Chicken tractor. Even if you know what one is, the term conjures amusing images of a rooster on a John Deere, working the throttle with a wing and shooting tobacco juice out the side of his beak. OK, so what IS a chicken tractor? It's a movable cage with no bottom, allowing the birds to enjoy the bugs and grass in a chosen area while simultaneously tilling and fertilizing…without flying over to visit the neighbor's dogs or ripping up your new blueberry bushes (we had 4 in the spring, now it's more like 1 1/2; chickens can't resist a good, deep mulch!) In addition to giving chickens a chance to enjoy natural foods and activities without getting into trouble, a chicken tractor can be used to prepare garden beds. Make it the width of your intended planting area, and the chickens will gobble up the weeds and seeds while tilling in some excellent fertilizer. (Be sure to give chicken poo plenty of time to decompose before planting, though – it's strong stuff and can kill plants when fresh.) Tractors can be made in any size or shape. The considerations: you should be able to move it yourself, it should be high enough for them to hop over each other if they get bunched up in a corner, and of course if you want to do it for $5 the materials you have on hand will dictate the size. The assembly should be pretty self-explanatory. For this one, the $5 represents an investment in screws and chicken wire; the rest of the tractor is made of a used shipping pallet, some wheels off a dead lawnmower, an extra tie-down cleat from a pickup truck, and a square of scrap plywood for the door. Here's the side view. How long is it? However long the slats on the pallet were – about 6 feet:
Front view. Door slides between scrap-wood tracks; handle is the aforementioned tie-down cleat.
This is the cool feature…lawnmower wheels often incorporate a doodad that allows you to change the height. I placed them in such a way that when they're fully up, they don't touch the ground (see the wheel spinning freely?)
Here's the wheel hardware in the raised position:
Here I am moving the little tab to lower the wheel:
With the wheel on the lowest setting, there's about 2" of clearance, making it easy to lift the other end and move it around like a wheelbarrow:
Screws were used rather than nails, because they hold a little better (especially when the frame might flex a little) and they allow you to disassemble and reuse the materials later. The chicken wire was attached using a staple gun, which is an indispensable tool for making poultry housing. There should always be water and shade available, and ideally grit and a bit of regular chicken food in case the bugs aren't cooperating. In a larger tractor, you can cover the corner that's pointed toward the sun, or you can just put a pet crate in as we've done here. Happy tractoring!