Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Our Hoop Coop Chicken Tractor

We moved some of our chickens out of the barn 2 weeks ago when we started building our chicken tractor.  They moved into the same small pen we used for them last year, which was originally supposed to serve as a temporary pen for our young guineas.   Steve and 9 yo J rounded up the 8 youngest hens (my non-Ameraucana hens), but they left behind the white one that was supposed to be a Buff Orpington.  They debated over whether she belonged with the other 8 or not, but were fooled because she has green feet like the Ameraucanas, and a bearded face.  Yes, one of my 3 Buff Orps is apparently half Ameraucana, and the other one turned out to be a rooster.  I really wanted the Buff Orp hens, too.

We've become a lot smarter since last year's Great Chicken Roundup, so they waited until night, when the chickens were already roosting and calm for the night.  They were able to snatch hens right off the roost, though they did upset the rooster and the guinea hen.  They placed them into a rabbit cage, 4 at a time, and transported them to the fenced yard.

Steve's late work hours, and a family reunion kept us from finishing our chicken tractor last week, but we were able to work on it this weekend.  The first weekend, Steve and I chose a design, bought the supplies, and started the frame.  (links to information to come at end of post.)  We didn't get very far before mosquitoes drove us inside that Saturday night.  The next day was rainy, and on Monday morning (Steve was off for Memorial Day) I woke up with a terrible stomach virus.  So Steve enlisted the help of our 13 year old daughter, and they worked on finishing the wood frame and bending two cattle panels (gathered from our own property) into the hoop-house roof, and securing them.

When we started working on the chicken tractor Friday, we started with this basic frame.  Actually, this picture was taken after Steve and I added the diagonal roosts from the back wall to the side walls, and after we added some more structural support to the front wall/door area.



Next, we used 3 foot wide chicken wire and rolled it over the top of the cattle panels, in 3 overlapping sections.  This was secured with staples from a staple gun along the bottom.  We had to add chicken wire to the front and back walls, as well.  You can see a picture of the chicken wire tacked in place with staples, before we used wire to secure all the seams and added more staples to really secure things.



We had a few curious onlookers, and pseudo-helpers through this project.  At this point, Steve decided to catch up on his mowing.  He push-mows our property, and it's a LOT to keep up with, especially since he gets home too late to mow, most evenings.  Add in the rainy Spring we've had, and it's hampered his progress even more.   Steve had a few "helpers" with his mowing, too.


My job was to use tiny pieces of thin wire to tie down the edges and seams of the chicken wire, so there wouldn't be any gaps for chickens to get out, or predators to get in.  I also added a lot more staples to any areas that seemed loose.  Lots of standing, squatting, and bending.  4 yo L and 1 yo G got tired of mowing and came to help again.  They kept sitting on the chicken roosts and going in and out the door.

That night, we went to move the rest of the chickens out of the barn.  But we were even smarter this time, and we grabbed the rooster first ... right off his roost.  We knew the guinea hen needed to be next, since they were the last two we managed to catch when we moved them to the barn last Fall.  Unfortunately, the guinea hen was roosting above my head, and flew down when we tried to get her.  We had to chase her, but she wasn't fully awake, so it didn't take long to corner her.


The remaining 12 Ameraucanas and the white Buff Orp/Ameraucana mix hens were also snatched right off the roost.  It was so much easier than last Fall.  We put the guinea hen and the BO/Ameraucana mix hen in the pen with the 8 hens we moved 2 weeks ago  (4 Production Reds, 3 Barred Rocks, and 1 Buff Orpington hen).   The rooster went in the chicken tractor with the 12 Ameraucanas.  We originally had 14 Ameraucanas but lost two over the past year.

Here are the happy Ameraucanas and the rooster in the completed chicken tractor.  We just added a tarp last night, but need to work on securing it to the tractor better.   The finished size is basically a 9 foot square with a 6 foot dome over it.   First the back side ...


The front of the chicken tractor ...


A side view, showing the chickens inside ...


We still need to attach a rope to the front corners of the chicken tractor so it will be easier to move.   To move it, you lift the front wall a bit, and slide it forward.


We initially found our plans here ...
http://www.plamondon.com/hoop-coop.html

http://www.plamondon.com/hoophouse.pdf
But this website had helpful photos of the process, step by step ...
http://www.backyardchickens.com/forum/viewtopic.php?pid=2076174

We already had cattle panels out behind our barn, and we had already bought the chicken wire, as well.  The only thing we needed to buy was the wood, and some more screws.


I'm going to have to watch our dog and the neighbor's dog.  If they jump at the front/back walls too much, they could cause damage to the chicken wire.  I'm about ready to get rid of my own dog, due to her obsession with my chickens ... but I can't get rid of the neighbor's dog, unfortunately.


I'm enjoying having the chickens near the house again.  :)


April E.


4 comments:

  1. We've always wanted to have chickens. I've seen several plans similar to what you have online. Looks great! Someday, we'll have ours! Very neat...

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  2. I love this!! Thank you for showing pictures & sharing links. We have a coop for our chickens, but need something like this for the ducks. I'm going to show my dh. thanks! Holly

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  3. You're welcome! I have a friend in NE who uses these, but hers is on wheels. It tends to move itself in strong storms. We're hoping having ours NOT on wheels will prevent that.

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