Chicken tractor designs will keep the hens in or out of your garden; it's not clear from this graphic but the bottom is open. You will need a ball of nylon twine.
A major upgrade on this page is on the way. We found that the netting sagged and the hens always managed to make holes. Now instead I use chicken wire; doing things on the cheap often doesn't pay. It has meant a major revamp of our cages.
It's a light and portable device that can be moved about, keeping the hens busy clearing a particular piece of ground; simultaneously they will devour any bugs and fertilize the earth.
Some are for keeping the hens in, and others for keeping them out of your seedlings.
This is how the old ones looked; don't use plastic netting on small cages.
This page was last updated by Bernard Preston on 22nd May, 2021.
Hens are a wonder in the organic garden, obviating the need for artificial fertilizer; they scratch out the weeds and clear the ground but, give them half a chance, and they'll ruin your seedlings too.
Dark-green leafy vegetables like broccoli and kale, and string beans are their favourites; they'll eat you out of house and home if you allow them.
Enter the need for chicken tractor designs; frankly there are hundreds and you must consider your own needs. There's only one important criterion; it must be light and easily movable. And they must be effective; a hungry hen determined to get to your seedlings must not be underestimated.
My first chicken tractor design was meant to be a permanent home for the birds but, to be honest, it's not a good idea; a fixed roost to protect them from the elements is important.
I wouldn't make it out of wood either; that's too heavy, needs to be painted and will eventually rot. Thin steel rods are the answer; they will rust through in about twenty years if you don't treat them but that's not a problem for most of us.
This is a good place to cut your teeth on welding; it doesn't need to be structurally very strong, and only you and the hens will see your mistakes.
Chicken tractor designs can be used to protect your veggies from the hens; make them yourself to fit your beds. In South Africa the steel and bird netting costs about ten to fifteen dollars each.
There are three kinds of welders:
All it takes is practice and perhaps some guidance to graduate from one group to that above. It's not rocket science; and this is the perfect place to begin. You will not fall out the sky if one of your welds comes adrift.
When building your chicken tractor designs there are numerous factors to be considered. Like I've said, the weight of the whole structure is important; there is really no need to make it out of steel that will withstand a force-2 hurricane.
I have used 5 and 7mm round bar; it's really quite flimsy.
The width of your bird netting is one such consideration. The stuff I bought is 4,5m wide, so I've made my chicken tractor designs roughly 2,2m in breadth to give a little overlap; I can get two structures out of one length.
Another is the length of your steel rods; mine come in 6 metre bars. You really don't want a lot of short offcuts so plan to use 1,5m lengths, and 1,0m widths, or some such factor that suits your needs.
There's nothing wrong with making a 0,5m x 0,5m chicken tractor design, but keep in mind it is the same amount of work to make a small one as a larger structure.
It's the same, for example, when putting up solar panels; it's no more work to erect a 310 watt PV as compared to a 95W; in general the larger the better. Of course, if all you want is to power the battery for your gate motor, or cover just a couple lettuces, make it smaller.
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If you have an old oil-filled machine, do yourself a favour and first trade it in for the new generation inverter welders; they are so much lighter and easier to use. You won't injure your spine moving it, and changing the voltage is at the twiddle of a dial.
At the same time, buy an auto-darkening solar welding helmet; they are a huge upgrade.
Then you'll need welding rods, a hammer and steel brush and a magnet holder makes your life a lot easier to hold everything in place when you are trying to strike. A large picture-frame setsquare makes life simpler.
Then if you want to make your own chicken tractor designs from steel you will certainly need a cut-off saw; and ear muffs and protection for your eyes.
You may be thinking that you have to lay out so much money just to get started. True, but I bought this baby some twenty-five years ago and you have no idea how many times it has paid itself off.
My philosophy is that each time I have needed something in my home, I've bought the necessary tools and learned to do it myself; to build our staircase, it was a wood cut-off saw.
There's another side to it; all this is supremely interesting and fulfilling, and maintains your brain from shrinking; literally. It keeps the dreaded A at bay. My own kids were not much interested, but then nor was I as a child, but I am determined to leave not only these tools but the skills on how to use them to my grandchildren one day. That will be their inheritance, a love of life, not a cash bonanza they can blow on a skiing holiday.
Now you need some chicken tractor plans; I decided to make my first structure 1,5 long x 1,0m wide out of the 7mm round bar. Cut a length 5m long, and bend it into a rectangle; a vice helps make it neater, but frankly just standing on brick laid over the bar is fine; now you have only one weld to make.
And because the netting is 4.5m wide, divided by 2 makes 2.25m. So the vertical frame was bent from 5mm steel round bar to this length. 1m wide, and 2,25 minus 1,0 = 1.25m.
Divide that by 2 and the second of my chicken tractor designs is 62.5cm high; just a convenient height.
The welding magnet holder helps keep everything square and in place whilst striking the arc; inexpensive and very useful.
It's not often that spectacles are an advantage but when tapping out the flux you absolutely must wear some eye covering; it flies everywhere and hot ash in the eye is not fun. Then use the steel brush to clean up your weld.
Ah here is one more thing; never weld on the ground; that's how my slipped disc started last time. Make some trestles and cover it with some inexpensive board.
Weld your vertical U-shaped frame in place.
Now cut two 1.5m lengths and weld them in place along the top of your chicken tractor design. Add some bracing at the corner where that magnet holder is, check and clean up all your welds by turning it upside down and make sure everything is strong and secure.
Bob's your uncle; you're ready to cover it with the bird netting. You will need some nylon twine and a large woolcraft threading needle borrowed from the boss makes life a lot easier. The netting also helps strengthen the whole structure.
The first one took me a good few hours to ponder and make, but the second about half the time. And I made it slightly narrower at 90cm; easier to move.
Now you are ready to cover the lettuces and let the hens into your garden. I have six of these mobile cages.
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