Thursday, June 28

Chicken Tractor Update

The chicken tractor housing the 6 red sex link chicks has been repaired to make it both safe for them and easier to move for me. I have to say that this project, which started out as a simple tractor to keep the chicks in, has turned into a heavy chicken fortress complete with draw bridge.

This tractor was to keep the chicks in until they were big enough to mingle with the existing flock. I wanted them to get out of the segregated coop and into the fresh air and grass.

It then grew to incorporate a nesting box area and ramp for night time safety. This added greatly to the overall weight of the tractor and the wheel system that I have planned was just not working.

Sadly, we lost one chick in the moving of the tractor, and I refused to lose another chick.

The problem was that the wheels were not turning. The bolts were too short and they were not turning smoothly. And the weight of the tractor made things even more troublesome.

The little man and I got ourselves up to Tractor Supply determined to solve this problem. After much comparison and deliberation we ended up selecting four 3/8" x 8" bolts and eight 1 1/4" washers. I chose those bolts since they were not threaded all the way along the bolt - there was a non-threaded section that would fit right into the wood and allow it to turn more smoothly. The washers I hoped would allow all the connection points to fit better and turn smoother.

I used a crowbar and a small section of 2 x 4 to "jack up" the tractor and I placed 4 more sections of 2 x 4's under each corner. I took all 4 wheels off and put the new bolts and washers on - one washer then the wheel then another washer. I then put the bolt through the wood and it fit nicely with the non-threaded section right where I wanted it.

 I put another washer on the inside and secured the bolt - not too tightly but definitely tight enough for safety and to allow the wheel to function properly.
After all four wheels were re-installed, I used the crow bar and 2 x 4 to hold up the tractor and I removed the 2 x 4's holding it aloft. The tractor still sits low but I am sure that no predators will be getting under the frame. The tractor is still too heavy for me to move by myself but Roy can pull it well enough and the wheels are all spinning nicely.
That did lead me to another problem - I needed to be able to move this tractor myself. Roy suggested that I use the lawnmower to pull it which would work great but there was no way I was going to hook it up to the mower and pull  it while trying to make sure no chicks got stuck.

So the drawbridge was born. The existing ramp, which I had already installed hinges and a latch on, worked but the latch kept slipping when I tried to move the tractor. The girls, all safe in the nesting box, were not happy with this arrangement so in the interest of speed, I used a bungee cord to secure the ramp and the girls were moved to a new patch of fresh grass with little disruption.
What started out as a simple project turned into a big project. Lessons learned: draw up a plan and don't just start building, consider the weight of the supplies, and know your limiations.


  1. {sigh} husband has still NOT built our chicken tractor. Each year I promise the girls "next year". Looks like another broken promise. :) thanks for sharing the information on yours - I will definitely pay attention to these things if we ever get one.

  2. Thanks for the post. It would be great if you included all dimensions and what lumber used. Thanks again.

  3. The dimensions of the tractor are 8' long, 4' wide and 4' high. We used mostly scrap cedar left over from our raised bed project and 2x4's we already had in the barn. If I were to build another tractor, I would definitely find a lighter wood - even if I did have to purchase it and not use what we had laying around. The weight of the tractor is much to heavy for the wheel system. We will be replacing the wheels this summer with something more substantial.