FAQ's about our A-Frame Chicken Tractors by Green Willow Homestead. These FAQs are applicable to all 3 sizes.
Q: What tools do I need for building the chicken tractors?
A: Here is a list of the tools you will need to build the A-frame chicken tractor:
- Circular or table saw
- Miter Saw
- Jig saw
- Assorted drill bits
- Stapler - T50 or equivalent
- Tin snips
- Assorted sockets
- Assorted wrenches
- Tape measure
- Straight edge
- Pencil and Sharpie
Q: What skill level do I need to build the chicken tractor?
A: You need to have experience building something. This means you've used power tools, you know how to take measurements, and you can follow directions. The plans are exact, very detailed, and include in-depth diagrams to help you. First and foremost, we recommend reading through the plans from beginning to end to understand how all the steps fit together. Once you do this, then take it one step at a time. If you are unsure about a step, we recommend using cardboard first to map it out to be sure you've measured and cut correctly. Lastly, if you don't have experience building something and you've fallen in love with our build plans, ask someone who does have building experience to help you construct them.
Q: How big is the gap along the bottom of the tractor?
A: About 2-3” in total. This spacing is what allows the tractors to be mobile across various terrain. In five years, we have never had a single predator dig under the tractor. During the day predators are mainly aerial - i.e. hawks. Hawks cannot get to the birds in the tractors thanks to the galvanized metal 2x4” fencing we use. As for nighttime predators (like raccoons, mink, opossum, coyotes, and weasels), we've found that moving the tractor every day keeps predators on their toes. They can't make heads or tails of the situation when the tractor is in a different spot every night. For those who deal with egg-eating snakes, our customers have successfully retrofitted an additional strip of hardware cloth (1/4" or 1/2") underneath the bottom of the tractor to cover the additional 2-3" underneath. This addition slightly restricts the mobility of the tractor, however, our customers have not reported any major issues.
Q: At night, the chickens are tucked up in the enclosed, raised area - this has only a wire bottom, correct? So, if an animal got inside somehow, could it get through that wire under the roosts?
A: We use a 2x4” galvanized metal fence underneath the roosting bars. Any smaller, and their manure would not fall through to the ground at night. Raccoons would be the only issue, but as mentioned, when the tractor is moved every day we confused their ability to "stake out" how to infiltrate the coop. We can't stress enough how much of a wildlife corridor we are in here in Shell Lake, WI and we have had zero predator issues with these tractors.
Q: What do you do with the chicken tractor in the winter? Do you move chickens to a stationary coop for colder months?
A: If your winters stay above 20°F then the tractor would be acceptable as year-round housing. Anything below 20°F and you would need to winterize the tractor. You have a few options for winterizing the tractor.
The first option is to keep the chicken tractor outside and make some adjustments to the materials used during the winter. The spot you set the tractor should be out of the wind with a good amount of sunlight throughout the day to keep it warm. First, add mylar reflective insulation to the interior of the white metal roof of the enclosed roosting area. Adhere it to the underside of the metal roosting area using double-sided foil tape. If you install our optional diagonal roosting bars, you can close off the roosting area from below as well and add a thick layer of straw or pine shavings. You can also consider installing a heated chicken mat along the sides of the roosting area for a safe source of extra warmth. All of these additions will keep the hens warm while roosting at night.
Then to protect hens from the elements when they are active during the day, we suggest using clear polycarbonate plastic sheets cut to size and zip tie them to the fencing to create a sort of greenhouse out of the tractor for your hens. Think wherever there is fencing on the tractor, you are adding polycarbonate over those spots (except under the roosting area). The hens must be kept out of the wind and snow to prevent frostbite. I suggest zip ties because then you can clip them off and take the polycarbonate sheets down during the summer and go back to the open-air fencing. You would add a thick layer of chopped straw to the ground inside the tractor as a boredom buster, insulation, and to absorb manure.
The second option is to park the entire tractor in a garage or barn for the winter, add straw to the tractor floor, and turn a light on for them during the day. We've been told this was beneficial for the chicken owner too in a garage scenario because they don't have to go outside to feed their hens on the coldest days.
With both options, you need to be sprinkling Sweet PDZ over their manure each day to keep ammonia smells down. This is always the biggest issue with any coop scenario during the winter. Much more manure in one spot without proper sanitization means more stinkiness for your birds. With the garage scenario, you can roll the tractor out of the garage, sweep the used straw/shavings into a pile outside, then roll the tractor back in and add fresh bedding. With the winterized tractor scenario, we recommend completely cleaning the bedding out from under the roost. With both options, we recommend cleaning 2x per month and adding fresh straw or shavings.
Q: Can you install an automatic coop door opener on the tractor?
A: Yes! Our customers have had the best luck with Chicken Guard Extreme due to the weight of the ramp and the need for the door to operate in colder weather. The majority of our customers install the device on the inside of the roosting area (see the picture for reference) for ease of installation. This means that the light sensor isn't engaged as much as it would be if it were installed on the exterior. If you choose to install it on the exterior of the tractor, you can install metal pulleys to operate the pull wire internally.
What you do need to do is *reverse* the internal wire because they have their programming to be set up *opposite* of what you would need to open the ramp - i.e. opening the ramp on our tractors would actually require the "close function." Chicken Guard's customer service can walk you through this switch.
The ramp's weight is about 4.5lbs so you could modify our building specifications to make a lighter ramp as well and go with a smaller Chicken Guard model.
Q: Can you move the tractor easily?
A: If you stick to the wheel design we provide in the build plans then yes, the tractor is extremely easy to move. We've found that some of our customers have cut corners at times and not followed our instructions on what wheels to use and they ultimately pay the price. While the tractors were designed with minimal weight in mind, they are built to last, and our special wheel design keeps them mobile as well as durable. Kelsey is a 5’4” 135 lb female and can move the tractors completely on her own.
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