I suppose the first step in any project is to compile a list of materials and a rough budget. The Chicken Tractor was “roughly” a $200 project, and with this number in mind, I started with a rough sketch with approximate dimensions and then went shopping.
The design was an A-Frame structure made up of 3 triangles with approximately 2m x 2m x 2m sides. The height would thus be about 1.5m (Mathematics 101) The 3 trusses would be placed about 1m apart giving me a nice square 2m x 2m structure. I used 38mm x 76mm wood for the frame as this would give me enough strength without being too heavy. This would be sufficient space for the 4 ladies. I would then also build a “loft” apartment for egg-laying with a handy little ladder for easy access. They would also need perches for sleeping at night and it would all be covered in a nice waterproof zinc roof.
I purchased the bulk of the materials in Knysna, cut them to size and transported them to Paarl for assembly. This included the wooden frame as well as the roof sheets. The zinc roof sheets were cut to size with an angle grinder and I used a good old-fashioned hand saw for the timber.
With the timber cut to size the frame was assembled in double quick time. I used “gang-nails” to join the timber which is very similar to how roof trusses are constructed.
As you can see, I used bamboo poles to hold the frames in position as I had no-one to help me in this process.
I have been begging the Child Bride for years to let me keep chickens and the objection has always been that they are noisy and dirty and neighbours would complain. Since starting this project I have learned first-hand some fascinating facts about chickens and I’ll share some with you today before signing off;
- Laying hens are almost totally silent save for a very subdued cackle when an egg is laid.
- Without a rooster, hens still continually lay (unfertilised) eggs.
- A laying hen in good health and age will lay an egg every 26 hours. You can thus get an egg a hen most days.
- Chickens are FAR more intelligent than you imagine and will happily follow commands and learn from normal fear/greed impulses.
- A chicken can destroy a garden bed in approximately 15 minutes scratching for insects.
- They love ranging and get pretty bored sitting around all day doing nothing.
- Chickens are omnivorous (the same as humans and pigs) and will happily eat meat.
- They need constant access to fresh, cool water, the more so in hot weather.
Anyway, I’d better be off.