Tag Archives: chicken tractor

The wheels on the coop go round and round

Silkieland, the new coop, has optional wheels now.  I’d been moving it along laterally to give them fresh turf every couple days.  I could scoot it sideways by running back and forth, back and forth, end to end, shifting it a few inches at a time.  Moving it longways was out of question – it is not drag-able. I just ran out of room to move it sideways, moving it from one tree barrier to another.

Just in time, a treasured  friend swooped in, and listening to me talk about how I had to get wheels on this imminently, took action, taking away my scrap piece of galvanized conduit and old wheelbarrow wheels, boring holes for stop bolts and “cotter pins”, making it all work and coming back with a completed axle.  Awesome:)All I had to do was cut a notch in the bottom board, on the light end.  I lift that end enough to roll the axle in to the notch. Then that end is up 5″ ish off the ground.

Then I lift the (heavy with birds) coop end, and roll the whole thing.  Then I knock out the axle, unless I want all the birds oozing out underneath the gap  (which is ok sometimes) It works awesome!

The heavy end got a whole lot heavier though, like the fulcrum shifted majorly.  It was hard before, but with wheels nearly impossible.  I roped a loop and put that over my shoulders to get the difficulty level back down to hard.  It’s only for a few seconds, because it rolls admirably, even with the flat blown out tires.   This made me consider putting the axle notch on the heavy end, but then it still has to be lifted to get the axle under it.  Hmmm – more thought.  There’s options.

I want that axle to be fully and effortlessly detachable so that I can also use it on the next coop I build, which will be exactly like this one.

Just in time for the heat wave, I got the coop rolled under their fave pine tree for shade.

This coop/tractor is definitely my best design yet.  HW laughed and laughed when he looked inside.  He said it’s “like an apartment building!  You go down the hall and there’s rooms off to the side”.  But I know the birds like it because they lay eggs in all three “rooms”.  There isn’t a preferred suite, like the other coops all have- three nest boxes and they all want to use the same one.

First day in the new coop!

Moment of truth!  The grand opening.I dropped the ramp and the birds on the threshold stared, taken aback.  Oh, there’s the Colonel pushing his way through.  Coming through, coming through.  I’ll show you how it’s done.

And he did.   

Then the birds started pouring right out. 

Something to crow about

The rapidity may have had something to do with the angle of descent.  I wasn’t sure about the steepness of the ramp, if they could handle it,  but it turns out, they handle it.  They accelerate! – they’re running by the bottom third, but they can hop and fly the runout, so they all did just fine.What’s happening inside?  Ah, there are a few that can’t figure out the corners.  Where’d everyone go?  Predictable.

So, everyone out with no drama, and…..!  Ahhhhh, a big sigh of relief, as the sound of silence and peace settles over birdland.  No one outcompeted or offended by the big birds.  No rooster sneak attacks.  It’s even better than I expected!  If I could have done this any sooner, I would have.  Everyone has all they can eat and plenty of time to do it, and they have three egg laying stalls all their own.

I felt like I was taking their freedom away, reluctant to put them back in a cage, even though I’ve long observed that A:  Silkies only use a very small area, quite unlike the big hens  B: They’re much safer confined, and C: Confinement for no more hunger or harassment is a good trade for them.  They like to just hang out in a peaceful little pile.Later I added a sun shade.

But will they find their way back in at night? It’s not looking good.They all did!  All of them, even the rooster I missed in the the night move and had to pop over the fence in the morning.  Wow, what good chickens.  The Colonel is such an amazing rooster.  He waits until all the hens are in before he retires.  Helping them if they need some demonstration.  The other roosters are on their own though, even if they are youngsters.An egg!  They love it.  They love it:)

New coop for the Silkies

The chickens really come out of the woodwork whenever there’s woodworking.  They always have.  All up in the middle of the jobsite, every time.  They don’t turn out with such interest for, say, shoveling gravel.

I finally finished the coop I imagined.  I started it a few weeks ago, it seems, and I don’t know why I always think Enh, this’ll take a couple of hours.  It takes ages!  It takes, like, 6 hours.  And there’s still more to tune up.  You think it’s a box, but no, there’s a hinged lid to work out, the ramp, floor mesh; there’s indoor partitions and perches and latches and hardware cloth all over.  It takes time.  So it did not get done, not even close, on the day I thought I was going to “just build a coop after supper”.  But it’s done now.

Here come the Silkies now to have a look

And I had lots of company doing it.  They have no grasp, I’m sure, of the risk of falling boards/screws/tools.  They just sit.  Don’t mind the noise either.  Dozing through hammering.  I have to step over them to work. They just have to have the front row seats when the wood and tools come out.Yeah.  I could live here. Traction control needs improvement though.

I designed this one differently, with a few features thought up from observation: roof sheds water away from, not into their run (duh); ramp folds into the wall, not the bottom of the coop; there’s a wall to turn the corner around when they come inside so it’s darker in sleep area; coop lower to the ground, smaller, and nest boxes still at opening side; Typar, less drafty;  perches precisely the same height so there’s no competition over who’s the more elevated rooster; egg laying stalls with tall walls to keep out the light, and the birds can go around the corner and not be seen from the doorway.  More privacy, in other words. I think they’ll like it.  I thought a lot about it.Easier to see floor plan with the hay in.

I’m intending wheels on the light end, to be able to tractor it around.   Handles on the coop end, likely, although now it’s the right height for grabbing the edge.

Well, late at night I pulled all the approved Silkies out of the crowded big coop (they decided they lived there, not me), and popped them into their new digs.  Exciting!

It’s still crowded; the whole Silkie flock in a smaller coop.  I originally planned to make two coops the same, and separate the flock into the sets of hens and roosters I want to have mating.  But then the reality of how long it takes to build one set in, and I revised my expectations.  Because other things are pressing more than manipulating chicken sexual access.  For now, the “good Silkies” – all the hens, and the few roos that get along and respect the Colonel – are going in, and the roosters that disturb the shit and harass are out.  Not wanted on the voyage.  Just to give everyone more peace.

The rowdy roosters happen to be improving.  They have discovered dirt bathing, close on the heels of food clucking.  They may redeem themselves yet.  But for the foreseeable future, no girls for them!


To give a chicken joy

Ye Olde Silkie pen, aka Silkieland, is a flimsy contraption along the lines of the chickery, where the hardware cloth folds out on the ground and is anchored by rocks.  Like HW says, it’s more like a mobile home than a trailer – technically, it’s portable.

It’s a royal pain to move the thing, because it’s long and floppy.  All the rocks need to be moved off, then all the grass that’s grown through the mesh needs to be tugged loose, then the whole rickety thing needs to be dragged sideways, the coop (full of grumbling chickens) needs to be moved, and the pen reattached to it, then the rocks replaced.  And everything that just broke in the struggle needs to be patched up.20160720_142435

However, it’s all worth it to watch how excited the birds get when first released.  Excitedly burbling, all of them scatter and burrow into the grass.  They are so clearly experiencing great joy that I promptly forget how much it all sucked.

You can’t even SEE chicks
Can barely see the brown hens