Chicken Tractor, Sawyer style

For those of you not into the grow your own meat movement, a chicken tractor is a moveable chicken pen.  It is intended to be moved daily to allow the chickens access to grass and bugs while providing shelter at night and protection from predators.  We needed a chicken tractor to house chickens as they grow to be replacement hens, roosters for meat, and our upcoming order of broilers.  For now, we have only built 1 tractor to decide what we do and don’t like about it.  There are many common designs, and probably the most notable is Joel Salatin’s design.

Our chicken tractor is made entirely out of red oak.  Now you might be wondering why I would make a chicken pen out of red oak, and it’s a very simple answer: mahogany would have been ridiculous and maple shows the dirt too much.  Seriously, I just had a lot of extra red oak on hand and it made more sense to use excess wood I have than to spend money on new pine.  I also had 6′ 2″x4″ field fencing, so that is what I used for the sides.  I built the tractor 8′ wide and 12′ long.  I specifically chose 8′ (instead of the common 10′) because if we move or I decide to sell this version, it is still small enough to be transported on a flatbed trailer.

What makes this Sawyer Style, it the recycling.  The total cash expended on this project was $25 for the 2 wheels and 2 door hinges.  Everything else was stuff we already had here on the farm with no predetermined purpose.  Sure, at some point I bought the red oak, but it was almost firewood, so I might as well use it in a project.

We did put a roof made of OSB to give the birds shelter.  The sides under the roof will be finished in using feed bags to provide wind shelter.  We will still add a waterer and feeder that can be accessed from outside the fencing.  We also put roosts into the back of the tractor in the sheltered area in order to give the birds somewhere to get off the ground.  Hopefully, that will keep them healthier and minimize the chance of a predator pulling them out from under the edge.

A few immediate observations of what we don’t really like.

1. The only access is from the 4′ wide door in the front.  You have to get down on the ground to get inside.  I think that will get old in bad weather.

2. The extra support frame at the divider between the shelter and open areas is a death trap for the chickens.  When pulling the tractor on the ground, the birds tend to stay towards the middle.  Unfortunately, that cross-bar is in a perfect spot to trap chicken legs and cause injuries.  I may have to cut it out.

3. Red oak makes a heavy tractor.  I did include wheels on the back, but it’s heavy.  On the positive side, it is definitely sturdy.

Here are some pictures.  The tractor was put to use this afternoon with 38 birds we are raising that are 8-9.5 weeks old.  If you are thinking about building your own, come on over and take a look.

6 thoughts on “Chicken Tractor, Sawyer style”

  1. Nice tractor. One thought, how about moving the middle support up half way the post? That way you can still get some support against racking, and have room for the chickens to pass under it.

    1. Initially I built all the support frames and then added the top and bottom rails. I think it might actually be sturdy enough to get by without the support at all. I might make a modification this weekend.

  2. I like the little 4’x6’x2′(high) I have. The top hinges open, so getting in to the water and feeder is really easy (or getting in to do anything else), and it is small enough to be able to drag around without the need for wheels. I’m thinking to maybe for the next one to do a 4×8 or a 4×10 version, just to give a little more space.

    1. How many birds are you keeping in there? It’s a volume issue for us. I have 38 in the tractor already. They will come out around the first week of May and 50 broilers take their place. I may have to build another at least as large for more broilers. Plus one for turkeys.

  3. Hey Rob! This is perfect for what we are looking for.. Can you give me some exact dimensions/blue prints 🙂 for this one. Thank you!! ~ Kristy

    1. Kristy,
      I didn’t make any drawings or blueprints of the design. I just kind of took a pile of wood and starte building. Using this tractor for the year taught us a lot about things to change in the next design.
      1. We made it out of oak because I had a lot of oak with no purpose. Oak is heavy. Oak doesn’t hold up well outside. Don’t use oak.
      2. I made it 8′ wide and 12′ long. I liked the overall size for about 25 chickens, but needed to move it 2 times a day as they got big.
      3. The tractor was only about 2.5′ high. That was a mistake. Every time we needed to catch a chicken, we were on hands and knees in chicken poop. The next one will be more of a hoop style that we can stand up in.
      4. Old feed bags stapled to the side around the roosts worked well for wind/rain shelter. We put a piece of plywood on top. Feed bags are cheap to replace when they get damaged.
      5. We had a cross beam support to hold the bottom together. On a few occasions, that caught chickens and on 1 occasion broke a leg when the tractor was being moved.

      Hope that helps.


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