If you’ve ever kept chickens, I’m sure you know the most difficult task is not keeping them in but keeping predators out. We created this extremely functional chicken tractor using materials we already had on hand.
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I used to have a blog several years ago, and I abandoned it fairly quickly, so there were just a few posts on it. I’m going to be moving those posts over here as time allows. They were mostly posts showcasing projects we had built from the pallets my dad was able to bring home from work at that time. It was actually called Pallet Palace. My dad’s now retired, so we don’t have access to free pallets anymore. We were able to build some really nice projects while they lasted.
Chicken Tractor Made from Upcycled Pallets – Originally posted December 5, 2012
I usually start my new chicks in the brooding house we built from an old bunk bed. Maybe I’ll post pictures of that someday even though it’s not made from pallets. Then the chickens are free-ranged after the first 4-6 weeks. I tried free-ranging my meat birds two summers ago, but that didn’t turn out so well. The Cornish meat varieties are bred to put on weight quickly. They say they go from birth to freezer in 8 weeks. Mine have always taken more like 10-12 weeks though because I let them range instead of packing them full of corn. This makes for a healthier bird on my table. Even my free-ranged meat birds grow too fast for their legs though. This makes them extremely susceptible to predators. Laying hens run pretty fast. Meat birds do not.
I needed a way to protect my meat chickens while still getting the benefits of a free-range diet. I’ve seen plans for several different chicken tractors online, but all of those involved buying additional materials that I didn’t have readily on hand. I decided to rig something out of the lumber and chicken wire sitting around my house and yard, and of course, I used some of the pallets.
Some Updated Thoughts and Further Instructions from the Future (2017)
I didn’t give a lot of detail about how we built this in the original post. I thought the pictures were self-explanatory. We used four 2×4’s, four pallets, and some extra chicken wire we had left over from building the coop. We didn’t make any cuts in the lumber. We just used the lengths we already had. When building projects like this, ALWAYS USE WOODSCREWS AND A DRILL! If you use a hammer and nails, it will be a continual source of frustration to you. The nails bend, or they go in diagonal. It’s difficult to hold the sides while you swing the hammer. You might hit your thumb repeatedly.
When we were putting the shingles on the back part of our chicken coop with those tiny, little roofing nails, I actually hammered my thumb two times right in a row, and the second time was with such force that I immediately started puking over the side of the roof. It’s really rare for me to puke. (And yes, I do know puking is often an indication of a broken bone from the time they told me that in the ER when DIYDoll had her skull fractured by a child-sized golf club at the age of four, but I needed to finish the roof, so I went on and hammered my thumb about thirty more times after that, but not quite as bad because I was scared to lift the hammer very high by then.) Anyway, you should avoid nails if you can. I know woodscrews are a bit more expensive but probably not that much more when you consider the 50 nails you bend and have to toss. Also, don’t try to use a rechargeable drill unless you have a really good one. If you have to buy a drill and are only buying a cheap one, get the corded one. Just use an extension cord to reach whatever you are doing. Cheap cordless drills hold their charge for maybe ten minutes.
We don’t have chickens anymore. We had to get rid of the chickens because the goats completely destroyed the chicken coop. They constantly rammed the sides of the coop until they knocked every piece of plywood right off the frame. They also chewed through several spots in the metal fence. Then they got into the yard and demolished the peach, plum, pear, and apple trees that I had managed to nurse through the worst drought we had seen in my adult life. The goats were extremely unruly and generally ill behaved. We were forced to sell them mostly because they would not stay off the road, and since RiflemanDad is in insurance sales, he wasn’t happy about the liability risk. Without a chicken coop, we had no suitable shelter for the chickens, so they met their fate in our freezer.
I loved having fresh, free-range eggs, and the chickens were so much fun for the kids. Right now we just have pigs which aren’t nearly as exciting as chickens. The pigs squeal endlessly and act like they will eat you alive if you go near them. The chickens were way more fun to watch, although I do not miss having to rush out in the middle of the night to their squawks. It was always my job to hold the big spotlight while the Rifleman took aim at whatever varmint was trying to wipe out the entire flock. One Christmas Eve, not wanting to wake the kids with the sound of the shotgun, he had to put an arrow right between the eyes of a raccoon as it stood on the perch biting into the neck of a Rhode Island Red. Another time I bent over a chicken that was lying on the ground just outside of the coop to see if it was still breathing. At that exact moment, an owl swooped down from the sky, picking up the entire still-living chicken, crossing within inches of my face, as it flew away with the poor hen clucking like crazy. That was one of the scariest moments of my life. I think that was even more terrifying than all the times, RiflemanDad sent me into the coop with a shovel to run out opossums (which are seriously vicious) or minks or foxes, so he could shoot them without hitting any chickens.
Yep, even the chickens wouldn’t observe proper bedtimes at The House That Never Slumbers. Did you know roosters start crowing at about 3am because they can see the infrared light coming up over the horizon that we can’t even detect? This is why you shouldn’t put a chicken coop directly behind your bedroom window unless you just don’t sleep anyway.
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