Learn how to build your own mobile chicken coop. I have a nice big backyard, with plenty of grass. However, I am in the middle of a city and I knew I would not be able to keep my chickens safe if I tried to let them free range the backyard. Enter the chicken tractor, also known as, the mobile chicken coop. This way I can move them around every other day and they will get fresh grass. My backyard is full of annual rye, clover and other ground cover I know they enjoy.
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The Big Idea
My plan is to move them, cover the area with finished compost, soil and/or peat moss (or coconut coir), with a few seeds. I bought buckwheat and red clover in bulk to help with rebuilding an area after the coop has been moved. Then as they move around the yard, eventually the plants or grasses will have recovered in their originally area and they can be put back there. Stay tuned for details.
Check out the video I used to build this. I will also be providing a materials list as well as the step-by-step plans that I used in order to put this together, with notes and modifications that I made. Big thank you to The Growing Club for making this great video.
|Materials List for Chicken Tractor from The Growing Club|
|Lumber||2in X 3in X 8ft redwood||10|
|Lumber||2in X 2in X 8ft redwood||7|
|Lumber||2in X 6in X 8ft redwood||1|
|Lumber||plywood 4ft by 8ft||1|
|Lumber||Corrogated Plastic Sheet (8ft)||2|
|Lumber||1in X 5 1/2in X 6ft dog eared fencing||11|
|Lumber||2in X 4in X 8ft||1|
|Hardware||large handle (to lift tractor)||1|
|Hardware||3in decking screws (box)||1|
|Hardware||2.5in decking screws (box)||1|
|Hardware||poultry staples (box)||1|
|Hardware||1/2 hardware cloth 25ft length||1|
|Hardware||1/2 hardware cloth 10ft length||1|
|Hardware||1/2in locking washer||2|
|Hardware||5/8in locking washer||2|
|Hardware||Tuftex deck screw with rubbered washer (box)||1|
|Plumbing||5 gallon bucket, lid optional||1|
|Plumbing||male 3/4in threaded with female connection||1|
|Plumbing||female 3/4 in with threading||1|
|Plumbing||PVC 90 degree elbow 3/4 in||1|
|Plumbing||PVC pipe (comes in 8ft length)||1|
|Plumbing||3/4in flush valve||1|
|Other||10 inch wheels||2|
|Tools||japanese fine toothed bear saw||1|
|Tools||full set drill bits||1|
I have included the tools on this list in case you need to purchase, find or borrow them. This is the list you will need to bring to the store in order to get all of the pieces you need to assemble. I did not include the wrenches and other small hand tools as most people have those around their home. Additionally, I used basic sharp scissor to cut the corrugated plastic on the roof instead of the Japanese fine toothed bear saw.
There are several parts in which I could not do what the video wanted simply because it was not available in my area. Here are some substitutions and changes I made:
- I did not build a waterer. After researching about chickens, I realized the nipple system may not be the best for the south. I have no experience with this yet so I decided not to build it and instead purchased a regular fount waterer. This means all of the materials (the plumbing department), I did not purchase.
- There was not hardwoods like redwood at the dimensions needed at the local Lowe’s so I improvised. A friend of mine works with wood and said getting the regular pine in 2X3 and 2X2 would be fine, I just needed to paint it with exterior all weather paint. I purchased one can of paint for this project.
- While the video says you do not need to paint the indoor frame, I did anyways, help cut down on decay or mold (which is common here in humid Louisiana).
- For mine, I used leftover small wood pieces as the wheel stop instead of the bolts.
- The wheel lift I made was much shorter (closer to 18 inches) than the video because I was having trouble getting clearance with the coop panels.
- I overestimated the wood for the materials list because, if you are like me, I did not have scrap wood laying about like the video called for on several occasions and had to return to the store for more. This is to save you from extra trips.
- In the video, he uses branches from a tree as the roosts. I used bamboo. However, I included extra 2X2 in the materials list that would need to be rounded but can be used for this purpose as well.
- I did not make a second egg door since I am not keeping quail in it. Because of this, I did not include the second egg door in the materials list.
- The longest length of opaque corrugated plastic was 8ft not 12ft, so I needed 2. Which I was grateful for in the end because the way I assembled the roof I needed extra clearance because I noticed rain getting into the enclosure where the nest boxes are located.
- Purchase all materials
- Measure and cut wood, including plywood (*note* I did this first because I had to paint it, however, you can cut as you go except for the frame, as the dimensions may vary based on your wood. I had to add a second piece for the big door to fit.)
Cuttings needed for chicken tractor Area Dimensions Quantity Frame 2X3X94.5 4 Frame 2X3X45 3 Frame 2X3X43 2 Frame 2X3X19 2 Frame 2X3X43.5 @ 5 degrees along 3in side 2 Frame 2X3X37.5 @ 5 degrees along 2in side 2 Roof 2X2X19 @ 5 degrees 2 Roof 2X2X45.25 2 Roof 2X2X48 1 Roof 2X2X49 2 Nesting Box plywood 4ft X 1ft with notches 1 Nesting Box lip 1inch by 48in 1 Nesting Box 8in X 11in plywood for boxes 2 Big Door 2X2X39 2 Big Door 2X2X44.75 2 Big Door fence board (39 or 44.75) 2 Big Door door stop: leftover pywood or fence board approx 2X6 (I used 2) 1 to 3 Enclosure fence board 48in 6 Enclosure fence board 24in 6 Enclosure 2X6X19 1 Perches 2X2X45.25 (rounded edges with sandpaper), don’t paint 2 Wheel Lift System 2X6X10 2 Wheel Lift System 2X4X36 2 Egg Door (1) fence board 48in 2 Egg Door (1) leftover fence board (about 6 inches) to attach the 4ft pieces together 2
- Lay down tarp and paint the wood. I would paint the plywood l if I ever build this again.
- Let dry for at least 24 hours, in dry condition
- Assemble frame, be sure to counter sink the decking screws in some of the areas like he does in the video
- Assemble coop house frame (enclosure). This is where the plywood nest boxes and roof (corrugated plastic) will attach
- Attach 2X6X10 to the frame at the backs where the wheels will go
- Drill 1/2in hole, 8 inches from the back and 2 inches up from the bottom of the piece of wood
- Take wheel lift pieces (2) at 2X4X36, drill holes at 2 inches (5/8 inch hole) from the end and 10 inches (1/2 inch hole) from the end in the center
- Attach the hardware cloth to the lower part of the tractor with the poultry staples
- Cut hole in hardware cloth for wheel lift
- Put 1/2in bolt and washer in one side and then the other
- Then put on the other washer and two nuts
- Put the washer, locking washer and nut on the 1/2in bolt and tighten
- Then put 5/8in washer and and bolt on the far end for the wheel
- Put on a 5/8in washer, 5/8in nut and another 5/8 washer, then wheel
- Then 5/8 washer, locking washer and nut and tighten
- Drill 1/2in hole into the frame for the stop for wheel lift and attach (note: if you attached the hardware cloth around the back like I did, I used wood with the decking screws and a small piece of wood 2X2, instead of a bolt for the stop)
Nest Boxes and Perches
- Attach the plywood to the frame with decking screws
- Attach lip to plywood along edge
- Glue, let dry and then hammer in the next box pieces into the plywood
- Attach roosts to the inside across from the next boxes (if you are doing this with 2X2 you need to round out the edges)
- Use hole saw for the water tank (note: I did not make the waterer and do not know the details on how
to assemble this but the video is pretty straightforward)
- Drill 3/4in hole into the bottom of the bucket
- Attach the 3/4in male threaded and 3/4in female slip with teflon tape across the whole to hold together, seal with silicon caulk
- Glue PVC together
- Drill holes for chicken nipples
- Glue flush valve on the end
Enclosure and Back Door
- Cut dog eared fence board (if have not yet) and nail or screw into the frame
- Attach one of the board to the back of the frame for the egg door (1) to attach to and
- Use 2 pieces of 4ft fence panel and scrap pieces (about 6inches, mine shone here, were too long causing clearance issues) and attach together (do this 3 times if making a lower door, which I did not do)
- Attach all these pieces to the frame
- Attach hinges (2 or 4 depending on number of doors) and latches (1-2) (note: I accidentally attached mine upside down and the latch is at the bottom, which means that the roof cannot be screwed into the final back piece of the frame without some give for the door to open)
- Attach smaller pieces of hardware cloth at the top of the enclosure as vents
- Cut corrogated plastic to the length you need (depends on your set up)
- Line up the corrogated panels to overlap on the roof frame
- Then drill 3/16 in holes into the corrugated panels along the portion of the roof frame
- Drill in the screws with the rubber washers into the corrugated and wood
- Assemble the big door with the fence pieces (I did not do this and regret it) and the remaining 2X2 pieces with the hardware cloth in-between them for reinforcement
- Attach hinges and latches to the door and frame (tip: use any spare pieces to help keep the door open when you need. I used the thin wire that holds the hardware cloth together from the store and made a small hook).
- Attach handle for moving the tractor
The Chickens Move In
The chickens moved from their brooder to the outdoor mobile chicken tractor at 6 weeks old. I added a feeder later to be filled from the outside. I have a smaller feeder in there with them for now, a waterer, dust bath and a cat carrier with bedding. They’re a little small still and although they can fly up to the roosts, I see them sleeping together in the carrier most nights. Later I added a lower roosting bar (again bamboo) to the outside area of the tractor which they enjoy during the day.
Anyone else have success with keeping egg laying hens in a chicken tractor? This method is based on the brain child of Joel Salatin which he uses in a sustainable way on his Polyface Farm in Virginia with other livestock animals. If I make another, I will work with my woodworking friend to make the open area as tall as the enclosure, giving them more vertical space. Please leave a comment about what works or doesn’t work for you!
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