DIY: A Collapsible Chicken Tractor

20 Oct

I’ve been acting a little too normal lately, so I felt it was time to insert a little dose of weirdness back into the neighbourhood. What better way to do that than to park a chicken or two in the front yard?

I’ve been thinking that it’s a good idea to use the chickens to assist in weeding, cultivating and fertilising the soil. It’s not a new concept, but up until now I’ve found that the girls do more damage than good. They’ve eaten my veggies more times than I can remember, and when they even dug up and ate my flower bulbs It made me very cross indeed!

I’ve been thinking of constraining them in some form of moveable chicken tractor. As most of my gardening occurs along the road, I’ve been thinking that a small bottomless coop in the same width of my Bed A is the best idea.

So during the week P spent a good portion of his birthday designing and purchasing the materials for this little masterpiece. Isn’t he sweet?

The idea is that the tractor would:

  1. Be bottomless for the chickens to scratch
  2. Be collapsible so it doesn’t take much room to store
  3. Provide shading for the chooks on hot days
  4. Prevent the chooks scratching the soil sideways out of the garden bed
  5. Be big enough for a couple of chooks to comfortably scratch around
  6. Be able to be anchored down so it wouldn’t blow over (and allow the chooks to escape)

So after a few iterations in the design, today he finished it.

It is square, lined with shadecloth and quite sturdy.

And as per the brief, it collapses down flat.

My parents visited today and helped in the commissioning. It was a perfect fit, and P pegged it down through the eyelets installed for the purpose.

We decided that one of the broody hens was the best candidate to get us started. I’ve been trying to get the broody ones off the laying boxes without much success.

She went in quite happily. There was plenty of baby spinach to gobble up and worms to scratch around to find. The kids thought it was loads of fun!

We left her there for a couple of hours this afternoon. There is still plenty of digging to be done, so I might put two hens out tomorrow.

So P is a very popular husband indeed!

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20 Responses to “DIY: A Collapsible Chicken Tractor”

  1. Sara Aylett October 20, 2012 at 8:10 pm #

    Oh I LOVE it!!!!
    What a good idea!

  2. Louise October 20, 2012 at 8:32 pm #

    Just great, love it, and love the ‘weirdness’ of the chookie grazing in the front yard. I once grazed a sheep in the front yard of a Glebe Point Rd terrace house, she did clear the overgrown grass up very quickly but we got wierd looks. Fabulous. And love the collapsible approach.

    • L from 500m2 in Sydney October 20, 2012 at 8:38 pm #

      That’s extremely funny – and I once lived in a Glebe Point Road terrace too (during my days at USYD). Such a small world!

      • Louise October 21, 2012 at 7:26 am #

        I haven’t forgotten about your kind morning tea invite ( if it’s still open). I’m overseas for some time now and when I am back I would love to email you to make a time.

      • L from 500m2 in Sydney October 21, 2012 at 8:52 am #

        Of course Louise!

  3. Kate October 20, 2012 at 9:06 pm #

    Great idea and design. Can’t go passed chooks for cultivating the vegie patch.

  4. Digging up the dirt October 20, 2012 at 10:07 pm #

    I bet the chicken didn’t want to come out. She went back to the other chickens and told them of her adventures and now they are all jealous. Fantastic job only can the box be made bigger so you can geta whole gang of chickens in there?

    • L from 500m2 in Sydney October 21, 2012 at 8:54 am #

      I specifically asked P to make it small so it is flexible. Sometimes I only want a small space cultivated, and if it won’t fit in the gap between the plantings then it’s no good.

  5. Daphne October 20, 2012 at 10:15 pm #

    I occasionally wish for chickens and think of some kind of movable pen that would fit over my beds. But I’m just not ready for the commitment of animals right now.

    • L from 500m2 in Sydney October 21, 2012 at 10:10 pm #

      I understand that Daphne – I feel the same way about a dog. I would like one, but they are hard work!

  6. Frogdancer October 21, 2012 at 8:06 am #

    I went to a garden tour with the Melbourne Permaculture group and one house had 3 garden beds in their front yard with their chook run being big enough to fit over one garden bed at a time. they just rotated them every few months, so they had 2 beds used for food growing and one being fertilised by the chooks.

    They had the pen locked for security. The chooks seemed perfectly happy and their veggies were huge!

    • L from 500m2 in Sydney October 21, 2012 at 10:12 pm #

      Yes – security would be necessary in that instance I guess. Ours are just going for little holidays at this stage and we’re keeping a fairly close eye on them. They did a very good job today cultivating my little spot. A nother day or so and I’ll be ready to move them down the bed a bit.

  7. Lilian October 21, 2012 at 4:24 pm #

    I may have to resort to this method of chicken tractoring again… I’ve let mine free range and like you have had them decimate my flower bulbs, dig up new plantings etc… I think some form of restricted ‘free ranging’ is necessary for suburbia.

  8. Liz October 21, 2012 at 9:46 pm #

    Now I know what my partner’s first project is going to be after he finishes the pen itself (excellent progress was made today), fab idea – love it.

  9. Robyn October 21, 2012 at 10:45 pm #

    Well done L! You guys are officially nutters! How many people have you had stop and check it out?

  10. sydfoodie October 23, 2012 at 11:08 pm #

    OMG. I want. But then I also want chickens I can freeze dry for when I go away on holidays.

    I do like how P wore shoes for the measuring, but went barefoot for construction & assembly.

  11. Jo October 29, 2012 at 4:59 pm #

    What a clever idea! I love being a bit weird too, like growing pumpkins and watermelons all over the front yard, the kids are not as impressed though 🙂

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