We built our recent chicken tractors after those of Joel Salatin. The term Chicken Tractor, as near as I can tell, is something Andy Lee gave us. In Pastured Poultry Profits Mr. Salatin describes a 10x12x2 structure that is lightweight and fairly easy to move. We built ours as 12x8x2 but otherwise the original tractor is quite similar. We built it out of scrap material we had laying around. What could be better? …or heavier?
That thing is a tank. It has all kinds of bracing and is made with heavy steel siding rather than the prescribed aluminum. But, it works. When we were designing the second tractor we went with fewer braces and lighter steel. The result was better but not great.
It may not look a lot different but it is a lot lighter. I was bitten by the bug. I built a third chicken tractor to see how light I could make it. Further, I built the third to address a serious issue, heat. I left the sides off entirely so the wind could blow through and keep things cool inside.
It worked remarkably well. It is light but won’t blow away in 50 mph March winds. It stays much cooler than the other two tractors. But there is a problem. This spring I have lost zero chickens in the other tractors but I have lost four in this one. Four. For those of you playing the home game, that’s a big number. There appears to be something about that open side that stresses the birds. I now have a tarp covering the South side of the tractor as it is light, portable, inexpensive and temporary.
That takes us to the fourth tractor design, a radical departure from what we have seen so far.
This tractor is the cheapest to build, the fastest to build and the most versatile. I took one side off for the winter and raised 6 hogs in it. I could imagine putting weaner pigs in one and moving it daily like they were chickens until they were big enough to escape, though I suppose one could wrap the interior with electric fencing to keep the pigs from rooting out. I could also imagine using it for a calf shed or a hoop house. The point is, it’s multi-purpose infrastructure. We see these as the future of our fleet.
All four tractors use Plasson bell drinkers that are gravity-fed from a bucket. We use 4″ PVC pipe cut in half lengthwise as a feeder.
Take a moment to imagine your perfect chicken tractor before you build it. After you build it, take notes on what you would like to do differently. Don’t be afraid to break from the norm. By your third or fourth tractor you may have something that fits your organization’s goals. Mac Stone of Elmwood Stock Farm says before long you’ll end up with a whole fence row of what you thought was the perfect chicken tractor design.