Winter base for a chicken tractor
You may remember Duncan
Sickler's elegant chicken tractor, and especially his wheel
He was concerned about how his ladies would fare over the winter, so he
made a special deep
bedding box to
support the tractor during the cold months. I'll let Duncan tell
you about it in his own words:
Today I finished making a "winter Base" for our chicken tractor and I mounted our tractor on it. We get a lot of snow here in the mountains in winter so we built a base to set the chicken tractor on for the winter months. We are using the "deep litter" method in the lower section which consists of starting with about 4 inches of wood shavings and some straw mixed in. We will cover the screened section of the tractor in bad weather with heavy clear plastic to keep out snow but let in light.
The deep litter will protect the girls from getting frostbite on bitter cold days and produces some heat from the composting of the litter and poop. The base has a large door for easy periodic cleaning.
The bottom dimensions of our chicken tractor are 7' 10" X 4' 2". I built the base to match those dimensions. I have included the plan drawings which you are free to share if you wish. They could be easily adapted to the dimensions of other open bottom type tractors.
As you can see in the pictures... the base is set on the slope of our yard on blocks and landscaping timbers. The runners under the base are treated 4X4s to protect from rot. The base is a bit overbuilt with (rough lumber called 5/4) because I had a good friend who had some of this wood laying around in that size and he generously gave me enough to build this! He also helped me build it! That is a friend!!
I also wanted to have a strong base because of the predator problem up here on the mountain I pretty much think this is "bear proof" if there is such a thing!
You could use a lot lighter construction than this if you are not worried about predators and / or you wanted to save money on construction. 2X4s would probably do for the frame.
Another idea I had was to use 4X4 frame and plywood to build it. (See picture of x-ray view of that set of plans). You could use plywood or exterior siding as well. The whole point is to make the best use of what you have already and git-r-done!
Before we changed over to coops and pastures, winter was a tough time for our chickens since we eventually ended up dragging the tractor through mud. I loved Duncan's solution to the mud problem, but wondered how his chickens got up to the top level of his two story tractor once the "floor" was lowered by the winter base. He wrote:
I took a picture of the setup... I installed a 2x4 across the winter base at the bottom of the ramp. They just jump up on the cross piece and step on the ramp. Works like a charm! I was considering adding a ramp up to the cross piece but.... no need for it.
Hopefully Duncan's winter base will serve as an inspiration to help winter chicken tractorers keep their flock out of the mud!
Duncan uses a heated chicken waterer, built using our plans, to keep the flock's water flowing during cold weather.
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