesome job!!

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Thank you!

So good that you got the girls involved in it - they must have been very excited to do so :)

Yes, they were excited, though the hard work is an eye-opener for them!