We love eggs, so it was only logical to get some chickens on our “farm.” We had been wanting to get chickens for a while and had planned to get them this spring, but a little set back called GBS delayed our chicken endeavors.
Finally recovered enough, we decided to go ahead a get 5 chickens. We had a coop, a lot of grass, woods and bugs for them to eat. We got a feeder and a waterer and went and picked up 5 pullets (aka teenage chickens) from a reputable place in Ashland, VA. We were excited to have some truly free range, bug eating, happy chickens.
Getting them into the coop for the first time was a disaster. Long story short, we were bounding through the poison ivy infested woods, in the rain, chasing chickens for hours before we lost one completely. Thankfully she came back that evening looking for her friends. We tried to establish some perimeters the first couple days, but soon the chickens were wandering farther and farther while we were at work for the day.
A few days went by and then we got our first egg. That was very exciting! Soon we got 2 eggs a day. All was good, except that the chickens were wandering to the neighbors yard and we felt a little bad about that, even though they were very care-free about that whole situation. We inadvertently named one “Boldie” because she was bold. She was the first out of the coop, the first to come up to you and the easiest to pet and handle, and she was the leader of the flock. She was also the first to disappear. Two days later “the feisty one” went missing.
Our days of fun loving free ranging chickens seemed to be coming to an end. We had to do something. Since they were used to 2+ acres of wandering space, we thought we’d be nice and build them a large mobile chicken tractor. When drawing plans, 16ft long by 5ft wide seemed like a good compromise. Little did we know just how heavy something that big would be.
Plans evolved as we made it. I did decide to use 2×3 boards instead of 2×4’s for a lot of the pieces knowing I was saving weight, but I did use some 2×4’s because they were free from a friend, and it is a beast of a tractor. We put a corrugated steel roof on a quarter of the top to give them some shade and a couple nesting boxes. We decided against three solid walls just to save weight towards the end. We made a nice sliding door to allow us to butt the tractor up against the coop so the chickens can transfer easily in and out of the tractor, and so it was big enough for us to get inside.
A co-worker of mine graciously agreed to chicken-sit while we were building the tractor. We were afraid they would continue to get picked off if we didn’t put them somewhere safe. This was a fun but time consuming project. It took all of 2 full days, plus driving and shopping for hardware. If I were to do it all again, I’d do the same thing but make it only 12 feet by 4 feet, and maybe get bigger wheels, which is something we can still switch out. Pulling it over a gravel driveway is nearly impossible and even pulling through long grass is tough. I wanted to get the wheels just big enough to work without leaving a big gap at the bottom so chickens wouldn’t try to escape while we moved the tractor around. I also need to put a long piece of wood between the current “handles” so that one person (maybe) can move it around.