The sometimes sad, sometimes comical, sometimes stressful and always evolving saga of the chicken tractor has been the main focus here. From the moment I had the idea "hey, I should build a chicken tractor so the new chicks can finish growing up outside!" till tonight, when in the very, very last shreds of sunset light I entertained a standoff with two adolescent raccoons, this project has been most aggravating.
From the most basic of good intentions and small construction project to a stressful and continuous work in progress also currently involving acrobatics and some nasty language on my part, this entire escapade has taught me one lesson: hire a professional.
A short review:
- Decide to build simple chicken tractor so new chicks can be outside to finish growing up.
- Gather parts and materials from around the farm and from Tractor Supply with no blueprint
- Wing it with power tools and 2 x 4's until I have something that looks surprisingly like a chicken tractor
- Remember that the chicks will need somewhere to go into at night so add a nest box area inside tractor
- Need a ramp for chicks to get into nest box
- Tractor is heavy
- Wheels don't work right
- More alterations
- Wheels work ok
OK, now we are up to speed.
I had moved the tractor to a fresh patch of grass the other day and filled the food and water before bed when I cared for the rest of the main flock. The next morning I noticed that the food dispenser was tipped over and food was scattered all over the grass. The girls were all still there and unharmed so I thought they just got a little crazy overnight during a possible midnight snack attempt.
The next morning lead to the same result and I noticed that something had been digging all around the base of the tractor - like whatever it was was testing different spots looking for a place they could get in. The largest hole was no bigger than a golf ball so I did not think anything was able to get in. And the girls were all fine. I then noticed that the mesh netting was a little loose and I discovered that it was indeed very loose in some places and there was a hole about the size of a softball in the mesh at one end, near the bottom.
At this point I was getting very discouraged, annoyed and generally angry. What else was going to happen with the ill-fated chicken tractor project? All my best intentions at the beginning were resulting in nothing but aggravation and disappointment.
This now begins the all or nothing crazy behavior that takes over a small farmer in moments of desperation - either real or slightly exaggerated.
I crawled into the tractor and removed the food and water dispensers. I crawled around on things I would rather not mention, grabbing each chicken and putting them up into the next box so I could safely move the tractor. I hooked it up to the lawn mower and moved the tractor into the portable open top chicken pen area and blocked the main flock into their covered outdoor pen.
All this time, the baby was in her yard stroller having a fabulous time watching me and the chickens. She loves the chickens, the lawn mower and watching Mom crawl around in chicken poop uttering naughty words. And, by this time, it was getting late and my vocabulary was getting quite diverse. )Lets just hope her first word is something nice like "kitty" or "Mama"). I knew I was going to have to replace the netting with metal chicken wire. I also knew that I was going to have to start locking the chicks in the nest box every night. I had no idea what was getting in and getting the chickens so riled up that they spilled the food dispenser, but I wasn't taking any more chances.
In order to resolve the un-secure loose netting problem for the night, I placed three heavy sides of the old portable pen that came with the farm along three sides of the tractor. These are durable, heavy, metal and wood frames. I secured them to the tractor with an assortment of bungee cords, spare rope pieces, industrial clips and a cement patio block.
It looked absolutely ridiculous and I worried all night that something would still get through my defenses.
The next morning i commenced the acrobatic movements necessary to get over the fencing and ropes to let the chicks out of the nest box. Something had STILL managed to get into the food and it was scattered all over the grass.
This continued for a couple nights but the chicks were safe and that was what I cared about. I needed to wait a few days to have the supplies and the time to re-do the netting.
And then the raccoons made themselves known..........