Picture of Building a Chicken Tractor, the LONG and DIFFICULT Way! (UPDATED!)
For my first Instructable, I'll show you how NOT to build a Chicken Tractor, which is a portable, enclosed pen for chickens. Each day you can move it to a new part of the lawn, so the chickens inside can get fresh grass. This design turned out to be pretty cheap, not too ugly, and easy to move around. The way I assembled it was NOT. I tend to come up with pretty good final products, but my methods to get there are ... bad.
I will show ALL the steps I took to make this project, unlike most Instructables that only show the good steps. Bear with me, enjoy the chaos, and please, if you decide to build one of these, READ ALL THE STEPS FIRST! It will save you the problems that I bestowed upon myself.

Step 1: Materials needed

Picture of Materials needed
10 sections of 1/2" conduit, 10 ft in length
8 ft wide plastic mesh, 1" grid, 30 feet or so left over from winterizing the fishpond
pile of 1-1/2" ABS pipe scavenged from a fire company's old carnival booth
pile of 1-1/2" ABS pipe fittings you bought to make something with that pipe, but then couldn't remember where you put them and had to buy more, only to find the first ones as soon as you got home
14-ga galvanised electric fence wire- the stuff you bought 3/4 mile of to make chainmail, until you discovered that it was too soft
1/4" grid galvanised hardware cloth you bought to keep the rabbit from chewing the porch railing, but never put up
ABS cement (see above regarding pipe fittings, do same with this cement)
2" galvanised wood screws, squaredrive head because they were $1/ box
3/8" drill
reciprocating saw
Sharpie Marker
drill bits

kfmccalla5 days ago

Thanks for making me laugh!

Thank you for the laugh! Very well written...I'll be sure NOT to make a chicken tractor this way :)

ninagn9 months ago

chuckle - thank you for the realistic "repertoire" I had a good chuckle thinking about my own diy projects ;)

dhoke11 year ago
Was here for the info on how to build, now leaving with knowledge and a smile on my face. funny stuff here :)

Like the idea, if it were squared off it would also make a great run for my rabbits so they can mow the lawn for me during the day (and evening). Agree about the chickens though, I used to have enough (20 in the end) that I did nothing but eat eggs every day. They make fabulous listeners as well, the best way to unwind when I came home from a hard day at work was to go and sit beside the chicken ark (run) and tell them about my day. Made me feel better and relaxed.

scubabon1 year ago

Great In-tertaining-structable. I too share the joys of farm life; where toolboxes and benches full of generations of old tools go to hide from me. I'm guessing that your father in law would have a stroke just like my dad would, if we ever tried to organize anything. Plus the tools would NEVER go back where I put them. It would just make things too easy! Thanks for keeping it real. Always refreshing when people do.

adickson51 year ago
kenbob2 years ago
Great instructable, I am still smiling:) Loved the hilarious sidebars!
gemquest2 years ago
You are my hero! This is how all most all my projects go. Thanks for sharing :)
tim_n2 years ago
Brilliant. Thanks for sharing
Siagonrocks2 years ago
Thank you for hump ring yourself. I'll try this with 8' bamboo I can get for ten cents a pole.
Hilarious! Thank you for sharing this; it sounds like many of the projects around our farm. :)
stumitch3 years ago
THANK YOU for such an entertaining instructable!
This is a great instructable, well featured... It's got alot of sarcasm and humour so it's ticks all the boxes for me since I'm planning on something similar but for our rabbit, we need to let it out to cut the grass but the wee bugger goes for the good plants, so now I can do it... I added a few extra keyowrds to help people find this as well as adding it to the outdoors category as the second one.
FireBAT (author)  killerjackalope7 years ago
Thanks for the Feature, and the tweaks to the listing! I'm planning on building a Bunny Tractor out of the leftover conduit. I was suprised at how quickly the buns escaped from this one, though. Bunnies are smarter than Cornish Rock chickens!
Well I know that, our rabbit figured out how to open cage doors, threw the whole cage off the bottom part, dug holes in the garden, though it's trapped now, it's in a run and the grass is roll out, it can't dig deep enough to get out of the cage... No problems and if you need a hand with anything give me a shout...
I saw a bunny cage in a magazine once, that used two bike wheel rims at either end of a mesh tube. The rabbits would roll the whole works around, all by themselves.
interesting, however I need the rabbit to be trapped in one spot so I can control its 'mowing'
I dunno, maybe a track or barrier system that only lets the cage roll around in a preset area. I think the guy in the article had the mesh placed on the inside of the bike rims, so it would be an inch or so from the ground, and the bunnies couldn't eat the grass down to a nubbin in any one spot.
Put rocks or bricks around the area you want them to stay in. They may not be able to roll over them.
I just plan to make an easily movable cage to shift about and give it so many hours on each, throughout a few days, curing alot of problems in one fell swoop...
Of course he goes for the good plants. If you had the choice of eating grass or eating the garden, I bet you'd pick the garden salad, too. Or maybe you'd pick the alligator.
You know it's the alligator...
It's one of the few foods that comes with a free set of boots. Or maybe a tasteful handbag for the missus.
I was considering a backpack, with most of the alligator intact, the tail would make it a lot more capable of carrying tall stuff and using the legs as the starts of the straps would make it look suspiciously like an alligator mounted you, then you beheaded it for doing so causing it to be inexorably attached to your back while you made a hat out of it's head, of course not being enough you had to go back to the swamp and fool the other 'gators with your new clothing and swim in to the middle of them, only to place simply obscene amounts of exotic explosives in the middle of the crowd, slither your way back to a safe distance and hit a button that looks suspiciously like the eye of the dead 'gator, you then collected your spoils and fashion a skin for your car out of them, being one of those twisted f**ks that decided leather wasn't kinky enough and PVC was too fake...
cory.smith5 years ago
"You don't eat pets that have names...." Hilarious!
lostbord9995 years ago
Thank you soo much. I ended up getting a 1" bar that i needed to bend for my new bike trailor. Ended up using a tree that sprouted 3 in one spot.. worked perfict!
Ronyon5 years ago
Ive been wanting to do an Instuctible, but my style of making things is, like yours, seat -of -the- pants, and I thought"I cant show people that !". Thanks for showing me the way, in a hilarious fashion! I dont have chickens(yet) but this reminds me of a half finished pool cover, made of PVC plumbong fittings and electrical 1/2 PVC.Time to go source mosquito screen...
shannnn6 years ago
Please! Do more instructables the "bad" way! I can't raise chickens (except maybe "hardwood-floor-fed" or "linoleum-fed"), but reading this kept me thoroughly entertained (i.e. falling out of my chair laughing) while waiting for my supper to bake.
nonni53 shannnn5 years ago
Check out www.housechickens. com for your lino or hardwood floor chickens. there is even a company selling chick diapers (yes I bought them!!!) Finally moved the girls out of my office and outdoors. No one believed I had diapered chickens in my house. It worked for a year. Others in the group dress their chickens for birthdays and holidays. There is something for everyone right??
Azayles5 years ago
ALL 'ibles should be written this way, absolutely hilarious! You took us on the whole journey from start to finish and we shared your pain all the way.
A brilliant read, one of the best on this site! :D
autolycos7 years ago
Sounds like I need to make an instructable on how to eat named pets... Great instructable, and good humor. I really enjoyed it!
It's easy to eat named pets, just need the right names. "Come here, Luscious, Savory, Tender! Here Sage, Onion, Thyme!"
FireBAT (author)  forgesmith7 years ago
Believe it or not, their names actually are Parsley, Sage, Rosemary, and Thyme! Parsley will come if you call her. All our pets have food names. The rabbits are Bun and Muffin, our rats are Chio (Japanese for Salt, because she's white) and Jiao (Chinese for Pepper- She's black and white.) The guinea pig is Nutmeg. The mice were Butter, Jelly , Honey, Toast, and Tea. The iguana is... Dennis. OK, mostly food.
maven FireBAT5 years ago
You should submit this as an article to Countryside And Small Stock Journal, Mother Earth News, or Back Home Magazine.  I bet they'll buy it!
Rishnai FireBAT7 years ago
"The iguana is... Dennis." lmao!
maven autolycos5 years ago
Simple.  I make my husband do the deed then I clean and cook them!
I found this hysterical just simply due to the fact that you thought conduit was the better choice to use instead of more hoops and T fittings....... You could have easily made this thing in about 1/4 the time had you used more pvc pipe and then just screw and washered the netting into it. Congrats for the chicken tractor though.........even if life turned to comedy to build it.
We used schedule 80 black poly pipe and concrete re-wire covered with standard chicken wire for the hoops on our first tractor.  Wish we had used something other than 2x6 lumber for the rectangle base tho.  After 10 years it is starting to rot although the hoops and wire are still sound.  The ducks don't mind.
We upgraded to a wooden tractor with an elevated coop 5 years ago, and last winter my B-I-L welded me a pipe, square tubing, and sheet metal "Chicken Schloss" for my hens and peacocks.  I warn you, it's addictive.
persianfan6 years ago
OMG this was freakin hilarious!! i laughed so hard because it is everyone of my projects that i have ever done!! and im getting ready to build more chicken pens myself for some new chicks we will be getting so i can already see where this is going. thanks for the laugh.
snowfalcon6 years ago
It's nice to know someone else has projects go like this!
jlc17556 years ago
I love this. I swear you have been spying on my husband. This is exactly how he does projects around the house. He's been building a chicken coop for months now....
rustaholic6 years ago
Yes you can eat pets with names. Once it's dead it is just meat. Get yourself some Isa Brown pullets from Townline Poultry. (google it) You will get an egg a day per hen. Attach nest boxes to your closed end that open on the outside for you to collect the eggs. Around here you would need something a LOT stronger than that mesh. That plastic mesh wouldn't even slow down a hungry coyote.
Very funny, I really enjoyed your instructable. And the broilers, hahahaha that is so typical of real life. But in the end, what a great chicken tractor you made! Should still eat the broilers though, even if they do have names. Should have called them "Dinner" hehehe!
A D6 years ago
Great!! I really got a kick out of the ending. Wait till those "pet Roosters" get their act together and we will see how long they stay "pets". I loved the overall project and the putting together reminded me of many of mine. Great Job!
Thank you sir for making me feel normal. This is exactly how the vast majority of my projects go and it is good to know that not everyone is freaking perfect at this stuff like some on here claim.
sbparadis6 years ago
Okay- you are my hero of the day for this. My husband started a biodynamic farm project last year, which is a lot of fun and all sorts of satisfying (despite being The Thing That Ate Our Life) - anyhoo, I sent the link to your excellent post to him and the wonderful friend who is helping him with the project- they are in full Victorian mourning for a Buff-Orpington we lost last week (mean dog- long story) and will appreciate it- here's what I said- This is a great post. I love the way this guy writes. It's a realistic account of a guy who sort of knows what he's doing, learns from experience, has perseverance, is an optimist, and cheerfully embraces his own dumbassery while thoroughly celebrating his eventual triumph. Longish but worth reading. I want to be friends with this dude.
carolinew6 years ago
Laughed til tears were streaming! The best medicine I could have been given. (I'm in bed, sick, at the moment). It sounded just like my husband doing a project. I love this run, and will be emailing the link to my husband for a laugh and for a design. Thanks so much!
gallatea6 years ago
I agree this was a well-written, entertaining instructable. I couldn't eat them either (the chickens). That must be a weird experience eating the eggs the first time. My lovebird keeps laying eggs (she has no mate though) and I can't imagine eating the contents of one. But of course, we do this. And so do I but from the store, which is kind of stupid as if they are magical if from the store.
Anndobe6 years ago
I'd just like to find a guy sensitive enough to care so much about his chickens!
Hilarious! Thank you for taking the time to write this! You made my day... and I don't even have chickens! I was just looking for a recipe to cook chicken! :-)
drucifer6 years ago
Dude. This was freaking hilarious. It was just like I was building it. you left out the smash thumb clause and the inevitable stop and have a beer policy. Oh, and there's the 'wife came home and said "What the hell is this?!?!" clause... Thanks!
I'm pretty handy with tools myself, If you are open for some suggestions I could make your project more difficult,more expensive,and more painful.
OMG it was like listening to myself working on a project, except I would have been swearing a LOT more. It makes everything work better. :)
Love this Instructable, and am planning a wood design from scrounged materials - if I get off my butt and get to them before the country contractors have a bonfire.
Good chicken breed information for poultry neophytes can be had from 2 online businesses: Cackle Hatchery and MacMurray Hatchery. Know a Cornish Rock from a Cuckoo Maran!
Check out Backyardchickens.com for different coop and tractor designs - some are really amazing, though none as detailed and entertaining (and close to home) as FireBAT's.
Sparrowhawk6 years ago
I saw this and couldn't for the life of me think what a chicken tractor was. A tractor that chickens drive? A chicken-powered tractor? So now I know... This is very much how I usually work. Maybe next time I make something I'll be able to see more of the funny side, so thank you! And I love the exclamation marks on steps 5 & 6. Surprisingly eloquent :D
orrnlori7 years ago
I haven't laughed this hard in a long time. People kept stopping by my desk asking what the heck I was reading. What a hoot! You should write professionally. Great story and great idea - thanks for saving me the screw ups.
I loved this and had some goods laughs. We have 25 peeps in the wood box, a half finished barn and your idea is perfect. I think even I can build it. Thank you. Karen
Bartboy7 years ago
could you please make a chicken leash.
you can order a "chicken leash" AKA a "tie cord"...

I meant MAKE one.
kraM7 years ago
this is a cool idea, this culd easily dubble as a way to protect small out door plants like if you have a garden or what ever else that needs protection from animals that might eat them. great work!
FireBAT (author)  kraM7 years ago
Didn't think of using it to keep the critters OUT. Brilliant! Thanks!
=SMART=7 years ago
lol very entertaining, i don't have any chickens but i still read the entire thing, i love your sarcastic humor, people tell me im too sarcastic but i think its hilarious!! :D
FireBAT (author)  =SMART=7 years ago
Sadly, I was being honest. I actually made all the mistakes. I figured, at least people might get a good laugh out of it! I had fun writing it!
darkmuskrat7 years ago
this is a good final product :P you could probably take a dozen pvc pipes/fittings and make a square one in 1/4 the time with some mesh however. ****
FireBAT (author)  darkmuskrat7 years ago
As I was putting the mesh on, I thought, "Why didn't I just use plastic pipe for the top? I could have glued the whole thing together." I did want to use the recycled pipe, though. That's why there are so many joins.
This would be hilarious, except that it reminds me, the tiniest bit too much, of my own style of building (or giving up and leaving half-built) things. Swell project though. Bet it required many swears. I find that my best efforts require a surfeit of swearing.
comodore7 years ago
Great job! rate:*****
CameronSS7 years ago
Hee hee! I wonder if those expired juice boxes impaired your judgment for the rest of the day... Oh, and nice job on your first Instructable!