Need a chicken tractor that's light-weight, inexpensive, and easy to disassemble and reassemble? Look no further. Now you can start your own backyard grass-fed poultry operation as we did on a small-scale farm in Georgia. Here are instructions and plenty of photographs so that you can make them, too.
After reading every book Joel Salatin wrote and following countless blogs detailing the joys of raising meat birds, we were ready to wave goodbye to the military, buy a bigger farm, and set up camp as full-time grass-fed poultry farmers. Of course, we came back to our senses and realized that Josh was only a few years shy of reaching retirement (20 years). That retirement would set us up with a steady paycheck and health care, which Josh had already spent more than a decade working toward. We could still make and use a chicken tractor though.
Having viewed countless chicken tractors (click here to see a gallery of chicken tractors), we concluded that none of them were quite right for our purposes. They were either too heavy and bulky or ridiculously flimsy. Some of them failed to offer the birds covered perches, others failed to provide protection from the elements, and most were not easy on the budget or the eye.
Josh started sketching and then haunted the plumbing aisles at Lowe's. Finally, he started piling PVC pipes, fittings, and tarps in a cart. We were officially in business.
For the construction:
1. Cut 34 20-inch pieces: 22 pieces for the base and 12 for the top & door. That's 56.5 feet of 3/4-inch PVC pipe total.
2. Assemble base and apply cement. Note: Corners are also cut at 20-inch because of the adapters for the 3-way corner T’s.
3. Cut 14 22-inch pieces for the the base supports (vertical pieces).
4. Assemble the eight 20-inch pieces for the top.
5. Cut two 1 3/4-inch pieces and two 17 1/2-inch pieces for the first cross support.
6. Assemble the last six 20-inch pieces: two for the upper support, two for the cross support, and two for the door. NOTE: Do not put cement on both ends of the T’s for the door. It needs to be able to move freely.
7. Cut two 21-inch pieces to complete the door. NOTE: You should be getting down to the last couple of pieces of 3/4-inch PVC pipe. Plan your cuts carefully so you still have two pieces that are 62 1/2-inches long for your upper cross supports/perches.
8. Cut more 1 3/4-inch pieces so you can add the T’s for your upper cross support/perches and the over head cover. You are going to use the 3/4”-1/2”-3/4” T’s for the roof.
9. Cut two 16-inch pieces for the mid-section of the roof and two 14 1/2-inch pieces for the rear of the roof and 2 12 1/2-inch pieces for the front of the roof base. NOTE: Again make sure you plan your cuts ahead of time so you don’t end up with a bunch of pieces that are too short for anything. The more of these we build the more detailed these plans will get.
10. Cut the 1/2-inch PVC pipe to fit the tarp that you choose. In our case we used a 5 1/2-by7 1/2-foot tarp so we cut our 1/2-inch PVC pipe 7 1/2 feet long
11. Use zip-ties to attach chicken wire to the outside of the chicken tractor. We used leftover wire mesh fence on the top because it is sturdy and will prevent the hawks from harming the chickens. Do not use chicken wire or wire mesh on the bottom because the birds need to be able to scratch in the grass and forcing them to stand on wire is cruel.
12. Cut the wire around the door carefully so that the door sits on top of the wire when closed. Smooth any jagged edges so that you don't hurt yourself or your birds when using the door. Use a fence chain for a latch, if needed.
We certainly hope these instructions are helpful. Josh built two chicken tractors and we loved them. Our birds were able to feast on bugs, seeds and grasses, then hop up on the roosts to play/nap in the shade. I could easily lift and move the tractors, yet they were sturdy enough not to be disturbed by rain or breezes. Of course, if you're expecting a massive storm system to rip through your farm, please move your birds into more permanent shelters (coops, barns, sheds, garages, etc.). Feeders and waterers can hang from the supports but you will need to remove them before you move the coop if they are full and heavy.
Questions? Have you built a chicken tractor? If so, please share!