Friday, July 25, 2008

Building the Chicken Tractor / Chicken Coop / Chicken Ark

I searched and searched for plans for a portable coop for a couple of months before we got the chickens, and I never did find anything that was completely satisfactory. We based ours on the plans at Mother Earth News. I thought I'd post a few pictures of the coop in progress and a little explanation, in case there's someone looking for inspiration. Of course, we were kind of making it up as we went along, and I'm no carpenter so the explanations aren't detailed, but if we could do this, then I'd say just about anyone can.

This tractor cost us about $150 to $200 in materials. Of course, we're not equipped, so we had to buy some tools too, so that was extra. But we got all our materials new at Home Depot, so if you had access to other people's scraps or some recycled things, you could do it for much much less. I would have liked to do that, but without consistent access to a truck, it's difficult to find those opportunities, and we have nothing like scrap materials around here, since it wasn't a homestead at all for the previous owners. (Not even a shed! We have a big stack of straw bales stored in the garage right now, in Ben's parking spot, lol) Plus Ben pretty much refuses to let me trash pick. Spoil sport.

(You'll have to excuse the fact that I'm dressed like a clown. My bad fashion choices tend to become work clothes.)
Here is the beginning of the framing. We pretty much used 1X6 to make a rectangle and then cut the correct angles on the 2X4 "rafters" to form the triangle. That part is pretty much right from the Mother Earth News plans.

We later discovered that the bottom board at the back with the wheels should be a 1X4 not a 1X6 to avoid this dragging on the ground when you move the coop. We "discovered" this when that board cracked while we moved the coop. But it was a really good thing, because before that we thought we'd made it too heavy to move, but really it was just the drag resistance from that board. It's still super heavy and a little hard to move, but not impossible for one person by any means.

You can also see the scrap 1X6 that we used in place of the main roof beam to get the angle of the boards right when we attached them to the frame.

After the rafters were attached to the bottom frame, we took out the temporary spacers and put in the roof beam. It's a 1X8 board.

The we cut out the floor deck from ext. plywood. The extension on the side is for a box that stick out. This gives me a place that will be easier to collect eggs from and gives the chickens 4 square feet more of indoor space.

After this stage, things got a bit tense and we forgot to take pictures. I used 1" dowels and garden twine to hang for roosting bars inside for the chickens, but I'm planning to replace that with a 2X4 running the length of the coop so the chickens will sit on their feet in the winter and keep them warm. The roof is just more plywood, as is the box built out the side. I won't bother to detail how I did that part, because it didn't actually work all that well, and I ended up having to close some gaps under the lid with that stick on insulating gap filling stuff.

This is how we lock the door. The stake runs through the three eyebolts, one on the door and two more on either side in the wall. The door is a drawbridge style that's hinged at the bottom and we use a chain to pull it up and hang it on a hook in the roof beam. The picture below shows the door open.

Here is the finished coop. You can see the handles are made from more 1X6 and screwed to the outside of each rafter. The door at the end is a piece of plywood with scraps screwed to the main part of the wall that turn to lock it in place. There's another door on the back end just like it, but that one has a floor air conditioning vent in it to provide air for the chickens when they're inside.

The box has a latch to keep it down, but it's pretty heavy too. To shingle it well and make sure no water gets into the crack at the top where the two pieces are hinged, we used heavy duty clear vinyl and laid it just like the shingles to bridge the gap. (Under the ones above and over the ones below.) This is flexible and won't break after bending a few times like a shingle would.

We hang the feeder with a dog leash tied to the main beam, so that it can easily be clipped on and off so we can bring it into the garage at night and not draw any animals. It also got wet easily in the rain, so bringing it in at night helps that.

One of the main solutions to the wet feed problem was using more clear vinyl to make a rain block at that end of the coop. We just laid it over the top and it comes down the sides about two feet. This is tacked down to the rafters over the chicken wire with roofing nails and works really well to keep the rain out of the feeder.

Because our yard doesn't have very established trees and none at all that aren't right on the edges of our land, I wanted them to have built in shade as well. We took apart old window blinds and used the vinyl slats to weave in the chicken wire in order to provide shade to that part of the yard. If you click on that last picture, it'll get pretty big and give you some details.

Well, that's it! Please feel free to ask any questions at all, and I'll be happy to do my best to answer. Anyone more experienced have any suggestions or tips to make our coop better? I'd love advice on winterizing and how to keep the water from freezing and such, if anyone has any to share!

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Adier Barrin said...

Your post reminds me of my childhood days when I was aged 10 I'm trying hard to build a cage for my 2 ducks lols

Bethany said...

Good luck! I have no idea what kind of cage two ducks need!

Adier Barrin said...

I actually want to keep them in a cage so they can't run away and never get back.

Janelle said...

WOW, that looks amazing. I am really going to need to make a list and start working on all of these projects before Spring arrives. (though the list seems never ending)

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