Monday, May 30, 2011

Building a tractor that goes cluck, cluck

Here I am taking the newly built tractor out for a test drive. I was amazed how easy it was to drive. It was so easy I could have fallen asleep at the wheel and still got the garden ploughed.

This is the wonder of a chicken tractor. They dig the soil, eat the grass and weeds, eat unwanted seeds and bugs, and fertilise as they go. All for just a bit of love and care. In about a week this garden bed will be prepared, ready for planting better than I could ever do, and even better, no effort on my part.

On Sunday my garden group came over and we built a chook dome to use as a chicken tractor. The design is a slight adaptation from Linda Woodrow's to fit our smaller garden. So here is how to build a chook dome chicken tractor:

First we worked out the lengths of the bits of pipe we needed using a bit of high school maths. The circumference of a circle is pie times its diameter thus: pipe length = garden width x 3.14. Our garden bed width is 2.4 meters so our rings are 7.5 and 6 meters.

We used 15mm PVC pressure pipe. If the dome was a lot larger you would need to increase the pipe thickness. Knowing now how the pipe bends you wouldn't want to make the dome much smaller, a 2 meter diameter is about the smallest.

We then joined the rings together using PVC glue, and for extra strength we drilled a hole through the joins and thread a wire.

Next came the arches that were fastened to the inside of the rings by drilling a hole and threading a wire. Here you can see Brenden attempting to thread the wire through twice under my instruction. That was the first and last time we attempted that. Every other join is just a single thread of wire.

The PVC structure alone is a little flimsy so to make it ridged we used cross bracing. Believe it or not, a taut piece of string in a cross formation is a sturdy brace. I used builders string as it is long lasting.

Finally we wrapped it with chicken wire. Rolling the wire under the bottom ring and fastening with bits of wire. Getting the wire to wrap around the top is a bit tricky, you kind of just need to keep folding it on to itself. And that's it, well for now. There are a few more things needed before the dome is complete, and I will continue that in a follow on post.

With the awesome power of team work, 4 adults had this done in 2 hours. Once again the benefits of having a garden group have proven them selves. We then stuck the children in the coop and relaxed with a cup of tea and a chocolate beetroot brownie.

And what did the chickens think? Well I could tell they loved it.

Have you ever driven a chicken tractor?


  1. Great multi purpose tractor, bet the kids had a great time in there!

  2. Kellee They did, but the novelty soon wore off. Particularly as it was time for cake.

  3. Jason I see one problem with your tractor. It appears that it is controlled by horse reins rather than a steering wheel. Do you even own a horse? :-)

    (sorry just had to comment on the way you were holding your invisible steering wheel. quite comical. Once again am loving your garden, the ideas and especially this blog. Not long now (3 mths hopefully) until I myself attempt to grow veggies. )

  4. Looks great, Jason. I once considered one of those (I have Linda Woodrow's book, too), but didn't really have a suitable flat spot.

    It should work well over your new mandala beds.

  5. Jason, fantastic! The dome looks great - will you commute your girls too and from the dome, or will you build a roost for them in there? Ours live in the dome all the time, but it's a bit bigger than yours, I think, although smaller than Linda's one...

  6. I love the dome design. Best chicken tractor I've seen!

  7. amydingley just because you can't see the steering wheel doesn't mean it is invisible. You just have steering wheel blindness. And yes I do own a horse, or can't you see that in the photo either. Very pleased to hear you are starting a garden. 3 months from now puts you at the start of spring, perfect time to start.

    foodnstuff yes the design does call for a close to flat area. You don't happen to live in Tasmania do you? My parents live there and they own one of the only flat spots around. The catch, it floods in winter. And yes, the mandala and chook dome are a match made in heaven.

    celia the girls are commuting for now, the roost and roof is to come. They will still live most of the year in the big pen just to give them a bit more room.

    muddytoes best you have ever seen. Now that is a compliment. Thank you so much.

  8. Hello Jason just stumbled in here from Scarecrows blog. Looking forward to reading your progress

  9. Rhonda hello, and welcome. Glad you stumbled in.

  10. We use a chicken tractor for ours as well. I've never driven it though!

  11. Fantastic work Jason, love the tractor. My "girls" would be very jealous to see this work of art(esp if they could see the computer screen). We have just come back from Bali and I am catching up on all the missed blog reading, looks like you have been busy! My husband is reading:

    Practical Self Sufficincy, An Australian Guide to sustainable living by Dick and James Strawbridge.

    I haven't read Lisa Woodrow's book - looks interesting though, will put it on the list!

    Take care - Yollie

  12. Lisa well you should give it try. I recommend having a cup of tea and a good book with you though.

    Yollie welcome back, I trust you had a great time? I am sure we could organise you girls to visit. Then again maybe not. Image the ruckus that would come from my girls.

    And let me know if the book is any good.

  13. I recognise that chicken wire! I love how the desing Awesome to see it contributing to sustainability. The Mandala is an inspiration and shows the big things can be done with rrsources that can be perceived as not so big. Thanks for your emails that enable us to share your journey.


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