How To Build a Portable, Collapsible Chicken Tractor

We have two chickens, Charlotte and Sophia, who live in a sweet coop.

IMG_5067

Our sweet coop

Cluckingham Palace

Cluckingham Palace

The footprint of the coop is 8’x4′ which gives them a run space of 32 sq ft which is enough for two chickens to share, but even this cold heart thinks the girls would appreciate a day out and a change of scenery on occasion.  Trouble is that we do not have a fenced yard so I really needed to make a day-tractor of sorts for them, something light weight and adjustable to suit our needs.  Ideally, it would be something that could be stored easily when not in use, something I could put over my vege garden to have the girls work that from time to time yet spacious enough to be worth the effort.  I’ve also been asked, recently, to bring the girls to some local preschools and elementary schools as part of their Farm Animal Week as an educational display, to talk about how we take care of the chickens and show the city kids a real live chicken and I was thinking it would be handy to have a something that could hold them for looking at but would lay flat to fit in my minivan to transport.  Hmmm, seemed quite a lot of requirements and a tall order to fill. I searched online until I came across this little beauty:

Collapsible chicken run - inspiration.  Source:Craftlog http://craftlog.org/craftlog/?p=4175

Collapsible chicken run – inspiration. Source:Craftlog

Eureka!  This will be perfect.  It is adjustable to fit over my skinny (just 2′ wide) vege garden, yet can expand to … whatever width the A-frame will allow, say 5′, AND fold up for easy, flat storage when not in use.  And it looked easy enough to build.  Of course, there will be less-than-zero predator protection with this, probably as close to free-ranging (and subsequent security issues) without actually free-ranging as I can get, so it must only be used under supervision.  I thought I’d give it a go.  Here’s what I did.

How to Build a Portable, Collapsible Chicken Run What you need:

  • (7) 1″x3″x8′ pine furring strips (for extra light weight)
  • 16′ length of 48″ hardware cloth, chicken wire, plastic utility fencing for the outside of the big panels
  • 8′ length of 48″ plastic utility fencing for the end caps (needs to be flexible so it will fold up)
  • 3 hinges for the top
  • screws to screw it all together
  • L-brackets to reinforce the sides if needed (I needed these as the wood is so flimsy)
  • U-pins or staples to staple the hardware cloth to the wood
  • paint to better weatherproof it and make it look pretty
  • 10’+ length of utility fencing
  • taples to affix the utility fencing
  • an afternoon

Directions:

Hint #1: Make sure you look for very straight pieces of the furring strips when buying your lumber.  They are hard to find and you might need to ask the guys to cut a new bundle or two open so you can find straight pieces.  Don’t be shy – do it and find the straightest pieces you can.

Step 1.
Cut 3 of the furring strips in half to give you (6) 4′ lengths.  I had the guys at Lowes do this for me.

Step 2.
Join the long 8′ lengths of wood to the shorter 4′ lengths of wood to make 2 big 8’x4′ rectangles with supports in the middle at the 4′ mark.  I used the Kreg Jig to make it easy to join the wood. You do have to fill the holes with wood filler and paint but I’m ok with that as I find these joins easier that trying to toe in the screw by myself.

I used the Kreg Jig to make it easy to join the wood.  You do have to fill the holes with wood filler and paint but I'm ok with that as I find these joins easier that trying to toe in the screw.

Making the joins with the Kreg Jig

Step 3.
Paint all the wood with exterior grade paint.  The panels will look like this when done. (Check out my easy Paint with a Sock painting technique to save yourself some grief during this part)

One of the two painted panels.

One of the two painted panels.

Hint #2: Check out the ‘Oops Section’ for cheap paint options while at Lowes.  The only exterior paint I had lying around the house was the cream colour I’d used on the coop and I wanted this to blend in better with the environment.  Lowes happened to have a small tin of exterior green paint for just $2.50 instead of the $18.00 it would have ordinarily cost.  Score!

Step 4.
Reinforce the corners with brackets if necessary.

Step 5.
Staple or use the U-pins to attached the hardware cloth/utility wire to the rectangular panels.

Step 6.
Join the two big rectangles at the top with the hinges.  Best to attach the hinges on the inside of the panels so the hinges will close properly and lie flat.

image

Attaching hinges

Hinges and reinforcing brackets attached.

Hinges and reinforcing brackets attached.

Right now your project will look like this:

image

You can fold it up.

You can lay it out flat.

You can lay it out flat.

You can stand it up to make a chicken tractor out of it. I like that the width is variable depending on my need.

You can stand it up to make a chicken tractor out of it. I like that the width is variable depending on my need.

Step 7.
Staple the utility fencing to one edge of the run.  The width of the fencing will need to be adjustable depending on how wide you make the footprint of the run so make sure you cut it with extra length.  It also makes an easy ‘access door’.

Here is the 'access door', with Sophia timidly entering the run for the first time.

Here is the ‘access door’, with Sophia timidly entering the run for the first time.

Right now I have used twist wire threaded through the hardware cloth to ‘close’ the ends of the ‘doors’ but I’m looking for a better solution.  Maybe some cuphooks screwed in the the wood on the side around which the utility fencing could be stretched?  For right now, wire it is.  I do make sure I pull the bottom quite taught so that the chickens can’t wriggle underneath.  So far, so good.

Completed run with utility fencing affixed

Completed run with utility fencing affixed.  Also positioned with a narrow footprint, perfect for setting over my narrow vege garden rows.

Adjusted to have a wider footprint.

Adjusted to have a wider footprint.

You’re Finished!
Voila!  An awesome, portable, collapsible, adjustable chicken day run that seems to be working nicely for my girls.

Charlotte and Sophia enjoying a day out in the garden in their new day pen.

Charlotte and Sophia enjoying a day out in the garden in their new day pen.

One thing to remember is that since I have used flexible utility fencing it is not predator-proof and the girls needs to be supervised(ish) whilst they are in it.  We don’t have fences so my main concern would be for the random neighbourhood dog who might wander in to my yard and get excited to see the chickens.  I would definitely not feel good leaving the house with them in the day tractor.

The whole project was easy to build and cost about $70 total, so super affordable.  I love that it can be folded flat for easy storage (probably affixed to the garage wall somehow with hooks to get it up off the ground) and that it is really really light so I can easily move it around by myself.  It will also fit in the back of my minivan should I want to take the girls to an elementary school for show-and-tell.  Very happy with this project.  Yay!

Regular chicken coop in the foreground with the new day pen blending in to the mid-ground.  Very pastoral over at my house.

Regular chicken coop in the foreground with the new day pen blending in to the mid-ground. Very pastoral over at my house.

Anyone else looking for a day-tractor for their chickens?  Let me know if you like this idea and try it yourself.  Would love to see how other’s modify these plans to their own needs.

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10 thoughts on “How To Build a Portable, Collapsible Chicken Tractor

  1. Don’t forget the Chunnel we need to build so the girls can come and play in my yard! Although that darn hawk has been hanging around a lot eating songbirds – not pretty to witness – so supervised visits only!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Well, you’ll laugh because part of the reason I wanted to build a day-pen was so I could bring the girls over to play at your house. Just waiting on an invitation now …. 🙂

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  2. Thanks for the kind words 🙂 Funny that you mention the name of the coop and there is a story to it (there always seems to be a story!). My eldest child (8yo) named our coop ‘Cluckingham Palace’ when we first built it and so all our chickens are named after european princesses. Right now we have Charlotte and Sophia. We did have Elizabeth but she started crowing one morning (!!) and we had to get rid of her. She was a drag-chicken – lol. Glad you like my blog and thanks for reading.

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    • Sorry to hear your HOA won’t allow them. They’ve been a really wonderful addition to our home and neighbourhood. Until your bylaws are changed I hope you get a kick out of our girls! Always so many stories to tell 🙂

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